My Take on the Instant Pot

I am absolutely in love with the Instant Pot! Great soups and stews using one of the pressure cooking settings, Perfect rice automatically. Slow cooker settings with a delayed start, timed cook, switches to warm then auto shut off in an intelligent way.

I’ll prepare the ingredients for a stew or soup in the pot, leave it in the refrigerator until work is over, then start it up and have a tender delicious stew that tastes like it was cooked all day in under an hour. Very strong recommendation!

Note that the Instant Pot is far from instant. It takes 10 or 15 minutes to heat up before the cycle starts. In the end, you need to vent either manually or by simply letting it sit for 10 or 15 minutes. Adjust your expectations of what instant means.

I did a beef and cherry tomatoes stew with garlic, onion, 1 lb of lean beef, beef bullion, a pint of cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper in about 45 minutes from beginning to end. It’s a dead simple recipe but very delicious when quality ingredients are used. After a 20 minute pressure cycle with all ingredients, I manually vented, then switched to saute for 10 minutes to cook off the excess water. This left a delicious sauce that’s wonderful over rice.

I also did a version Golden Lentil Soup in about 30 minutes with some turkey sausage added. It was quick and delicious, but as I said, nowhere near instant.

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Blow your face off Chimichurri

  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1/2 a medium onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 Thai chilis, or until you can no longer feel your face
  • 1 1/2 tsp oil
  • 1 tbsp chimichurri sauce (hot)

3 Weight Watcher points.

Marinate the chicken in the Chimichurri sauce for a few hours or overnight. Stir-fry the garlic and hot peppers with the oil for 1 to 2 minutes in a non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken with the sauce, turn after 2 minutes., Add pepper and onion. Stir-fry until onion is tender. Blow, your face off. Damn!

Enjoy with Rage Against the Machine or Linkin Park. Better to not let it touch your lips, OMG, Ouch!!!

If pain is not the goal, maybe moderate the chilies….

Review: Aeropress Coffee Maker

Left to right, Aeropress gear, my cheap grinder and electric kettle.

 

I’ve gone thru a bunch of coffee making methods. I’ve killed 2 espresso makers and tossed out 3 more drip coffee makers. I got disgusted with spending a ton of money on equipment and went with a simple cold brew maker, coupled with a French press for times when demand exceeded supply.

Then, while I was checking out yet another espresso maker I saw the Aeropress. I got one from Amazon a few weeks ago. It resembles a large syringe and is made of mostly BPA free plastic, with a rubber plunger. I’ve been using it exclusively for our morning coffee since then. I love this thing. It marries the speed advantage of French press with the smoothness of cold brew. It produces a rich cup with less bitterness and acidity. If coffee gives you stomach problems, this may bring coffee back into your life.

Good coffee involves several variables.

  • Bean quality and roast
  • Grind
  • Water quality
  • Temperature
  • Contact time
  • Pressure

Good quality beans and filtered water is a must. A grinder makes a world of difference. The Aeropress allows control over the temperature, brew time, and to some small extent the pressure with an accessory. See the update at the bottom.

My process for morning coffee:

  1. I use the electric kettle to heat water to 175 F. Hotter water will give greater extraction and is better for medium and lighters roasted bean, to prevent a washed-out weak taste.
  2. I use the inverted method. Flip the Aeropress so the screen is up and remove the screen. Make sure the plunger is inserted straight, at least 3/4 inch into the tube. This position prevents the coffee from leaking thru the filter while it steeps. The instructions recommend doing it the other way, but I found this easier
  3. It seems to work best for me with medium fine freshly ground coffee, not an espresso grind. That seems to clog the filter and makes using the press a test of strength. Add the coffee to the press, one measure of the provided scoop per cup.
  4. Add water, I use 2 scoops of coffee and fill the press nearly to the top. Stir for 10 to 20 seconds using the included stirrer.
  5. Add a paper filter and replace the screen. Many recipes recommend rinsing the filter with hot water to avoid the paper flavoring the coffee, I can’t tell the difference. I let it sit for 60 more seconds of brew time.
  6. Place it filter side down on a cup and press the plunger slowly down, taking about 30 seconds to fully press it. The goal is about 1:30 of brew time, including the time to press it.

I’m going to compare to the French Press I’ve used for a long while.

The result is flavorful without the bitter kick and fine grit generated by our Bodum French press. It’s a smooth cup of very strong espresso like coffee. I mix it with hot water to make an Americano. You can add hot milk to make a latte. Or use a dark roast and milk and make a Cuban coffee. Or make it with less water, following the scale on the side of the press, to make something like an espresso. To be clear, it’s not an espresso maker. It doesn’t generate sufficient pressure. You get no crema (the tan foam a good espresso maker generates) to speak of. But it’s close in flavor.

You can use a coarser grind and more brew time. Using more water during the brewing process does enhance the bitterness a bit if you prefer that. There are dozens of video recipes on YouTube that change all of the variables. Experiment with them, you can definitely find something that suits you. I started with a scale and timer the first few times. After some time you can leave the training wheels behind and rely on your personal taste and experience.

It’s far easier to clean than a French Press. Hold it over the trash can, remove the screen and eject the spent puck of coffee. Give it a quick rinse and store it with the plunger fully pressed to the bottom. It’s is top rack dishwasher safe. Filters can be rinsed and reused if you’re the frugal type. Or you can get a permanent filter on Amazon.

If you like good coffee, spend the money for a decent conical burr grinder. The one in the picture (Cuisinart DBM-8) doesn’t qualify. It was cheap, actually free, as it was purchased at Kohl’s using Kohl’s cash generated by other purchases. It can be had for around $40 on Amazon. It’s a disc grinder and better than weeks old coffee at the grocery store but doesn’t really do a good consistent grind. Baratza and Capresso make entry-level grinders suitable for use with the Aeropress. Or you can go with a good quality hand grinder and go camping with it. In my opinion, it doesn’t require a high-end grinder suitable for a true espresso maker. Any grinder is better than pre-ground stale coffee.

Pros:

  • A really good cup of coffee
  • Much faster than cold brew
  • It’s quick
  • It’s relatively cheap
  • Easy to clean
  • Very portable
  • The brewing process is very flexible and fully under your control
  • The small paper filters are inexpensive
  • It’s top rack dishwasher safe

Cons:

  • It uses more coffee per cup than other methods
  • It requires filters
  • Since it’s almost all plastic, I think it should be cheaper than ~$30
  • It’s hard to make coffee for more than 2
  • It’s not an espresso maker despite the description by some Amazon sellers

Update: There is an attachment that’s supposed to make espresso. The Fellow Prismo is available from aeropress.com or Amazon for ~$25. It adds a pressure valve to the screen to make a more espresso-like brew. It also eliminates the need for the flip method, so it’s more stable. I haven’t tried it. I just noticed it on Aeropress website.

Bangus Sisig

This is Filipino pulutan, food to be eaten while drinking beer or liquor. The traditional version uses pork cheeks, ears, chicken livers, egg, chill peppers, garlic and onions. The meats require a whole lot more prep and have lots of fat. This is lightened up with bangus (also called milkfish), but gets the same sizzling pan prep like fajitas. The fish is convection oven cooked, instead of fried. You can get the fish at an Asian grocery.It’s topped with crushed chicharron and served with a squeeze of lime. It comes in at 3 weight watcher points a serving. Have it with a San Miguel Light beer, cheers!

Bangus Sisig

Serves 4

  • Boneless Bangus, unmarinated
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 Serrano chili, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of Mayonnaise
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 oz of chicharron, crushed
  • Lime wedges
  1. Preheat and oven to 425 F, use convection setting if possible. Coat a fajita pan with oil and put into the oven.
  2. Sprinkle the Bangus with salt and pepper and cook 15 minutes
  3. While the fish is cooking, sauté the onion, garlic and chili until onions are tender.
  4. Scrape the fish from the skin and chop. Add to the onion mixture in the sauté pan. Add the mayo.
  5. Put the mix on the preheated fajita pan, it should sizzle.
  6. Quickly mix in the egg or leave the yolk intact if you like. I like some yolky goodness in mine to mix in while eating it. The heated pan should help cook it.
  7. Squeeze with a wedge of lime, top with crushed chicharron and serve immediately.

Today’s Lunch: Ensalada Ng Talong (Eggplant Salad)

We did this Filipino style vegetable dish. It’s simple, low calorie and tasty! I ate it before I thought of taking a picture. Maybe next time. I swear I know how to cook other things, I’m just on this Filipino kick lately. It’s under appreciated.

Serves 2

  • 2 Chinese eggplants
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and chopped
  • Onion, 1/4 cup chopped
  • 1 tablespoon or to taste of Filipino shrimp paste (bagoong), I use spicy from Barrio Fiesta. That’s the best we can find near by.
  1. Pierce the eggplants a few times on each side with a fork and grill or cook under a broiler until the skin just begins to split, about 4 minutes per side.
  2. While that’s cooking seed and chop the tomato and onion and mix with the bagoong. Salt to taste if needed, the bagoong is pretty salty by itself.
  3. Slice the eggplant lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape the meat from the skin. Chop it up and top with the tomato mixture.

Pumpkin Curry Soup

I had lunch earlier this week at Kaleishia Tea House. They had a lovely vegan Pumpkin Soup on the menu. I made my own lighter version with shrimp:

I omitted the coconut milk from the original recipe. I didn’t have sweet potato or chickpeas on hand. If you do Weight Watcher’s it’s only 1 point per serving. If you’re not concerned about the calories add a 1/2 cup of coconut milk and a cup 1/2 inch cubed sweet potato with the broth in step 4. Test the sweet potatoes for tenderness before adding the shrimp and zucchini and adjust the simmering time as needed.

This is medium spicy, adjust the curry paste to your taste. I serve mine over some steamed rice.

  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely minced or grated
  • 1 teaspoon light sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
  • 3 cups Fat-free vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 tablespoon of red Thai curry paste, adjust to taste
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 12oz. of large peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons of Thai basil, chiffonade sliced
  • Lime wedges

Pumpkin Curry Soup

Serves 4

  1. Sauté the garlic, onion, and ginger in the sesame oil over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add the fish sauce and let it cook off for 1-2 minutes. I strongly suggest you use your range-hood, it’s a bit smelly, but does add a nice bit of Asian umami flavor.
  3. Add the vegetable broth, canned pumpkin, curry paste, and saffron. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the shrimp and zucchini, simmer for 5 minutes or until the shrimp look done. Remove from heat to prevent the shrimp and zucchini from overcooking.
  5. Garnish with chiffonade sliced Thai basil and serve with a wedge of lime. Serve immediately.

Chiffonade just means rolled and thinly sliced. If you need a chiffonade how-to:
http://www.finecooking.com/article/knife-skills-cutting-a-chiffonade-of-basil