Despite its reputed speed at getting dinner done, the pressure cooker was slow to win me over.
Sure, its skill with baked beans and brisket is impressive, and I'm a sucker for a pressure cooked batch of rice pudding. But as a weekday cooking device, I've never felt that it shaved much more than five or 10 minutes off what it would have taken me to prepare the meal on the stovetop. And that's just not enough to justify another gizmo in the kitchen.
That is, until I discovered that the pressure cooker is capable of solving my No. 1 kitchen annoyance — frozen meat.
Here's the deal. Like most working parents, I keep a bunch of meat — particularly boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs — in the freezer. The idea is that for those crazy weeks when I don't have time to get to the grocer, at least I have that to work with. With a little bit of planning, I can stretch several packages of frozen breasts and thighs through three or four dinners and lunches, if need be.
Ah, but the key there is the planning.
Frozen chicken is wonderful... when you remember to move it from the freezer to the refrigerator the night before so it thaws by the time you are ready to cook it. As simple a step as that is, it's one I almost always fail to remember. And thus comes the 6 p.m. what-the-heck-do-I-do-with-a-pack-of-frozen-chicken frustration.
And then I learned an important thing about pressure cookers: They are perfectly capable of cooking completely frozen meat, and it adds only a few minutes to the cooking time. That meant I could open the freezer at 6 p.m., grab a package of chicken and have dinner on the table 30 minutes later.
Now this device is starting to earn its keep.
With a bit of experimentation, I've learned that the best dishes for this involve some sort of sauce. Sweet-and-sour chicken was delicious. Ditto for chicken with marinara, shredded chicken with barbecue sauce, and this recipe for chicken thighs with teriyaki sauce. Feel free to add some chopped carrots and onions to this if you don't feel like doing a separate veggie side.
PRESSURE COOKER TERIYAKI CHICKEN
Lucky enough to have thought ahead and thawed your chicken? You can still make this recipe. Just reduce the cooking time to 7 minutes at high pressure. If your chicken thighs are frozen together in the package, microwave on medium power for 1 to 2 minutes, or until just able to break them apart.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon hot sauce
2 pounds frozen boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
Cooked brown rice, to serve
Scallions, finely chopped, to serve
Roasted peanuts, chopped, to serve
In an electric pressure cooker, whisk together the soy sauce, water, rice vinegar, brown sugar, honey, garlic, ginger and hot sauce. Add the chicken thighs, stirring to coat with the sauce. Place the lid on the pressure cooker and set to cook at high pressure for 20 minutes according to manufacturer directions.
Release the pressure according to your cooker's quick release instructions. In a small glass, stir together the cornstarch and water, then add to the cooker. Switch the cooker to saute mode and simmer, stirring often, until thickened, about 2 minutes.
Mound brown rice on each serving plate, then top with chicken. Spoon teriyaki sauce over the chicken and rice, then sprinkle with scallions and peanuts.
Nutrition information per serving: 520 calories; 120 calories from fat (23 per cent of total calories); 14 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 215 mg cholesterol; 46 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 18 g sugar; 52 g protein; 1,520 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at email@example.com