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.

(one month later….)

remember the lupini beans? well i didn’t. but there they are in the fridge, presumably bathing in their own toxic alkyloidal juices, more than a month later. to be honest i did drain the brine and added fresh water about 3 weeks ago. i tasted one in the process: it was absolutely spit-it-out-in-the-sink disgusting. so back in the fridge they went. looking at the fridge today in preparation for the 40lbs of cucumbers i ordered from the csa (i know i know) i spotted the poisonous little bastards in their jars and decided to give them a rinse. this time they tasted… okay. bland and only very slightly bitter. so i’ve changed the water one last time and have started thinking about what to do with them.

from what i can glean from the interwebs, they are marinated and served as antipasti or as a snack with drinks. they will need a lot of flavor: probably marinated in some sort of vinaigrette for another month. this, perhaps, is the essence of food one must wait for: the emblem of my project, the ne plus ultra of… whatever. I’ll whip up an italianate vinaigrette and see what happens. maybe they will be delish. they certainly have gotten better with time, so that is a good thing as martha might say.

UPDATE: i threw these revoting and time-consuming legumes into the composter a few weeks ago. i mean really. and i needed space in the fridge,

lupini beans

whole paycheck has a new thing going on with dried beans. i love beans. after years of vegetarianism a bowl of rice and beans still calls my name – although now i am usually inclined to add a piece of smoked pig to round out the flavors (tony bourdain is just back from sao paulo per his twitter feed (@noreservations) and i saw some pics of halfway decent looking feijoada which is the queen of bean dishes that feature the pig.) that said, i make a killer vegan black bean soup that i dare anyone to put up against one with meat. i am tempted to give the recipe but this entry is about lupini beans. which i saw at whole foods, know nothing about and apparently take weeks to prepare. seems like a good project while i wait for writer x to deliver his draft of our USA miniseries pilot – TWO WEEKS LATE. is it poor form to drive out to the valley and beat him with my shoe in front of his children?

lupini beans are apparently quite poisonous and unpalatable if prepared incorrectly. the fugu of beans? i’m so there. per assorted lupini bean threads there is much soaking and salting involved to remove  the “bitter alkaloids.” sounds like eggplant – no big whoop. so here are the lupini beans in their first water soak:

lupini beans - day 1

and here is the black bean soup:

black bean soup

dried black beans – soaked overnight and drained (and sprouted if you have time)

peppers: red bell, green bell, poblanos whatever looks good – chopped

carrots, celery – chopped

garlic, onions – chopped

crushed plum tomatoes

red pepper flakes, cayenne

olive oil

bay leaf

bunch cilantro

toasted cumin seeds – ground (toast them and grind them yourself – don’t be lazy)

smoked pimentón

red wine vinegar

red wine

salt, pepper


the trick to making meatless foods is to layer flavors. too many people find the concept of vegetarianism much like … an under soaked lupini bean: poisonous and unpalatable. the thing is meatless should not be fat-free. fat + the mallard reaction = flavor – something vegetarian cooks often forget but poor people – many of whom who live on a staple diet of rice and beans and very little or no meat – rely upon. so cook it down!

in a big heavy bottomed pot heat a good amount of olive oil. add the pepper flakes and/or cayenne, garlic and onions, black pepper, smoked paprika – but do not salt. let them get translucent and begin to brown. add the carrots and celery – keep cooking it down. add the peppers – and more oil if it is getting dry in there. cook it down – essentially you are making a sofrito but with bigger chunks of veg. add the tomatoes last and cook it more. this should take almost 30 minutes. deglaze with red wine, scraping up the tasty brown bits. add the beans, the bay leaf and enough water to cover. again – do not add salt yet – it will keep your beans from giving. bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer with the pot top cocked to the side. cook until the beans are soft and the broth is reducing nicely – maybe two hours. if the beans are soft then you can add salt to taste. check the seasonings – it should have a deep smoky flavor with a spicy finish. add some red wine vinegar for sparkle. chop the cilantro and throw it in. serve with a nice steak (ok or rice) for a complete protein profile.