What’s for supper? Vol. 74: This is why everyone needs an Instant Pot

Maybe you’re wondering what is the big deal about the Instant Pot. Is it really so great? Why does everyone go so cuckoo over it? Should I be worried that my spouse has bought a pair of spotless doves and is sharpening a knife?

And why does Simcha insist on making these embarrassingly chimpy images with very primitive software and a crying toddler on her lap?

I have the answer.  To the first question, not the second.

It’s because of risotto.

Risotto, risotto, risotto. I love risotto with my whole heart, but it is a pain in the neck to make. Hovering over the pan, stirring, adding in a little broth, stirring, waiting, simmering, waiting, stirring, adding some more broth, stirring, waiting, and it smells divine, but your entire life is passing you by while you wait for it to be done.

In the Instant Pot, it’s easy. Truly easy, and fast. And it tastes just as good as the difficult kind. This, in itself, is a reason to own an Instant Pot. All the other stuff is bonus. Now you know!

Here is the obligatory reminder that all my links to Amazon products are Amazon Associates links, and I get a small percentage of every purchase made using my links. Amazon is restructuring its pay scale soon, to the detriment of people who mostly plug books and toys; so I would be very, very grateful if you could bookmark my link and use it any time you shop on Amazon!

I’m gonna come right out and tell you: we rely on Amazon for our car payments. My husband has a 1.3-hour commute, and absolutely needs a reliable car. So! Please use my links, so my husband doesn’t have to drive to work in the Instant Pot. It’s good, but it’s not that good.

Thank you.

And now, back to risotto.

Last Friday, we had tuna fish patties and butternut squash risotto. I used this butternut squash risotto recipe from Good Housekeeping. I used onions instead of shallots, ground sage instead of fresh, and regular old white rice instead of arborio. It was fabulous. Creamy but not mushy and packed with flavor. Amazing.

I spent a good half hour wandering around the house, taking people by the shoulders, holding them with my glittering eye and quothing at them, “Do you even realize the possibilities?” Risotto with fresh tomatoes. Risotto with bacon. Risotto with scallops or garlicky shrimp. Risotto with asparagus and gorgonzola. Risotto with lemon, mint, and peas. Risotto with hazelnuts. Risotto with saffron and fennel. I don’t even know what fennel is! But I will!

The other reason for having an Instant Pot is because venting the steam is fun. Some days, it is the most fun you will have all day.

***

SATURDAY
Hamburgers, chips

Cousins over again. They responded very positively, with shrieking, to the idea of hamburgers and chips. So let it be written; so let it be done. I had planned sweet peppers and hummus, but there were just too many runny noses and double dippers in the population, so, in the interest of good health, we skipped the veg.

***

SUNDAY
Chicken cutlets with basil; mushroom risotto; salad

Farewell to cousins and hello to my parents. Here is my niece with one of her favorite playthings: My father’s beard.

Damien made one of his absolute most magnificent dishes, the late lamented Deadspin’s chicken cutlets. You pound the chicken flat, bread it (Damien used panko crumbs), fry it (Damien used olive oil and butter), then top it with a fresh basil leaf and a slice of cheese (Damien used mozzarella, but provolone is great, too), and ladle some homemade tomato sauce over that.

This meal makes me go absolutely insane. It’s so good, you can’t imagine. As I ate it, I thought of starving people in the third world and then thought, “TOO BAD.” With these chicken cutlets, you could — dare I say it? Rule the world.  

Also, I had some mushroom left over from last week, when I accidentally didn’t make soup. So I went with this mushroom risotto recipe from This Old Gal. This Old Gal discourages using plain old regular mushrooms, but I did it anyway, and it was good. I didn’t have fennel or parsley, so I went with sage again, and really peppered it up. Completely delicious.

***

MONDAY
Leftovers with spaghetti

Damien had made 38 chicken cutlets, so we put the leftovers in a pan, spread the rest of the sauce over it, added a layer of sliced cheese, and warmed it up in the oven, then served it on spaghetti.

There was no leftover risotto because I devoured it for lunch.

I feel like there was salad.

***

TUESDAY
Korean beef bowl; rice; steambed broccoli and cauliflower

I just noticed that I wrote “steambed” instead of “steamed,” but I think the “b” expresses how lightly I didn’t steam them.

Have you tried Korean beef bowl yet? You won’t regret it.

It’s so easy, and it’s just spicy enough to be warming and comforting, without assailing your mouth. Wonderful use for ground beef. Also a wonderful use for immortal zombie scallions, if you happen to have any haunting your kitchen.

I used, you’ll never guess, the Instant Pot for the rice. This really is easier than stovetop rice. It comes out slightly sticky, which we like, and you just put in water, rinse the rice and dump it in, and then press a button and walk away.

Oh, I thought of another advantage for the Instant Pot. InstantPot.com has plenty of useful, simple recipes, like the rice one above. It also has a slew of completely bonkers recipes that were apparently written by a malicious robot who flunked out of ESL. Here is one of my current favorites: Beer Potato Fish!

A photo of something, who knows what?

“The Beer Potato Fish would be a challenge for a non-professional cooker,” it muses, shaking its head in empathy for the old, dark days so tragically rife with amateurish attempts at beer potato fish, “But it is now a different story with Instant Pot Programmable Pressure Cooker.”

It calls for a pound of fish, some oyster flavored sauce, a cup of beer, and a tablespoon of rock candy. Doesn’t that sound tasty? It also instructs you to push the fish button, which does not exist. I suppose someone is making money off this in some way, and I kind of feel like they deserve it.

***

WEDNESDAY
Oven-roasted pork ribs; mashed potatoes; mixed veg

The Instant Pot had acquitted itself so well this week, I thought maybe I’d try one of the many, many pork rib recipes that are available. But then I remembered that I could also sit on the couch and tell my son how to some pork ribs in a 450 oven on a roasting rack with a little salt and pepper, and I knew they would be scrumptious. And so I did, and so they were.

If there’s a better way to prepare pork ribs, I just don’t care.

I also considered making Instant Pot mashed potatoes, but the recipes all looked more complicated than stovetop recipes. So I just went ahead and boiled them in a non-instant pot and mashed them. I left the skin on, which I almost never do. To me, this adds excitement and piquancy. To others, it’s like hanging around with that weirdo who keeps on harping on the idea that, in many regions, apple cores, corn cobs, and chicken bones are considered a delicacy.

The vegetables were that good old supermarket blend of frozen peas, carrots, corn, string beans, and lima beans. This makes me feel six years old, in a good way.

***

THURSDAY
English muffin pizzas

Since our bishop has given us a St. Patrick’s Day dispensation to eat meat on Friday, we did our meatless meal on Thursday. Except I forgot, and had leftover Korean beef bowl for lunch. For my penance, I had massive heartburn all night, and dreamt I was endlessly editing and re-editing a blog post about best and worst dresses of the Oscars; only I had to do it on taped-together paper with sidewalk chalk and then take photos of it with a Kodak disc film camera.

So, I am all caught up on Lent.

***

FRIDAY
Corned beef boiled dinner; Dublin coddle

So, St. Patrick is, like, the second-tier patron of our regional arch-diacistry, or something; and my husband is tremendously Irish, so we prayerfully discerned that have no choice but to eat three different kinds of meat today.

The kids love boiled dinner, so I’ll be cooking up some corned beef with red potatoes, cabbage, carrots, and adorable little onions, and serving it with gobs of mustard, as St. Patrick himself did. It’s how he drove the snakes away.

We’re also trying a new dish, Dublin coddle (recipe from Southeast Missourian, for some reason) which is a nice little thing with bacon, sausage, sweet and russet potatoes, herbs, carrots and apples. No argument from me. The two other recipes on this page actually sound way better. Maybe when I win the lottery.

Nobody likes soda bread, because it is terrible. Last year, I looked up authentic irish desserts, and quickly discovered why people usually just go with, like, brownies with green frosting.

What’s for supper? Vol. 70: The Instant Pot and the Wild, Wild West

Better late than never, eh? Sorry about no post on Friday. It’s a long, tiresome story full of technical details that I don’t understand at all. If you’re reading this, it means my brother fixed it because he is great. If you’re not, then it means that there is no reason at all for WordPress to be dominating the market the way it does. NO REASON AT ALL.

Here’s what we had last week.

SATURDAY
Birthday party! Pizza, ice cream sodas, birthday cake

Kid asked for a Wild West party for her 11th birthday, and I jumped at opportunity to not try and replicate some trademarked character. I got a bunch of cowboy hats from the dollar store, searched “player piano music” on YouTube, and set up an ice cream soda bar with a This End Up chair and a wooden shelf. My son was the bartender.

We also made a few “Wanted” signs for photo ops.

wanted signs

We also dipped some pretzel rods in green candy melt to make cactuses, which I understand were a big feature of the wild, wild west. They would have been better with some needle-shaped sprinkles, but all I could find was sugar crystals. I made a few with arms and stuck them on the cake.
Oh, the cake! A full week ahead of time, I thought, “I’ll get ahead of this for once, and I’ll get some cake mix now, and then I can make the cake whenever I have a chance, and freeze it.” So smart!
The night before the party, I finally had a chance, and guess what? It was three boxes of brownie mix. So I ran out to the store in the morning and bought three more boxes of cake mix.
And they were brownie mix, too. So my husband went out to the convenience store and paid, I don’t know, $11.99 each for three boxes of actual cake mix from 1992. And lo, there was cake.
 
The child had her heart set on a cake with the silhouette of a galloping horse wearing a cowboy hat. I was actually pretty pleased with the way the background turned out:
sunset cake

I took a picture before it was done, because I said to myself, “Self, you are about to wreck up this cake.”
The horse itself . . . well, you can see it has a hat on.

cowboy cake

I stuck on some cactuses and Hanukkah candles (BECAUSE I FORGOT TO BUY CANDLES) and called it good.
We also got together a bunch of cards and poker chips, but when it came down to it, Sophia and six of her closest friends honestly just wanted to paint each other’s nails. And that’s what became of the wild, wild west.

SUNDAY
Hot dogs; chips, carrots, and dip; cheesy bacon bread; brownie sundaes

Sunday was the Superb Owl, and I completely ignored all of your delicious recipes and just made that swell bacon cheddar ranch garlic bread again. No complaints! We had tons of leftover ice cream from the party; and for some reason, we had a lot of brownies in the house — like, six boxes worth — so we had brownie sundaes for dessert.

MONDAY
Beef daikon soup; white rice; brownies

This is where I start to question my dedication to my pre-planned weekly menu. Guess how many stores in our area carry daikon? That’s right, one. Guess how many daikons that one store had in stock? That’s right, also one. Guess how big that one daikon was?
Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 11.16.10 AM

That’s right, the size of a newborn child.

I followed the recipe in this very cool cookbook, Cook Korean!
Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 10.43.45 PM
It’s “a comic book with recipes,” and nice and easy to follow, very attractive (which is why I haven’t used it yet. The kids keep stealing it). Here’s the page with the recipe I used, to give you an idea of the layout:
korean cookbook

Very clear and encouraging, full of neat little details.
The soup went together really fast. I made it on the stovetop, but kept it warm in the slow cooker all day. THEN, all on fire with TRYING NEW THINGS, I went ahead and tried making rice in My Instant Pot.
The two pots, small, dark, and slow and big, shiny, and fast, sat together on the stovetop and looked at each other.
instant pot and slow cooker
It was a little awkward.
“Now I am needed no longer,” thought the little black Crock Pot. “My pot is so little and this one so big! Perhaps they will give me up. Perhaps they will unplug me. Perhaps they will give me to the baby to fill with chewed-up fruit snacks and chewed-up legos.” It stood waiting and waiting. It felt glum and anxious and queer.
But the Instant Pot was like, “Get over it, crocky. You keep soup hot, I’ll make the rice, and then the kids do the dishes. Each to his own place, little brother!”  And if you don’t believe it, you can come by my house and see for yourself, and then you can do the dishes, too.
It was marginally easier to make rice in the Instant Pot than it is to make it on the stovetop. It takes about the same amount of time, if you factor in the time it takes to build up pressure and the time it takes to vent it afterwards. (I LOVE VENTING STEAM, by the way. It’s just fun!) The rice turned out quite sticky, which isn’t a bad thing. It would probably be much better if I ever get around to making sushi. Here’s a pic, to give you the general idea:
instant pot rice
The soup was yummy. It’s not a complex soup, but it’s quite nourishing, and the taste is pleasant, not too spicy or strong.
beef daikon soup pot
I’ll definitely make it again. Although the doctor says it’s idea to wait at least a year before trying for more daikon.
Boy, that joke just never came together. Ah, well.

TUESDAY
Pulled pork, fries, mashed butternut squash

Back to the slow cooker for pulled pork. This time I made it with a can of Coke and some salt and pepper. It’s never going to not be delicious.
Now, butternut squash is a pain in the neck. It’s a great taste, but I have the worst time peeling it. Everyone tells me to buy one of these-type peelers
Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 10.59.29 PM
to make it easier.  But do I listen? No, I do not. So instead, I just hacked the two squashes in half and scooped out the seeds, chunked them in the Instant Pot on top of the rack, added a cup of water, and set it on “manual” for about 15 minutes. I let it do its thing, vented that sucker, and opened the lid to find squash that was perfectly cooked and that separated so obligingly from the skin, I wanted to cry.
squash instant pot
I scooped the flesh away and mashed it up with butter, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. So good, and significantly easier than other cooking methods. Next time, I’m going to cook it for a shorter time, cut it into cubes, and then roast them. We’ll see how that goes.

WEDNESDAY
Bagel, egg, and sausage sandwiches

Nothing to report. I was mad about something, I forget what, so I didn’t make any vegetables.

THURSDAY
Grilled pretzel brat sandwiches; roast cauliflower

I got the idea for these sandwiches on one of those lists of “Grilled Cheese Sandwiches That Are Better Than a Boyfriend.” My husband and I agreed that we’d definitely rather have this sandwich than a boyfriend. The recipe calls for cutting the pretzel in half to make the two “bread” pieces of the sandwich, but that seemed like it would lead to heartache, so I just used two pretzels for each sandwich.

I let the frozen pretzels thaw completely, then made sandwiches from pretzels and muenster cheese, and fried them in butter just enough to brown up the pretzels a bit. Then I put them in a warm oven to let the cheese finish melting. I put sliced, grilled, smoked brats, mustard, and sauerkraut on the table, and let people make their own combinations.
Check it out:
pretzel sandwich
It’s ridiculous, I know. But don’t you want some, right now?
Because brats and cheese and sauerkraut wasn’t farty enough, I also cut a head of cauliflower into florets, tossed them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and paprika, and roasted them in a shallow pan in the oven. Then I blasted off to the moon and didn’t come down until the next day, where I found a Facebook message reminding me that I am vulgar and should be ashamed.
So far, that method has not worked, but I guess you can keep trying, Jacinta.
The sandwiches were very good, and so was the cauliflower.

FRIDAY
Instant Pot macaroni and cheese, salad

I do like homemade mac and cheese, but it somehow fills the entire kitchen with gummy pots and pans. So I looked up a mac and cheese recipe for, you’ll never guess, the Instant Pot. I found this one from Copy Kat, but I made a few changes. Here’s my recipe:

Put in the IP:
two pounds of raw macaroni
eight cups of water
two tablespoons of hot sauce
a good squirt of mustard

Set IP to manual for four minutes.
Get distracted by public radio, hear pot beeping, forget how to work it, decide you might as well vent it now.
Look on in horror as IP sends plume of greasy orange water at the ceiling.

A frothing, foaming, white-hot plumy, greasy, geyser of orange water, and it goes on,
and on,
and on,
and on,
and on.

Finally it stops. Gingerly open the lid, stir up the macaroni.
Discover that the Monterey jack has gone moldy.
Add eight cups — well, seven and a half cups. The baby has made off with a handful of cheese — of shredded mozzarella and a cup of milk. Forget to add butter. Add in a bunch of salt and pepper.

Mix well. Pour into casserole dish, forgetting to butter it first. Spread buttered bread crumbs on top, put in 350 oven until top is toasted.
SUCCESS.
mac and cheese IP
It tasted at least as good as the kind with lots more steps, and it was way faster. And it did not fill the kitchen with dirty pots and pants. The ceiling . . .
yellow ceiling

well, you can always wash the ceiling.

And that’s what became of the wild, wild, wild wild wild west.

What’s for supper? Vol. 63: Nuh-no.


SATURDAY
Chicken burgers, chips

Nothing to report. I do remember asking my husband if we should have salad, and he said no, and I took that to mean that we should just sort of avoid vegetables all week. This, we accomplished.


SUNDAY
Gochujang bulkgoki with nori, rice, roast broccoli

This is such a swell recipe. I cut up the pork and set it to marinate the night before, so on Sunday we had our normal busy day and still had a great supper at a normal hour. Here’s the recipe:

per 1.5 pounds sliced pork:

1 bag matchstick carrots
1 white onions sliced thin

5 generous Tbs gochujang
2 Tbs honey
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbs soy sauce
5 cloves minced garlic

Mix the sauce together and then combine it with the meat, carrots, and onions, and then let it sit in the fridge overnight. Then fry it up in a little oil and serve it with rice. You can make nice little bite-sized bundles on your plate with lettuce or nori.

gochujang-plate

And now I have a caucasoid confession: this time, I used way, way less gochujang than the recipe calls for. Some of my kids are super tired of spicy food, and I really wanted them to eat it; so I cut it by a third. Mistake. It was still spicy by kid standards (duh: even a little fermented pepper paste is still fermented pepper paste), but it just tasted so diminished. Never again. I am so sorry.

The broccoli was also not great. I cut it up small and put it on baking sheets with olive oil, soy sauce, garlic powder, and sesame seeds and put it under the broiler. I used too much soy sauce, and it tasted kind of harsh, and damp. Bleh. I mean, it was a pretty good meal, but it could have been so much better!


MONDAY
Pepperoncini beef rolls

Well, all the sadness and regret of the past was washed away with Monday’s meal, also from my friend Elizabeth, who gave me the bulgoki recipe. So you take some cheap chuck roast and put it in a crock pot along with some jarred pepperoncini with the stems cut off. Let it cook all day. And that’s it!

pepperoncini-beef-in-pot

Shred and serve on rolls with cheese and horseradish sauce.

I used potato rolls because they were cheap, but crusty bread would have been even nicer. I put the rolls under the broiler for a minute to toast them up a bit before adding the meat and cheese. I had swiss cheese, which was perfect, but provolone or havarti would be good, too.

pepperoncini-beef-sandwiches

Don’t forget to save some juices for dipping, because he who dips hot sandwiches into meat drippings is happy indeed. So toothsome, so fulfilling, so gratifying for all your senses.

This goes right into the rotation, no question. YUM.


TUESDAY
Taco Tuesday!!

I snuck a pound of turkey meat, which was on sale, in with the beef, and no one noticed.


WEDNESDAY
Sausage, egg, and cheese muffins

I didn’t burn the muffins! I think this might be the first time ever. I also am thrilled all over again with my two-burner nonstick griddle.

muffins-eggs-and-sausages

I can make dinner for twelve in two batches, instead of in five or six. Maybe I was just hungry, but these tasted so good, I was offended all over again when I thought about last time I had breakfast at McDonald’s.


THURSDAY
Chicken Olé! and chips; cake and cake and cake

Chicken thighs were on sale, so I had this great idea to put them in the crock pot with a bunch of jarred salsa verde, and then just sit back and let deliciousness happen.

Cold, hard, chicken facts had other plans.

First, utterly predictably, I had the infuriating job of trying to de-bone piping hot chicken thighs. And then, as I know perfectly well but forgot, thighs don’t really shred very well; they just kind of separate into slabs, and a low, slow heat makes them kind of slimy. Also, the salsa verde got very thin from cooking all day. So I was left with a kind of greenish soup.

We drained the meat and piled it on tortillas with lots of cheese, sour cream, and jarred jalapenos, but it was not great.

chicken-ole

Oh well! It was easy! This would have been a fine combination of flavors; it just wasn’t great in the crock pot. Live and learn. Maybe someday, I’ll look up an actual recipe.

Thursday was my birthday, and my dear husband had a stray use-it-or-lose-it vacation day, so he made a cake with the preschoolers while I loafed around eating Skittles and watching Clash of the Titans.

benny-mama-cake

(Abba, check out the apron! I forgot to tell you, she loves it. She did write a thank-you note, but the picture on it was so alarming and weird, I couldn’t bring myself to send it. She is a strange child.)

The cake came directly out of a five-year-old’s imagination. So cute.

my-cake

Then, my friend Roberta stopped by with the cake and cupcakes from her office party. There was a lot. I let the kids just eat all the cupcakes they wanted all day. I’m telling you, there were a lot of cupcakes. After I decided they had had enough, I made a huge rookie mistake and left the box on the table. So Corrie went back

corrie-cake-2

and, bearlike, helped herself one last time

savaged-cake

I asked her what she was doing, and she explained very earnestly, “I nuh-no, Mama!”

corrie-cake-3

And I believe her. I nuh-no what happened to that giant bag of Skittles, either.


FRIDAY
Says here “spaghetti.” I think I can manage that. 


Oh, I meant to tell you, I found a quite easy recipe that we’re making as token gifts for various people. It’s chocolate caramel crunch almonds from Smitten Kitchen, and you have to scroll way down to the end of the page to get to it. It’s technically candy, but you don’t need a candy thermometer. This recipe won my heart with this line:

Once the liquid has fully evaporated, it will become sandy and you will think something has gone wrong; it has not.

And guess what? It got sandy, and I thought to myself, “Oh, it’s just like she said! I won’t worry, because this is supposed to happen.” Then it stayed sandy for way longer than I thought it should, and I went ahead and thought something had gone wrong after all. But then it changed into caramel. Amazing.

You can get nice, cheap almonds at Aldi, but do not use Aldi chocolate chips to coat the almonds! Aldi chocolate chips do not melt! Weird, but true.

Making or baking anything neat for Christmas? I wouldn’t mind a second recipe to go with the almonds. I was thinking of candy cane fudge, but I’m pretty tired of fudge.