You can tell it’s mid February in an actually not-too-bad winter here in the Midwest, a time when I spend a lot of time cooking. I love trying new recipes, adjusting old standby recipes to make them my own and using new methods of preparing a meal.
In December I attended a fundraiser that included a silent auction and a raffle. Meandering through the raffle tables, I spotted an Instant Pot. I have friends who are excellent cooks, and who have Instant Pots that they use often, so I know I’m late to the Instant Pot party. But I had often thought that this was something I would use as well. So I dropped my $5 ticket into the Instant Pot bucket and walked away.
Later that evening when the raffle prizes were awarded and my number was called from the Instant Pot bucket, I really was overjoyed. I knew that the item sells for about $100 in the stores so the bargain I had just got was fun in and of itself. And I was excited to think about the number of ways I might use this new device which, even though there’s a slow cook option, is essentially an electric pressure cooker that cuts cooking time to a fraction of normal. I knew it would allow me to expand my selection of go-to recipes, and at the very least, have a dinner made faster.
But first I had to overcome my intimidation of this new tool. After I got it home and unpacked it, for literally the rest of December and a part of January, I just kind of stared at it, not really having a plan for what to do with it. It came with an owner’s manual, which I uncharacteristically read from cover to cover. And it came with a very thin book of recipes. The only recipe that appealed to me at that moment was one for beef stew. I have my own way of making beef stew and this one sounded reasonably close. I made the recipe according to directions, being especially careful about the first use of the pressure cooker feature. There was a reason I had never bought a pressure cooker in all these years of cooking, having do with potential explosions and holes in the ceiling, to say nothing about damage and destruction to me and my family!
I gingerly followed (and by “followed” I mean “assembled”) the recipe to the letter, set the timer and the correct pressure setting and off I went. In our estimation, the end result of this first attempt was good, not great. My own recipe comes out with a more robust flavor with much thicker gravy. So I’ll likely stick with that one or the Beef Burgundy recipe which is my all time favorite. But I didn’t want to give up using the pot.
My dismay didn’t subside and my enthusiasm didn’t grow again until a few weeks later when a friend gave me a cookbook, appropriately called “The Essential Instant Pot Cookbook.” As I paged through it I found a wide variety of recipes that I could make.
There were main course dishes such as barbecued spare ribs. I was looking for a short cut recipe for them since I have spent many hours preparing ribs. What I found in the Instant Pot was a recipe requiring a mere 25 minutes in the pot covered with apple cider vinegar and apple juice (Was it possible I could get something edible with that short a cook time? Based on the result of my first attempt I was skeptical) . But true to the directions, I removed the ribs from the pot, covered them with my favorite barbeque sauce and then placed them in the oven for about 10 minutes until the sauce was carmelized and browned. And I have to say that it may not be as quite as flavorful as my 8 hour version but it was very, very good – falling-off-the-bone good for something that took such a short time!
My confidence restored, I have since made potato and leek soup – also very good.
As I study this book I can see a future where I combine my regular cooking done on or in my stove alongside the Instant Pot where I will prepare sides such as Sicilian-style chard with raisins and pine nuts, I can prepare many different soups, a delicious strawberry rhubarb compote recipe I just came across and so many more. And for my grandkids, I also thought about making the wonderful recipe for french toast for them. And in record time, I could make mac and cheese that might satisfy my granddaughter and also my vegetarian grandson. So I go back to being thrilled about my Instant Pot with a special thanks to my dear friend who opened up the possibilities with this great cookbook! It won’t replace my regular cooking (I don’t think!) but it will surely augment many dinners to come. What are some of the kitchen gadgets that you can’t live without?