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Pressure Cooking : The Cooker's Range

March 23, 1995

"I knew how long things would take to cook in the pressure cooker without anybody telling me," says Lorna Sass, who wrote "Cooking Under Pressure," the first major book on this style of cooking to come out in 10 years. "It was like I was channeling. There's no other way to explain it."

For those of us without a mystic spirit to guide us, preparing food in a pressure cooker can be a bit intimidating at first. The instruction booklet that comes with a pressure cooker usually includes a few recipes, but those are only intended to give you an idea of how to cook the basics. Then, once you feel comfortable, you can develop your own. You'll be amazed at how soon pressure cooker recipes will become standbys. The following are some of my new favorites.

CHILORIO

I ran across this recipe for chilorio, a spicy, cumin-seasoned chopped pork stew, in a cookbook published by Presto, the Eau Claire, Wis., company that manufactures pressure cookers. I couldn't resist trying it; it's rare to run across chilorio in California, much less Wisconsin. After an hour in the pressure cooker, the meat becomes flavorful and so tender it literally falls apart. The tasters in The Times Test Kitchen couldn't get enough.

Don't be concerned if the roast has to be wedged in the pot; it will shrink considerably during cooking.

1 (3- to 4-pound) pork shoulder or loin roast

Salt, pepper

1 medium onion, sliced

3 cups boiling water

3 medium jalapeno chiles, seeded and sliced

2 cloves garlic

1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon fresh oregano

1/4 cup lemon juice

Dash cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

2 dozen corn or flour tortillas

Chopped lettuce, optional

Chopped tomatoes, optional

Place cooking rack in 6-quart pressure cooker. Trim as much surface fat from meat as possible. Sprinkle entire roast with salt and pepper to taste. Place meat and sliced onion on rack. Add boiling water. Lock lid in place, bring up to full pressure and cook 60 minutes. Allow pressure to come down naturally. Remove meat and rack.

Boil juices rapidly to reduce to about 1 1/2 cups. Add jalapenos, garlic, cumin, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Lock lid in place, bring to full pressure and cook 2 minutes. Reduce pressure quickly.

Puree liquid with hand blender or in standard blender or food processor. Add lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Remove meat from bones, discarding bones and fat. Coarsely chop meat with knife and then place meat in bowl. Add half of sauce to meat, mixing well. Add cayenne and cilantro to remaining sauce.

To make tacos, heat tortillas over griddle or low flame. Place about 2 tablespoons meat mixture in each tortilla. Top with remaining sauce, lettuce and tomatoes.

Makes 24 tacos.

Each taco contains about:

132 calories; 101 mg sodium; 28 mg cholesterol; 4 grams fat; 14 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams protein; 1.14 grams fiber.

PASTA E FAGIOLI SOUP

This simple hearty soup is ready in an hour--even sooner, if you soak the beans overnight and precook the pasta so it can be added it at the end. The first time I made the soup, I used water and it tasted fine. The second time I used vegetable stock and it tasted superb. For a jazzy variation, add a half cup of pancetta with the garlic. The addition of a fragrant olive oil and a generous sprinkle of good Parmigiano-Reggiano at serving time also makes an amazing amount of difference in the flavor.

2 cups cannellini beans

Olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1 teaspoon chopped freshrosemary

1 large onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

2 carrots, chopped

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

6 1/2 cups boiling water or vegetable stock

1 cup small pasta, such as tiny elbow macaroni or broken spaghetti

2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Pick over beans. Place in colander and rinse under cool running water. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in cooker. Cook garlic over medium heat 1 minute, stirring frequently. Do not let brown. Add rosemary and continue stirring 1 minute. Add onion, stirring occasionally, about 1 minute. Add celery, carrots, bay leaf, pepper flakes, reserved unsoaked beans and boiling water.

Lock lid in place. Bring to full pressure over high heat. Lower heat to maintain full pressure and cook 35 minutes. Allow pressure to come down naturally. Remove lid. If beans are still hard, return to full pressure another 5 minutes. Again, allow pressure to come down naturally.

Remove bay leaf and stir in pasta and salt. Bring to boil and immediately lower heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally until pasta is done, about 8 minutes. Thin with hot water if necessary.

Ladle soup into serving bowls. Sprinkle with cheese to taste. Drizzle with olive oil to taste.

Makes 9 cups, about 8 servings.

Each serving contains about:

211 calories; 617 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 2 grams fat; 37 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams protein; 3.58 grams fiber.

POT ROAST AND POTATOES

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