Monday, April 30, 2012

RECIPE - Pressure Cooker Beans (Feijão na Panela de Pressão)

There's no reliable statistics on how many tons of beans are cooked everyday in Brazilian homes for the family mid-day meal, though it's absolutely clear that the quantity IS in the tons. Brazilian mid-day meals almost always include beans and rice in addition to whatever else is being served that day.

Making beans is part of a Brazilian home kitchen's everyday morning schedule, whether that kitchen is run by a housewife/mother herself, or by a domestic servant. Another day, another pot of beans. If these beans were cooked the way most North American and European cooks make beans - soaking the dried beans overnight, then cooking them on the stove for an hour or two until the are fully cooked and ready to eat - these cooks would spend a good portion of their waking hours cooking beans.

That doesn't happen though, thanks to the continued use of pressure cookers in Brazil, even though they have almost disappeared in other parts of the world. Again, there nor no reliable statistics, but anecdotal evidence would indicate that by far the largest portion of those tons of beans were cooked in a pressure cooker. If you ask a Brazilian cook if they make beans in a pressure cooker, you're likely to get a stunned expression and a quick "of course" as a response. Brazilians just can't imagine why anyone would cook beans any other way. Presoaking isn't required, the cooking time is a mere 15 minutes, and even if you take into account the half an hour that you need to let the pressure cooker cool, the whole process can be done in under an hour. With all the other tasks needed to get the family meal on the table, that's a blessing. At least that's how Brazilian cooks seem to take it.

Flavors of Brazil published a non-pressure cooker recipe for basic Brazilian beans some time back. You can find it by clicking here. However, if you have a pressure cooker lying around somewhere, unused, why not get it out and try making beans the Brazilian way. Here's how:
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RECIPE - Pressure Cooker Beans (Feijão na Panela de Pressão)

2 cups dried beans (any kind - Pinto, black, etc.)
4 Tbsp neutral vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs cilantro, whole
2 green onions, whole
salt and black pepper to taste
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Wash and pick over the beans. Put them in a 4 quart or larger pressure cooker. Add four cups water, the cilantro, green onions and the bay leaf. Cover the pressure cooker and heat on stove according to directions. When the pressure takes (the cooker begins to whistle and steam) reduce heat slightly and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve. Do NOT open the pressure cooker.

After about 30 minutes, check the pressure in the cooker. If there is no pressure remaining you can open the pan. Remove the cilantro, green onion and bay leaf and discard them. Let the beans and their liquid sit in the pressure cooker.

In a cast iron frying pan heat the vegetable oil. When hot but not smoking add the onion and garlic. Cook for about 5-8 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and transparent but not brown. Reduce heat. With a ladle, remove about one ladleful of beans from the pressure cooker and about one ladleful of their liquid. Add to the frying pan and coarsely mash the beans with the back of the ladle. Cook for a few minutes, then return contents of the frying pan to the pressure cooker. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately, or let cool completely. Can be stored in the refrigerator for two days or in the freezer for up to a month.

18 comments:

  1. What do you mean, "wait for the pressure cooker to cool"? :)

    Just put the pan in the sink and open the cold water tap. Check that the pressure is gone by carefully lifting the pressure thingy and when it stops hissing, turn off the water and open the pan. Simple as that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unless.... the cooling time is also cooking time. Fifteen minutes for beans seems very very rapid to me, but I'm not an experienced 'pressure cooker' cook, which is why I looked up this site. In the meantime, I overcooked my white beans, but they're still good. (and yes, I did cool them off in the sink, the way I watched my mother do it so long ago...)

      Delete
    2. WARNING!

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      Delete
  2. looks good similar to how they make them in the American south and my hubby is Indian we use pressure cookers a lot

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Andrew ... I guess I put "wait for the pressure cooker to cool" because where I live, Fortaleza, there is no cold water. Warm water comes from the tap. So here, one must be especially careful that there is no pressure remaining before the seal is broken. If you're lucky enough to have cold "cold water" then you can cool down the pan quickly.
    JAMES

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  4. Hi James, even hot water will do because you just have to cool the pan below 100 degrees to get rid of the pressure. I know people say you shouldn't do that for safety reasons but I think everyone does.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's true what you're saying (but let's be clear that you're speaking of 100 degrees celsius, since many of this blog's readers use fahrenheit. When I wrote this article though, I wanted to be absolutely certain that no one could say they weren't warned and that I didn't give them proper instructions. Maybe it's because the woman who lived next door to me when I was a kid was horribly burned by a pressure cooker. Anyway, thanks for the input - I appreciate it.
      JAMES

      Delete
    2. I totally get where you are coming from.

      Kids, if you are going to try this at home, follow James' instructions, not mine! :)

      Delete
  5. You don't have to pre-soak the beans if you use a pressure cooker?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not really. They will cook just fine without. I've heard that soaking dissolves some of the cellulose that humans can't digest but your friendly gut bacteria can (and guess what they produce in return?). In other words, if you soak the beans, they make you less gassy. :)

      Delete
    2. Danielle - I was as shocked as you appear to be when my cleaning lady here in Fortaleza told me I didn't need to soak the beans, but I trusted her and she was right. Which makes the whole process even that much faster! I must say I haven't noticed a difference in the gaseous results of eating unsoaked beans, but now I'll probably not be able to help but to pay attention.
      JAMES

      Delete
    3. OK then, here's another remedy for those who DO have to deal with the gas issue when eating beans: You can add a few drops of iodine (consumable type, not the wound cleanser type, which can be toxic) to the cooking water, which helps prevent the gas issue. Now, a 'drop' is what comes out of a dropper, but there are different sized droppers. I can't be more specific than that, but if you use the consumable type, and add too much (by using a large dropper), there's no damage or risk.

      Delete
  6. I have had good luck with the soaking the beans in boiling water for 30 minutes before cooking. It really does help with breakdown the cellulose fast. I just throw the (drinking) water I soaked them in into the pan with the beans.

    I am guessing you have one of the fancy pressure cookers were the lid locks on (well technically my lid locks too). I have a very inexpensive one where the lid has a seal around the top side and it goes inside the pan and you hook it to the handle. The pressure release on mine isn't scary like the one my grandma has on her very safe American one. So, when my 20 minutes are up I grab a long spoon and lift it up. It takes less than 60 seconds. I know you aren't supposed to do it that way, but I don't think my husband or MIL would agree to wait. I haven't had any problem yet. (knock on wood)

    Andrew- I think I see them put the pressure cooker underwater all the time on Iron Chef America... If they do it then it had to be okay.

    ReplyDelete
  7. My mother taught me an even more economical way to cook the beans. Begin cooking and bring up to pressure (the cooker is hissing), then turn off. Later bring the cooker up to pressure one more time and immediately turn off. That's it--the beans are perfectly cooked! At this point I relieve the pressure and then add flavorings (sauted onions and garlic, cilantro).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Janet - I'll just have to give this one a try. It's definitely the most economical from the point of view of energy expended. One question - do you soak these beans first?
      JAMES

      Delete
  8. Wendy C.
    I have just brought an electric pressure cooker and was told that it cooks slower, to add 1/3 extra on the time how would this equate to beans ? and would I have to soak ? also what is cilantro ?

    ReplyDelete
  9. I made this and it was the first time my feijao came out right. It's so simple yet so perfect. My sister said it tasted like our brazilian nanny's food, the food we used to eat growing up in brazil.

    ReplyDelete
  10. WARNING!

    There’s JUST ONE REASON you might fail on the Paleo Diet and it has everything to do with your ability to make delicious food, FAST.

    But now, with this stunningly simple cookbook I’ll show you how to cook savory, mouth-watering meals in minutes for some of the busiest Paleo eaters in the world...

    For more info please click on the following link: How To Cook Tasty Dishes

    Talk soon.

    ReplyDelete