Thursday, November 07, 2013

How to Use a Pressure Cooker: Mashed Potatoes in 10 Minutes!

Whoa! How is it November already?? It seems like this fall has flown by like nobody’s business. Well, since we’re here and it’s only THREE WEEKS AWAY (!!!), let’s start talking turkey…specifically the holiest of all holy days for foodies: Thanksgiving.

And what is one of the number one side dishes for any Thanksgiving Day feast?

Mashed potatoes.

White potatoes, sweet potatoes, either way they have to be cooked first. This post really isn't about a recipe, per say, than it is procedure.  I love using my pressure cooker for making mashed potatoes, and I can have them ready from raw-to-gravied in 10 minutes flat! From scratch! Let’s face it, stove and oven real estate on Thanksgiving Day are very valuable, so anything that can help me free up time and stove top space is a win-win for me.

If you are not comfortable using a pressure cooker, mashed potatoes are probably one of the easiest things to practice on. Be sure to follow the cooking directions for your particular pressure cooker and you’ll be fine.  So, let’s get to mashin’!

First, start out with raw, peeled, and cut Russet potatoes. You can use other types of potatoes, but Russets (or Idaho) potatoes have a higher starch content and less moisture, which then give you a fluffier mashed potato. I cut mine up rather large, as smaller pieces absorb more water, plus it’s easier.  I do not fill up my pressure cooker more than ½ - ¾ full, as per my cooker’s instructions.

Next, I add about 1 cup of water to the pot. I don’t remember what my cooker’s instructions say for water amount, but 1 cup seems to ring a bell (check your cooker’s instructions). When you pressure cook, the little bit of water at the bottom of the pot turns to steam, which is really the cooking agent behind pressure cooking.  If you ‘d like more information regarding the physics and engineering behind pressure cooking, check out Miss Vickie’s site.

I then lock the lid on my pressure cooker, set the burner to med-high, and let the cooker come to pressure. Once the pressure indicator pops up on my pressure cooker (yellow button), I turn the burner heat down to med-low and start timing. After 10 minutes, I do what’s called a “quick release” to vent the steam.

The quick release method is great for dishes that don’t have to depressurize naturally, unlike my Lima Bean Soup. There are many dishes that call for the quick release method, which really makes using a pressure cooker a time-saver.

After the steam has vented and the pressure indicator drops down, I unlock and open the lid AWAY from me. I give the potatoes a poke or two with a fork to make sure they are done (if not, bring back up to pressure and cook a few more minutes). If they are done, I prop the lid back on the cooker allowing for a gap to drain the water and drain. After draining, the potatoes are ready for mashing in whatever way you are used to.

I’m old school and use a hand held masher, leaving a few lumps. Add some butter, cream/milk, salt and pepper, and I’m ready to eat in less than half the time it would have taken me to boil/steam the potatoes to old fashioned way.


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