Let’s hear it for the Royal Society.
Back in the day – the mid-seventeenth century – it was the focal point of advancement in science. I have one of its founding members, Robert Boyle, to thank for the miracle of last night’s lentil soup. He was the first to define the interrelationship of pressure, temperature, and volume, and his work led, circuitously, to the development of that most miraculous of appliances, the pressure cooker.
I bought one, on impulse, a couple of days ago. It’s a Cuisinart electric model, and I paid $69.99 for it at Costco. I took it home and, last night, made lentil soup.
It’s got several temperature settings, besides high and low pressure, so you can sauté your ingredients before you add liquids. I chopped up some bacon, and cooked it on “sauté.” Then came onions, celery, garlic, and carrots on “brown.” In went the wine, stock, and lentils, and on went the lid.
The moment of truth. I set it for eight minutes at high pressure, and went into the living room, braced for the explosion.
It made a few ominous noises, but no explosion came. It took a while – maybe ten or fifteen minutes – for the pressure to build, and then the eight-minute countdown began. It beeped when it was done.
I released the pressure valve, and the steam hissed out for a remarkably long time. Finally, when all was quiet, I opened the lid.
Kevin and I peered in. It sure looked like lentil soup.
“Those lentils can’t possibly be done,” Kevin said. “They were only in there for eight minutes.”
I took a spoon and tasted. They were done. And, once I’d added salt and a little balsamic vinegar, they were delicious.
I did the math, and I’m figuring the pressure cooker used about nickel’s worth of electricity to make my lentil soup. Had I made it on our propane stovetop, it would have cost about four times as much. If I use it twice a week, it’ll pay for itself in a mere six years. (The real cost savings, of course, comes from increased lentil consumption.)
I imagine the thrill of cooking lentils in eight minutes will wear off, but right now I’m still in awe of the magic of my pressure cooker, and giving thanks to Robert Boyle.