Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Instant Pot

Well, it was only a matter of time until I broke down and got an Instant Pot, in my case the Six-Quart Duo Plus, with nine programs. This piece of equipment has been nearly universally praised, and already there are many many cookbooks and blogs with recipes written just for the Instant Pot.

I love kitchen gadgets and already had a pressure cooker, which I use frequently, and a slow cooker, which I use rarely. The Instant Pot is above all a substitute for these space consumers, and by getting rid of them, the IP has already save me precious kitchen space. It is a good pressure cooker, not quite as fast as my trusty Fagor stovetop one, but I do appreciate the controls that an electric cooker provides. My wonderful chicken stock was just as good with my IP as with the Fagor.I haven't tested the slow cooker but I am sure that it will be competent, if not quite as good as my Crockpot 8-quart model.

What about other results? I have made yogurt and hard(ish) boiled eggs using the special functions for these applications, with mixed success. The first thing I learned is that no recipe for the IP works perfectly the first time, except for something like soup or stew, where you can just toss a lot of ingredients together and cook in one go, especially the Indian food I describe below.

Here is an egg I almost hard-boiled using the "egg" function. Very nice indeed, but you need to know your eggs and your cooker to be able to duplicate the result. For sure they are easier to peel than eggs boiled conventionally, and I have tried countless methods.

Instant Pot five minute egg
Melissa Clark has written an excellent book, Dinner in an Instant, which contains recipes for the IP, usually using the pressure function, but with alternate instructions for slow cooking. I have used her takes on yogurt, eggs, steel-cut oats and, most notably Persian rice. The rice was OK but the tahdig was not sufficiently crusty due to my own lack of courage. I will definitely try this again because I love Persian rice and cook it rarely due to the complexity.

Clark is a good food writer and her book has a number of very inviting recipes that I hope to try, including very simple duck confit, braised pork with garlic, fennel and olive; braised Roman style lamb with herbs and peas; classic polenta; saffron risotto, butternut squash soup with coriander and lemon, dulce de leche, among many others.

Switching gears, I read somewhere that Urvashi Pitre's Indian Instant Pot Cookbook was a winner and so far so good. The book is written with my exact IP in mind, and the recipes seem to be very authentic. So far I've made a wonderful and super easy coconut tomato soup, and chana dal (chickpeas in sauce), based on an onion masala that comes together very easily and, to this non-Indian at least, screams INDIA. Finally, I made Punjabi chicken curry, which was also amazingly easy and flavorful, although neither Joan nor I loved the flavor profile at first (it was totally delicious when reheated for lunch, though, so maybe I'll make it again, this time with more fresh ginger.)

Urvashi's book is short and efficient, and contains a lot of good information about Indian cooking. Her mother grew up in Punjab and her father in Maharashtra, so she is adept at two quite different cuisines, and has recipes from both cultures. This is a useful and fun book.

Based on the foregoing, I give the Instant Pot thumbs up, but don't expect miracles: it requires experience but in the long run will become an essential part of your kitchen battery.

Bobby Jay

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