Instant Pot vs Breville Multi-Cooker vs my bank account

Since we still live a kitchenless existence I am always looking for ways to “cook up” without having to use the induction hot plate and filling the apartment with lingering food smell = something I despise. I have 2 slow cookers, a Breville toaster oven, an Anova immersion heater for sous vide, a rice cooker, the aforementioned induction hot plate and an electric kettle. So when Louis Anderman started going on about the Breville Multi-Cooker I was all ears. He had turned me on to the Anova – I used to sous vide in a rustic hodgepodge way (that yielded excellent results.) Louis also has the vacuum chamber sealer thing which makes me jealous AF. But I also have limited counter space so another gadget had better be really good.

The thing about the slow cooker is that browning is difficult to achieve. I’ve preheated the crock and been able to brown onions and such but it’s vaguely irritating. So I order the Breville from Sur la Table at the whopping cost of $280. It is also ENORMOUS so it sat unopened for about a month while I tried to justify its addition to the pantheon. At some point $280 back in the bank seemed the better part of valor so I took it back.

Fast forward to September. We’ve been doing an Indian Veg sort of diet and I am making dals and other bean dishes daily. All of the blogs for Indian cuisine have pressure instructions and I soon came to understand that cooking Indian daily makes a pressure cooker essential. I felt stupid about the Breville for about 15 minutes and then I discovered the Instant Pot.

To reel it back for a moment – I have always been deathly afraid of pressure cookers. My mom had a stovetop one with the whistle and the little bell and I can remember the drama around using it to make the occasional Osso Buco. It was sort of like having an unexploded landmine laying around. Tales of hideous steam burns and general fear of mutilation accompanied the mere concept of pressure cooking. Assuming that they are way safer than in the ‘70s and now come in electric, after the requisite internet research I went for the Instant Pot which I ordered from Amazon for a mere $89 with free shipping. $179 less than the Breville.

I LOVE this thing. It cooks potatoes to a silkiness for aloo gobi I have rarely experienced even in a restaurant. I’ve made dal makini, mixed lentils and chana dal – lightning fast. And now that I get the functions I’ve gone off book and finessed the manual settings. I did potatoes for 6, released pressure and added cauliflower and sautéed both in ghee then added a little water and pressure cooked it 3 minutes more.  It worked perfectly. I’ve sautéed at high heat. I even made rasmalai using the Pot to make the syrup and poach the dumplings.

Today I thought that a white bean with bacon soup sounded good (Indian Veg be damned.) I wanted to test the Pot in the field so I considered starting the whole thing from dry but opted to soak the beans for most of the day. Then once we got home I bet Frank that I could make the soup by the time he got out of the shower. So:

1lb Great Northern beans soaked

1 large can of chopped tomatoes

1 onion chopped

Couple cloves of garlic

Chipotle pepper flakes (nice and smokey)

Bay leaf, celery salt, sea salt

1/2lb smokey bacon – diced

Put it all in the Pot. Add water to the top of the veg. Set pressure high for 25 minutes.

Since I was racing Frank I only let it sit for 10 minutes to get things simmered down and then I did a quick release. It was a very nice looking soup – a little thin perhaps but the beans were perfect, the bacon unctuous, the seasoning sufficient. I think that long-cooked soups are more complex taste-wise. But for a hearty soup in 45 minutes (he likes long showers) it can’t be beaten. Next time I think I’ll smoosh the beans some and reduce it a bit.

UPDATE 10/20: Today the soup has thickened up nicely and tastes as good as versions I’ve made in the slow cooker. And it tastes very much like the Campbell’s bean with bacon soup I had as a kid. Next up – Progresso lentil soup.

5 months later…

wow.  as i updated frank’s blog today,  he asked, “what about yours?”

right. i have a blog. who knows if i have any regular readers (besides engines hawking replica prada purses – btw REALLY? c’mon – prada hasn’t made a bag i’ve been interested in for years, fake or not.) but if there are – hi. i’m back.

so much to catch up on. sold the house – check. packed the stuff, stored the stuff. moved into a hotel – check. house sold in a week (what with silverlake being the hippest neighborhood in the USA and all) so we had nowhere to live.

bought a factory downtown – check. moved AGAIN – oy. check. and here we are: downtown. not sure what i’ll do when forbes dubs downtown LA the hippest neighborhood in the USA – we’re smack up against the river and East LA has already been through the hipness grinder – but we’ll cross that bridge etc etc. i’m v happy for the poor schmuck who bought the house. he’s already cut down the guava tree and painted the garage door graffiti bomb  a tasteful … greige. go crazy with your bad-ass  hipster self – i live in a factory downtown. Surrounded by some pretty good street art.

the primary feature of the factory (besides needing a MAJOR renovation on every level) is ahem… the lack of a kitchen. i shit you not. the cooking facilities have been entirely of our own ingenuity.

what does it take to prepare a meal:

  • a way to make heat
  • a way to keep things cold
  • some sort of horizontal surface
  • a dry place to keep stuff.
  • water

with a december solstice gift request of a crock pot it was decided that we needed to eat more soup. and for the month at the hotel we feasted on vegetable soups, bean soups and most deliciously: “french” onion soup.

crockpots are simplicity in action. i have yet to want to cook anything that cannot be prepared in a crockpot. i’m convinced i could make cornbread in a slow cooker. i’m going to try it one of these days.

since i don’t want us to get too comfy in these squalid living conditions, i refuse to set up anything more elaborate than a “pantry” shelf, a chopping block, the electric kettle, a microwave (the crappest microwave ever. more on that soon) a mini fridge and the crockpot.

UPDATE: i have since obtained an induction hotplate. this is my new favorite kitchen thing, not only in that it makes heat (see above) but it is also a 12″x12″x2″ obsidian square. i no longer want the Wolf. I’m thinking – keep 4-6 induction hotplates in a drawer. Whatcha cookin’? how many pots? you pull out the units you need and cook. then wipe them off and….you have your Poggenpohl wet dream fantasy kitchen porn.

 

I am not certain this sort of minimalist kitchen will work for me. Okay I am sure. It won’t. All of the downtown factory loft  coolness of it all can’t pull the messy cook out of me. And the above is not a kitchen for actual cooking. It is a place to set out Champagne and canapés. Maybe toss a salad (or get your salad tossed – a good kitchen for sex. Lots of flat surfaces and nothing to knock over.) But it isn’t alive. Food would run screaming for its mother (me) pleading to jump into battered Le Creuset dutch ovens and get braising.

[Full disclosure: I do tend to DRESS pretty minimalist. I’ve been trying for color for years but have only gotten as far as the occasional midnight blue.]

 

rick owens

 

I’m pretty minimal when it comes to cars too. My new fetish – a 1973 Lamborghini Espada. We saw one at an auction yesterday. Dios. I want  one.

espada

 

The induction hotplate can throw some BTUs – this is not your dorm room hotplate. It is a Duxtop 1800-watt Portable Sensor Touch Induction Cooktop Burner. Excuse we.

DUXTOP

Portable cooktop, crock pot, microwave. It’s like Lars Van Triers THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS. Through restriction comes creativity. So this next phase is about adapting. And compromise. We’ll be fine. And in a few months we’ll be renovation-bound and have to eat tacos on the corner for every meal. Done it before, we can do it again.

We are eating well. barley risotto w/short ribs (crockpot) was a hit. Made Marcella’s bolognese in the MICROWAVE today. (She must be spinning in her grave. but it’s working so far.) Oh and I’m planning to get out of the &^%$%( business and detail classic cars for a living. Please stand by….