I received a new gadget for my birthday. Actually, this unit is beyond any gadget previously known to man. For some, the latest Instant Pot could represent a state-of-the-art crockpot. To others it’s a digital pressure cooker, or a reliable rice cooker, a steamer, or a sauté pan. In fact, it does all of that and much more—with precision and ease.
No, I’m not being paid to review or promote the Instant Pot, I am just another huge advocate of its approach to sustainable and healthy cooking. My 5-quart pot uses only 900 watts of electricity. In comparison, if you’ve analyze other appliances in your kitchen, you know that a toaster can easily burn up 1800 watts.
In the Instant Pot’s many digital cooking applications the real turning point for me was the realization that I could brown or sauté vegetables or meats before launching into slow cook or other modes. I have shared a number of wonderful slow cook recipes here, and my sole reservation to crockpot cooking has been that without the browning of meats and vegetables dishes can become one-dimensional. The luxury of combining the browning step into the slow cook method opens up all sorts of possibilities previously unavailable in most models.
On the pressure cooking side, I was relieved at the fail-safe measures built into the system. Following simple directions, even the quick method of releasing steam is safe and near foolproof. Now, I often use the very fast pressure cooking method as a highly convenient option, without angst or intimidation.
For the tiny kitchen, the Instant Pot is paramount to having an entire stove top and a fleet of pots and pans available for daily cooking needs. It can be used to simply simmer or boil as you would on the stove. The heavy duty stainless steel liner is easy to clean, and it is of course dishwasher safe.
One of my first attempts at tackling the Instant Pot was to prepare a lovely barley risotto of sorts. In this case the barley was pre-cooked, allowing for an easy 1 hour slow cook. Delicious on its own, it became the backdrop for Stuffed Cabbage Rolls.
Barley Risotto with Bacon, Mushrooms, and Spring Garlic Scapes
2 slices bacon, chop
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 shallot, peel and mince
6 oz. cremini mushrooms, clean, slice
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh sage
1-1/2 cups cooked pearl barley
½ cup tender green garlic scapes/shoots, or green onion, chop
2 cups beef broth, approximate
½ cup baby tomatoes, slice in half
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup fresh parsley, chop
Accompaniment: ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese, optional
- Heat the pot to sauté medium, brown the bacon in a drizzle of olive oil and remove.
- Add the shallot and cook to soften, then add the herbs and stir until aromatic. Add a portion of the beef broth, stir to deglaze the bottom the pan and loosen any surface bits.
- Add the barley and the remaining broth, stir to combine. Bring to a simmer. Reduce to slow cook medium and cook covered for an hour, until the barley is creamy and thick.
- Add the garlic scapes or green onion, baby tomatoes, cook an additional 15 minutes to heat. Stir in fresh parsley, the reserved bacon, and serve. Pass the parmesan cheese. Serves 4
Note: to pre-cook barley, allow 1:3 ratio barley to liquid. Bring to a boil, cover and cook 35 minutes.