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Oct. 25, 2021

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Food & Drink: College cooking class applies pressure

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Ingredients for pork pot roast in a pressure cooker.
Ingredients for pork pot roast in a pressure cooker. Rachel Pinsky Photo Gallery

“I have seven pressure cookers,” instructor Edurne Garcia-Andre confessed to a classroom filled with attentive continuing education students at Clark College’s Columbia Tech Center campus on a rainy Thursday night.

Why does anyone need that many pressure cookers? This, along with many other pressure cooker- and cooking-related questions, was answered with aplomb by Garcia-Andre as she briskly made her way through a thick booklet of recipes.

Pressure cookers have changed over the years. You may remember your grandma’s pressure cooker hissing and sputtering like an overheating car engine. New pressure cookers have safety features (such as a locking lid) that prevent you from burning your face or spraying beans on the ceiling. Good pressure cookers (such as those made by Fagor) are made with sturdy stainless steel, not aluminum.

Garcia-Andre explained, “There’s not much to be afraid about pressure cookers these days.” All machines operate a bit differently. She said, “You have to get to know your pressure cooker.” She told us to purchase a good-sized pressure cooker because you can cook less than you need in it, but if you get one that is too small, you can’t cook larger portions. It’s wise to always read the instructions.

The class had some self-identified Instant Pot people. Instant Pots are multipurpose appliances that can do the work of a pressure cooker, slow cooker and rice cooker (to name a few). Pressure cooker recipes need to be adjusted because Instant Pots heat up more slowly. Instant Pots plug into the wall and don’t need to be watched like a pressure cooker, which heats on a stove top. The room was filled with mostly women, but the Instant Pot people attended class as couples — which made me think that maybe Instant Pots are the hot tubs of the mid-2000s.

This is a demonstration class, so you just sit back, watch and eat loads of food. Garcia-Andre has been teaching cooking classes for almost eight years at Clark College (almost five years at Portland Community College). For the past four years, she’s taught pressure cooker classes. For many years, Vikki Michailoff has assisted Garcia-Andre. These two pros run the class like a well-oiled machine — Garcia-Andre talking and cooking, and Michailoff making sure everything else runs smoothly (washing dishes, getting ingredients, serving students food).

Garcia-Andre doesn’t like to see hungry faces staring back at her. Many times during the class she said, “We don’t want people to starve to death during classes.” Starving to death isn’t the issue at this class. Here, the problem is consuming all the food placed before you. Bette Ford, who was seated to my left, came prepared with plastic containers to bring food home. Ford took Garcia-Andre’s soup class with her son and learned that this instructor makes a ton of food, doesn’t waste it and encourages students to bring food home. Take out containers were provided for those who didn’t bring their own.

The menu was carefully constructed to highlight a broad range of recipes cooked in a pressure cooker. A packet of recipes was handed out at the beginning of class that included pressure cooker basics and recipes for hummus, Spanish green beans, pork pot roast, gingered beef and flan.

Garcia-Andre swiftly worked her way through all these recipes, often with four or more pressure cookers moderately hissing because they’re cooking food or hissing like a basket of angry snakes and cats fighting each other to quickly release steam so the pressure cookers could be opened.

To my left was Apryl Graham. She learned about Garcia-Andre’s classes as a board member for Friends of Hospice Southwest Washington. Garcia-Andre teaches six cooking classes each year to raise money for this local organization that supports families through established hospice and palliative care organizations in Southwest Washington. Graham has made cheesecake and pea soup in her pressure cooker. I was impressed because I’ve only made beans.

If You Go

What: Cooking classes.

Where: Clark College Continuing Education, Columbia Tech Center, 18700 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd., Vancouver.

Cost: $69.

Information: ecd.clark.edu or 360-992-2939.

The class is listed as being from 5:45 to 8 p.m., but no one can cook all these dishes that quickly. I lost track of time until I noticed it was 8:30 p.m. and Garcia-Andre was browning chuck for the ginger beef. Chuck roast is tough but forgiving and cooks well in a pressure cooker. The flan still needed to be made. Both dishes were worth the wait. The ginger beef came on a bed of fluffy basmati rice. The tender beef with baby carrots, snap peas and baby corn had a sweet, gingery sauce.

The recipe for flan came from Garcia-Andre’s mother. We were told to keep the recipe a secret, but I will share that it was easy to make and delicious. I won’t reveal the secret ingredient that adds creaminess. You will have to take this class to find that out.


Rachel Pinsky can be reached at couveeats@gmail.com. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram @couveeats.

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