Sunday, June 16, 2024

(Almost) instantly delicious

It took me awhile to accept the value of an Instant Pot; I couldn’t see why I needed one. My slow cooker worked just fine, and I was OK with using pots and pans for other things. But about a year ago, I was gifted one. Suddenly, I had a beautiful, fancy new appliance to figure out and assimilate into my cooking regime.

An Instant Pot is basically a fancy pressure cooker, with specialized preset modes (specific pressure levels and times) for cooking different items. It also works as a slow cooker/crockpot and as a yogurt maker. And it can work like an electric pot, with the lid open, to sear or steam.

The presets make it super-simple to create a complex meal quickly and easily; once you figure it out, an Instant Pot is kind of a one-stop cooking device. Things like beans — which can take hours to cook — are done in 20 minutes or so; meats like brisket, pork roast and even ribs can cook long and slow with no fear of burning or drying out; and stews of all kinds come out with smooth, creamy textures simply by being cooked at high pressure.

Like many other people, I found that yogurt was the first, easiest thing I made in my “IP.” Overnight, I had a couple of quarts of gorgeous yogurt that required no more effort than mixing milk with a bit of yogurt as a starter.

Chicken burrito bowls
Chicken burrito bowls are a quick ‘n easy crowd pleaser!

Then, I will admit, the IP sat on my counter, and then its designated shelf, for weeks before I forced myself to use it for something else, something complicated I usually made on the stovetop with multiple pots. Not only was that Thai Peanut Ramen almost effortless, the broth had a silky texture I’d never been able to make before. (IP directions below.)

Since then, I’ve expanded my repertoire considerably: pork roast, applesauce, all kinds of stews, macaroni and cheese, chicken breasts, brown rice in minutes. (As I write this, chicken stock is bubbling away in my Instant Pot. I’ll end up with two quarts or more of flavorful, delicious stock tucked away in the freezer for future use.) I haven’t made any desserts in it yet, but they’re on the agenda.

I’ll be the first to say that it takes a while to get used to using an Instant Pot, but once you do, they’re great! There are oodles of sites online with all sorts of Instant Pot recipes; I’ve included a few of my favorites here:

Chicken Burrito Bowls

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1-inch chunks
  • 1 (1.25-oz.) package taco seasoning or equivalent spices
  • 1½ cups chicken or veggie broth
  • 1 (15-oz.) can corn kernels, drained, or equivalent frozen
  • 1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed, or equivalent fresh-cooked
  • 1 cup salsa, homemade or store-bought
  • 1 (4.5-oz.) can chopped green jalapeños
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 2 cups shredded Chihuahua cheese
  • Garnish: 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Mix chicken, taco seasoning and broth in a 6 qt. Instant Pot. Stir in corn, beans, salsa and green chiles. Spread rice on top; press down gently to moisten. Select manual setting and adjust pressure to high. Set time for 10 minutes.

When finished cooking, quick-release pressure. Stir in cheese until melted. Serve immediately, garnished with cilantro.


Note: You’ll need a springform pan that fits inside your Instant Pot.

  • 8 oven-ready lasagna noodles
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella or Chihuahua cheese
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 cups marinara/meat sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¾ cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 1 large egg
  • Pinch salt

In a bowl, beat an egg, then add ¾ cup ricotta. Season with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper; set aside. Line a 7-inch springform pan with parchment paper.

lasagna ingredients
Instant Pot lasagna? Why not?!

Break uncooked lasagna noodles into smaller pieces; place at bottom of pan in a single layer. Make 3 layers of sauce, ricotta mixture, noodles and shredded cheese, finishing with Parmesan on top. Wrap springform pan tightly with aluminum foil.

Pour 1 cup cold water in Instant Pot; place a trivet in bottom of pot. Use foil to create a sling for the springform pan, then place it gently on top of trivet. Close lid; pressure cook on high setting for 24 minutes + 10 minutes natural release. Check that noodles are cooked enough; if necessary, cook for 5 minutes more.

Remove from Instant Pot. Let sit 5 minutes in pan, then remove and serve.

Thai Peanut Ramen

(Click on the link to find ingredients list.)

Combine chicken broth, coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, honey, peanut butter and curry paste in Instant Pot. Add chicken, mushrooms, red peppers, ginger and garlic. (If using shrimp, do not add them now.) Cover and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. Once done cooking, release the steam vent.

Shred chicken; stir in the noodles, if using, lime juice, spinach and cilantro. Add shrimp, if using. Let sit 5 minutes or until noodles are soft and shrimp are cooked.

If necessary, pressure-cook for 3–4 minutes to cook shrimp. Ladle soup into bowls, top with peanuts and toasted sesame oil.

BBQ Pulled Pork

  • 1 Tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp. salt or to taste
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 3-4 pounds boneless pork shoulder, fat trimmed, cut into 4 large chunks
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 can dark soda (Cola, Dr. Pepper, root beer)
  • ½-1½ cups barbecue sauce
  • Hot sauce

Mix garlic and onion powders, paprika, salt and pepper in large bowl. Add pork; turn to coat. In Instant Pot, pour oil; turn to sauté setting Add pork and brown. Add onion and soda; stir and scrape up browned bits from bottom of pot.

Close lid, cook on high pressure setting for one hour. Turn off; release pressure.

Remove pork and onion bits to large bowl. Using two forks, shred meat. Add ½ cup barbecue sauce and a few spoons cooking liquid to moisten. (Discard remaining cooking liquid.) Add salt, pepper, hot sauce and more barbecue sauce as desired.

Janet Blaser is the author of the best-selling book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expatsfeatured on CNBC and MarketWatch. She has lived in Mexico since 2006. You can find her on Facebook.

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