Pressure Cooker Turkey

Sean really wanted to have turkey at Thanksgiving dinner this year, so we spent some time brainstorming viable cooking options in this oven-free city. Our final candidate list included grilling (we’d need to acquire a very large grill), my father’s tried and true trash-can method, or just treat it like many Indian dishes and pressure cook the bird. For cost and safety reasons we dismissed the otherwise compelling Southern favorite option of deep-fried turkey.

First stop: Metro (the Indian version of Costco) to acquire a turkey. Metro had two types of turkeys: local or imported. While the imported turkeys were certainly more plump, something felt wrong (in addition to the 3x price tag) about using an imported turkey. So we picked up a seven kilo local turkey, from which they kindly removed the head and feet at our request.

After also acquiring the requisite Heritage Wine for the evening, we trolled the aisles looking for an appropriately sized cooking implement. The closest thing we found to a metal trashcan was a large cylindrical metal bowl which was (a) quite pricey and (b) probably still too short to adequately hold our turkey. As there were no grills to come by, our decision was easy: one 12 liter pressure cooker it was.

We put together a marinade of local ingredients, and used it to pressure cook the turkey. On the plus side, it was enormously efficient – the turkey was fully cooked in about an hour and a half, a fraction of the time it would have taken in the oven. On the other hand, it tasted a little, well, chewy. Whether this was from the cooking method, the lack of marinade injection or the texture of a local turkey we will never know.

Turkey chefs
The turkey chefs ready for business

Turkey marinade
The turkey marinade: Kingfisher, apple-pear juice, onions, curry leaves, green chilies, and other good stuff

Marinating the turkey
We thought about injecting the turkey with our marinade, but settled on the more standard “let-soak” method

MY turkey
‘Zis turkey will be ‘ze finest in Malleswaram

Turkey in the pressure cooker
Fortunately we opted for the local turkey; I don’t think the imported one would have fit into our pressure cooker

Ragi Waffles

Kenny and I had a fun breakfast experiment a few days back, attempting to replicate the delicious ragi rotis we enjoyed at Hallimane here in Malleswaram. This was no easy task! Getting the thick batter of ragi flour, water, minced onions, and dill to stick together when transferring it to the frying pan is quite the challenge. Actually flipping the pancakes over to cook the second side is quite near impossible. The end result was tasty but definitely not pretty.

I know that the cooks at Hale Maane have a bit of an advantage – they have a flat grill surface, and they spread the batter out onto a wax paper circle for transfer purposes. For some reason, none of our local grocery stores seem to stock wax paper.

Refusing to give up the ragi roti question, I later had an epiphany – why not employ Archana’s trusty waffle iron to make ragi waffles instead of rotis? I made the batter thinner this time (more water) so that it would be pourable, and the waffle iron produced perfect crispy brown ragi waffles. They taste very similar to rotis, but are much easier to make. We served them with a dollop of dahi (yogurt) and a bit of dill and minced onion.

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Special India-Edition Thanksgiving Menu

We don’t have an oven, and can’t find cranberries. Sean is researching turkey options; it looks like we may be able to get one, but if we do we’ll need to get a big pot and cook it on the stove (or trash-can style!) If we don’t get one, we may try a turkey art project instead.

Here are our current menu thoughts:

Drinks

  • Cranberry Juice and Vodka
  • Mulled Heritage Wine
  • Cider?

Food

  • Green Beans with Almonds
  • Mashed Sweet Potatoes
  • Cranberry Salsa (or variant, maybe with grapes or pomegranate seeds?)
  • Stuffing (cooked on the stove)
  • Pumpkin Waffles with vanilla ice cream (and dried cranberries if we can find them)

Back to Basics

We’ve been cooking a bunch in India, but things here are a little different. First, our kitchen consists of two propane burners (no oven). Second, a lot of the ingredients we get at home aren’t readily available. There are some cases where a simple substitution is necessary (like rajma in place of black beans). In other cases like tahini, we’ve gone to the source and ground up sesame seeds (which was remarkably easy and tasty), or whole wheat flour + water for tortillas adapted from rotis. It certainly changes your mindset. When Sean wondered if we could have corn tortillas next time, I asked if they had corn meal available. They don’t, so my immediate response was “do you have corn? We can grind it ourselves.” As a fellow geek, he said “we’re quickly making our way down to assembly code, aren’t we?”

Indian Fiesta

Sean has been craving Mexican food. Often when he craves Mexican, he makes the mistake of trying restaurants in town that claim to specialize in Mexican dishes. We wanted to show him how easy it was to make his favorite Mexican dishes at home using Indian produce, so we put together the following menu:

  • Spanish rice. Sean was already a Spanish rice expert, so he took care of this one. The main components were white rice, tomatoes, and chilies.
  • Beans (we used white rajma from the local grocery store, the closest thing we could find to pinto beans). We cooked them with bay leaves and chilies in the pressure cooker.
  • Guacamole. All of the standard ingredients are readily available, including gorgeous avocadoes (locally known as “butter fruit”).
  • Salsa. I used local green chilies, small red onions, tomatoes, cilantro (aka coriander), lime juice, and garlic, and put them all in the mixie. The end result was spicy and delicious.
  • Soft taco innards. We cooked up some veggies (peppers, onions, chilies) and chicken to use for tacos.
  • Tortillas. We made the observation that rotis and tortillas are basically the same thing, so we made up a bunch of rotis and used them as tortillas for our tacos.
  • Chips. We over-cooked a few of the rotis to make crackers, and broke them into small pieces to use as chips. These didn’t quite resemble tortilla chips from home (for one thing, they weren’t deep-fried in oil), but they were tasty enough and made a good base for the salsa and guacamole.
  • We ran out of time to do anything about dessert, but fortunately Sean and Archana’s friends Michelle and Anders brought over delicious homemade chocolate volcano cakes and vanilla ice cream.

This feast satisfied Sean’s Mexican cravings, with the exception of the beans – he really misses black beans and just can’t find them in Bangalore. So now we know what we’re bringing from home on our next visit.

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Michelle and Anders and salsa and guacamole

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Delicious chocolate volcano cakes with local vanilla ice cream

Pressure Cookers

In India I’ve had my first experience with pressure cookers. I think they’re awesome, but I’m also slightly terrified of them. I was in the process of pressure cooking some beans, and a noxious steam started coming out the front of the cooker (not the top). Heat off, fans on, and fingers crossed. And (I think) time for a new pressure cooker.

Dal and Rotis

We made our second attempt at dal last night (came out pretty good, completely different from the first one), and our first attempt at rotis! The rotis were surprisingly easy and delicious. We basically followed this recipe and also got some help from Archana.

Tonight I think we’re going to make more rotis and use them as tortillas for veggie tacos. We have some extremely spicy green chilies that I’ve been wanting to try for a salsa.

Lauren rolling rotis
Preparing the rotis for the pan – thin, but not too thin

Dal roti
The final result – spicy yellow dal with piping hot rotis

Cooking with Shyamala and Sushila

Now that we’re settled in Bangalore, Kenny and I have been experimenting with the wide array of grains, legumes, and spices available in all of the local grocery stores. We made our first attempt at dal the other night (which went quite well, in spite of the fact that Kenny accidentally used anise seeds instead of cumin seeds). Miraculously, there were no pressure cooker injuries. The next experiment will probably be channa masala.

In the midst of these adventures, I was reminded of an email from Vidya a few months back, about a couple of her aunties who started publishing cooking videos on YouTube as a way to teach their children how to make Indian food. These are a great resource and we can’t wait to use them!

Here is the list: