Chicken Provençal (Photo: St. Martin’s Griffin)
One of the latest cooking crazes has its roots in culinary history. French households have relied on the conventional pressure cooker for generations. In fact, they seem to regard it with a nostalgia more powerful than Proust's emotions for the madeleine.
Called la cocotte-minute, the pressure cooker was invented by 17th-century physicist Denis Papin, and it has long been considered a secret weapon among French home cooks. With its ability to speedily render tough cuts of meat spoon-tender, the pressure cooker is ideal for the hearty braises that are the hallmark of beloved country cuisine. Savvy cooks also use it as a kitchen shortcut, to quickly soften winter squash for a gratin, for example, or endives for endives au jambon.
In many French home kitchens, the pressure cooker is always at hand—even at the expense of precious real estate— because it's such a useful tool. Today, more Americans are turning to this cooking method as a new incarnation of the favorite is popping up on kitchen counters: the Instant Pot.
Food and travel writer Ann Mah examines how the multifunctional electric pressure cooker can be used for traditional French recipes—as well as those around the world. In a conversation with cookbook author and food writer Domenica Marchetti, she surveys how time-honored French dishes have been adapted and changed over time, and how the mix of modern technology and classic cuisine can result in a delicious blend.
Drawing on her new book Instantly French! Classic French Recipes for Your Electric Pressure Cooker, Mah offers a wealth of tips on how to make the most of the Instant Pot’s many features, and how American cooks can use it to bring the spirit of la cuisine de grand-mère into their kitchen—in ways a French grandmother could never have imagined.
Mah is the bestselling author of The Lost Vintage, Mastering the Art of French Eating and other books, and contributes regularly to the New York Times Travel section. Instantly French! (St. Martin’s Griffin) is available for sale and signing.