Adventures in Pressure Cooking
By Debbie Koenig
On Amazon Prime Day I bought an Instant Pot, joining the eleventy-million other people I know who own one.. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the Instant Pot is a wondrous countertop appliance that works as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, and rice cooker, and also has a sauté function so you can brown foods before proceeding (no need to dirty a skillet!). Plus it has a steam setting and makes yogurt, too.
Amazon Prime Day was in mid-July. When the machine arrived two days later I opened it immediately — my early-adopter food-loving friends have been raving about this gadget for years so I was excited. It was large. And intimidating, with 20 different buttons on the control panel and a user manual packed with so many detailed instructions, it might as well have been written in Sanskrit.
I didn’t cook with it for a month. It sat on the counter for a while, its bulk eating up so much space I finally stowed it in the broom closet. But then I discovered the 125,000-member Instant Pot Community on Facebook, in which the tips fly. I screwed up my courage and tried what seemed like the easiest possible thing: hard-boiled eggs, one of my favorite low SmartPoints® value snacks. I never imagined that cooking hard-boiled eggs could be life-changing, but… the peels slipped right off, no gouging out chunks of egg white. The eggs themselves were perfect. And I was off and running.
Since then I’ve cooked rice (the least-gummy grains I’ve made in years). I’ve made the most succulent, flavorful beef stew of my life, which tasted like it simmered all day but was ready in around 45 minutes. I’ve cooked batches of dry beans, going straight from the package to the pot with no presoak, in 45 minutes. I’d never understood what people meant when they called beans “creamy,” until I tasted these. If a humble pot of beans can be called incredible, this was. And after that success, I adapted one of my favorite recipes, for White Beans & Escarole Soup.
Normally an all-day affair, this can be on your table in just about an hour from beginning to end. If you like, you can start the bean-cooking portion of the recipe in the morning before you leave for work (see step 2 of recipe), and toss in the escarole when you get home — in that case, you’ll be eating 10 minutes later. Seriously.
Instant Pot White Beans & Escarole Soup
7 SmartPoints value per serving, per Recipe Builder
2 slices center-cut bacon, excess fat trimmed, chopped
1 lb dry white beans, rinsed
1 medium onion, halved
3 peeled garlic cloves
8 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
8 cups chopped escarole (one large head)
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
NOTE: These instructions are for an electric pressure cooker, such as an Instant Pot.
- Set machine to Sauté and add bacon. Cook, stirring frequently, until crisp. Turn off pressure cooker.
- Add beans, onion, garlic, broth, and bay leaves; stir and cover. Close pressure cooker (set vent to “seal”) and cook for 40 minutes at high pressure. (At this point, you can leave the beans all day on the “keep warm” setting, and finish the recipe just before dinnertime.)
- Open pressure cooker and discard bay leaves. Stir mixture; taste and add salt as necessary. Stir in escarole. Close machine and cook for 2 minutes at high pressure. Use quick release to relieve pressure.
- Serve with lemon wedges and Parmesan (if using).
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