I've used a pressure cooker for years with no problem. Sure, the rattling weight on top was noisy and a bit unnerving, but the quick cooking time and tender, flavorful results were worth the clatter.
When America's Test Kitchen turned its attention to pressure cookers, I couldn't wait to try a recipe from its new cookbook, Pressure Cooker Perfection: 100 Foolproof Recipes That Will Change the Way You Cook.
I followed the initial instructions, simmering and pureeing the sauce in the uncovered pot, then adding skinless, bone-in chicken thighs. I put in the rubber gasket and sealed the cooker the way I've done hundreds of times and set it over medium-high heat. But instead of hearing the familiar rattle as steam escaped, I heard the liquid boiling -- hard. That had never happened before. Then steam started to stream out the side, where the lid met the pot. I pulled it off the heat before it could flip its lid, literally.
Because I was afraid to use my pressure cooker, I transferred the ingredients to an ovenproof casserole and baked it at 350 degrees until the chicken was tender, about 40 minutes. It took longer than the pressure cooker, but the results were still delicious. The combination of sweet, savory and spicy flavors make this recipe a keeper. I served the thick chili over hot brown rice, not a traditional preparation but a delicious one. You also could put it into tortillas or ladle it into a bowl, as in the photo.
And while the chicken was cooking, I consulted the book again -- not for another recipe, but to study the chart rating many pressure cookers now on the market. (And by the way, the rattling weights on the top are no more. Current technology has incorporated the pressure regulator into the lid.) With those recommendations in mind, I got online and ordered a new pressure cooker. My new cooker just arrived, and I'll be dipping back into Pressure Cooker Perfection for many more recipes and ideas.
MOLE CHICKEN CHILI
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 ½ cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup raisins
¼ cup peanut butter
4 pounds bone-in chicken thighs, skin removed, trimmed
Ground black pepper
1 onion, halved and sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
¼ cup minced fresh cilantro
To build flavor, heat 2 tablespoons oil in pressure-cooker pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add chili powder, cocoa, garlic, chipotle, cinnamon and cloves and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth, tomatoes, raisins and peanut butter, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Working in batches, puree sauce in blender until smooth, about 30 seconds. (Hold a folded kitchen towel over the lid of the blender to prevent hot sauce from splattering.)
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in now-empty pot. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in sauce, then add chicken to pot.
Lock pressure-cooker lid in place and bring to high pressure over medium-high heat. As soon as pot reaches high pressure, reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 25 minutes, adjusting heat as needed to maintain high pressure. Remove pot from heat. Quick-release pressure, then carefully remove lid, allowing steam to escape away from you.
Transfer chicken to cutting board. Let cool slightly, then shred meat into bite-size pieces, discarding skin and bones. Meanwhile, bring chili to simmer, stir in bell pepper, and cook until tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in shredded chicken and cilantro, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
Variation: Chicken breasts shred into thinner strands and soak up more sauce, making a fantastic filling for tacos or burritos. If you substitute an equal amount of bone-in breasts for the thighs, reduce the pressurized cooking time to 15 minutes.
To use a 6-quart electric pressure cooker (instead of a stovetop cooker): Quick-release the pressure immediately after the pressurized cooking time; do not let the cooker switch to the warm setting. Use the browning (not the simmer) setting to simmer the chili.
Adapted from "Pressure Cooker Perfection." Photo and recipe used with permission of America's Test Kitchen.