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Twice as Rice

January 16, 2018

The Food Pantries for the Capital District shared an interesting article last week, Please Stop Telling Poor People to “Just Cook” to Save Money.

It’s a trap I’ve fallen into before, where the cost of organic or more sustainably produced food is positioned as out of reach for people on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. That argument always gets me riled up because making a mountain of rice and beans is not just cheap and healthful, but with a little time and knowhow is also fabulously delicious.

What I fail to even consider is the cost of the cooking tools, pantry items, and even energy. Those three hours of simmering on the stove aren’t free. Plus who has three hours to cook a pot of beans?

Sadly, Mrs. Fussy is no fan of my slow cooker brown rice and lentil casserole. It’s one pot. Just a few simple ingredients. And one of my favorite things. But making it through one batch would mean I would have to avoid all other food for the remainder of winter.

Maybe I could make a smaller batch in the Instant Pot. That could be fun to try. Speaking of which, not only did I take my new toy out of the box, but I also have started to put it through its paces. However, before I tell you what I’ve done, there’s one important fact to cover off first.

This three quart size is proving to be perfect.

Friday night was its maiden run. We were having friends over for dinner. The Cuban black beans were simmering on the stove, having been cooked the long way. It was Friday night so there was also roast chicken, string beans, and challah. But I also wanted to make some rice.

Perhaps it would have been clever to start off simple, with a basic jasmine rice, but I went for the gusto and pulled out the sack of brown rice.

Brown rice is a tricky beast. I have two time tested techniques for making it. One is boiling the stuff like pasta, and the other is baking it in the oven. During the winter, I boil it for 25 minutes, drain, and steam covered off heat for another 10. During the winter, I look for any excuse to put moisture into the air at home.

The Instant Pot takes a whopping 22 minutes of pressure cooking time, plus the time to get up to pressure, and then ten minutes to release.

While it may not have been a time saver, the resulting rice was fantastic. Especially for a first attempt. And I suspect it will get even better over time.

Sunday night, I brought out the machine again. The interior pot had been through the dishwasher. I like the weight of the stainless steel, and I’m looking forward to seeing how well it browns meat. That project is coming soon.

This time was for a quick and simple family dinner. I’ll confess to heating up a bag of Trader Joe’s Mandarin Orange Chicken. It’s kind of like getting takeout American-Chinese, but it’s hotter, tastier, faster, and less expensive. We throw broccoli in there too, that I “wok sear” in a bit of peanut oil with the cast iron skillet.

Anyhow, I wanted to see how the Instant Pot handled jasmine rice.

Wow. Again, maybe not the biggest time saver. Time to get up to pressure, then four minutes of cooking time, followed by a ten minute release. But I didn’t have to futz with it during the process, and I got some of the best rice I’ve ever made. If you can say that I even made it. The machine really did all the work.

Okay! So I have a kickass little rice cooker. Love it. Next it’s time to see what else she can do.

As it turns out Whole Foods was having a sale on short ribs, and it is soup season. My people call it flanken, and it’s the secret ingredient to a kickass matzoh ball soup. Can homemade chicken stock be converted into a facsimile of a traditional holiday dish when combined in a pressure cooker with short ribs and carrots?

I have no idea, but I’m looking forward to finding out.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Ryan H permalink
    January 16, 2018 3:52 pm

    We just used our for the first couple times. I’ll admit, I didn’t read the entire thick instruction manual, but there sure is a learning curve. Brown rice turned out well, but only after we figured out you don’t use the “Rice” setting for brown rice… Still haven’t figured out how to set it to low, medium, or high.

    I made their red lentil chili recipe, and it came out too watery and sweet, which I’m afraid will be a problem with all of their official recipes.

  2. Jessica Blackman permalink
    January 16, 2018 10:41 pm

    Please please share your instapot matzo ball soup recipe when you get it! The kids’ fav soup. Also – we love our instapot – and I’m relieved you approve thus far too (cause in my head I was all “oh no – what if Berman doesn’t approve of the instapot?!”). Miss you guys!

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