My favorite Instant Pot recipes: a constantly updated list

My wife gifted me an Instant Pot a year ago after I’d gotten excited via the hype, but I initially found using it to be a pretty off-putting experience. The device was well made and easily maintained (virtually every component is dishwasher safe) but the problem was that most of the food I made in it came out pretty mediocre. There were tons of Instant Pot recipes all over the web and in cookbooks, but I found that quite a few of them didn’t generate results any better than just using a nice stovetop skillet.

Eventually I read this NYTimes piece by Melissa Clark and it really helped me to put the device in perspective:

After using the machine consistently for nearly a year, I can say that if you stick to what it does best — stewing, braising, simmering, steaming — you’ll be amply rewarded. Just don’t attempt to cook anything crunchy or golden, because it probably won’t end well. No matter how many multicooker roast chicken recipes you may stumble across on the internet, don’t believe them. I’ve tried it several times: The skin ends up soft and flabby instead of crisp and salty, and the meat turns stringy.

If you play to the multicooker’s many strengths and remain aware of its weaknesses, you won’t be disappointed.

Essentially, if you use the Instant Pot for a rather narrow, specific set of tasks, you’ll find it excels.

The following are recipes that I think make particularly good use of the Instant Pot. My condition for listing these here are they use the Instant Pot to achieve a result that would be much more difficult or impossible to achieve with any other cooking implement. I will continue to update this list and may bring it to the top of this blog on occasion.

Japanese Chicken Curry – This recipe from Just One Cookbook does a great job of incorporating the instant pot into a standard curry recipe. The use of the instant pot results in chicken that’s fairly tender and onions that basically liquefy, leading to a rich flavor. 
Suggested modifications: I use store-bought curry for convenience, and I also use water instead of chicken broth, as the broth makes it a bit too rich for me.

Navy bean, bacon, and spinach soup – A vegetable-heavy soup that’s loaded with flavor. The bacon is essential and gives the soup some great texture. The navy beans become suitably soft, while still retaining a lovely chewiness. 
Suggested modifications: I’d use a little bit less broth to give soup a bit more thickness. Plus, more bacon. You can always use more bacon. 

Turkey cheeseburger soup – The concept of a “turkey cheeseburger soup” sounded pretty unappealing to me out of context, but something drew me to this recipe and I’m really grateful I tried it. This recipe is straight up delicious and fairly healthy to boot. The pureed cauliflower really gives the soup a richness that I couldn’t have predicted. One of my favorite recipes, and a regular go-to for me.
Suggested modifications: I don’t really alter this recipe in any major way, but I do play around with the ratio of carrots/potatoes, depending on how I’m feeling on the day.

Chicken chili verde – A flavorful and hearty green chili recipe that really shows what’s possible with the power of the Instant Pot (plus an immersion blender). The addition of fish sauce is a particularly brilliant touch. 
Suggested modifications: None, although fair warning that eating solely this for a main course might be a bit intense. (Potentially better as an appetizer or side dish)

Beef stew – I tried numerous beef stew recipes in the Instant Pot but few of them had the heartiness that I desired. Additionally, it was difficult to find a recipe that would cook the meat to the point where it would be tender, as I knew the Pot was capable of doing. This recipe hits all those requirements. The stew is suitably thick and the beef chunks become soft and easy to chew after being pressurized for 35 minutes.
Suggested modifications: Depending on your love of peas, you may want to take it down a notch from what this recipe recommends. 

 

 

Halo Top ice cream helped keep me sane this year

Ronald D. White, writing for The LA Times, on the rise of Halo Top ice cream:

With a $20 ice cream maker and a hunger for a more healthful indulgence, Los Angeles lawyer Justin Woolverton concocted a dessert that quickly developed a cult-like following. A few years later, his line of light ice cream, called Halo Top, has exploded into surprising market dominance. Halo Top recently bested stalwarts Ben & Jerry’s and Haagen-Dazs for the top sales spot in its niche — grocery store ice cream pints. “I thought, ‘This is really good. I’ll bet others will like it, too,’” Woolverton said, recalling the trial-and-error breakthrough made in his kitchen.

Halo Top’s appeal is simple: a no-shame pint of low-sugar, high-protein ice cream with just 240 to 360 calories for the entire carton. Vanilla, at the low end, compares with 1,000 calories for a Haagen-Dazs or Ben & Jerry’s pint. The gold foil that seals each Halo Top carton instructs “Save the bowl” or “Stop when you hit the bottom” — a nod to the way many fans consume the product.

I started a low-carb diet earlier this year and a consistent source of frustration was finding snacks that satisfied my sweet tooth without totally blowing up my diet. Halo Top fit that bill perfectly.

It’s an awesome, guilt-free treat, (especially if you don’t end up finishing the whole carton!). They deserve all the success they are getting and I hope to see Halo Tops in every grocery store soon.

The best meal I’ve ever had in my entire life

To get to the best restaurant in Washington State, and one of the best restaurants in the country, you first need to drive two hours north of Seattle and take a 10-minute ferry ride to get to Lummi Island (population: about 600). On the far side of the island is Willows Inn, run by Chef Blaine Wetzel. Wetzel is barely 30 years old, but in 2014, the James Beard Foundation named him Rising Star Chef of the Year and in 2015, he was awarded Best Chef Northwest.

The Willows Inn restaurant only operates for 3-4 nights per week. At capacity, the restaurant seats 34 people. There is one seating per night at 6 PM. The meal lasts three hours. Each person’s meal cost $200 with a mandatory gratuity.

Accede to these conditions and you will possibly have the best meal of your entire life. The setting is homey and welcoming. The service is friendly and informative. The food is exquisite and unique. Many of the ingredients are caught from the surrounding water, or harvested from surrounding vegetation and gardens. It feels like you are eating straight from the earth — in a good way.

Several of our fellow diners were here from out of state. They made the pilgrimage and they were well-rewarded. So, my advice: if you’ve never been, add this to the bucket list!

I was able to take some photos of the meal below, using a Fuji X-T2. Here are the dishes that were photographed:

toasted kale leaves
clams and scallops
oysters and wilcress
black cod and currant leaves
dungeness crab soaked in pinenuts
herb tostada
smoked mussels
reefnet caught smoked sockeye
lightly cured rockfish in a broth of grilled bones
steamed bok choy

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