Ready in an instant: Recipes for your Instant Pot

If there is any tool in my kitchen worth the precious counter space it takes up, it’s my Instant Pot. The electric pressure cooker, which also works as a steamer, a rice-cooker, a slow-cooker, and more, is my kitchen’s MVP.
As a mom of two preschoolers, it makes preparing a lot of the simple, kid-friendly foods that they like – rice, hard-boiled eggs, steamed vegetables, spaghetti and meatballs – and cooking vegetables and fruit to be pureed when they were babies, as easy as pressing a couple of buttons.

But it’s also an excellent tool for making more complex food for the grown-ups and has become an essential part of my Shabbat prep. It’s great for soups and stews of any kind, and for braised meat.

In short, I highly recommend getting one. The Instant Pot brand is not sold in Israel – I brought mine home from a trip to the UK – but there are other brands of electric pressure cookers available locally.

So, when I decided to start what will hopefully become a regular feature in the Magazine, a cookbook review and recipe column, I was excited to get my (virtual) hands on Paula Shoyer’s The Instant Pot Kosher Cookbook. Shoyer, the chef who wrote the popular cookbook The Kosher Baker, published the first-ever official kosher cookbook authorized by the Instant Pot brand. The recipes are clearly written, and most (but not all) use ingredients that are easy to find in Israel.

The book leans in to the advantages of using an instant pot for Shabbat, cooking soups and stews quicker than before on Friday and keeping them warm after the Sabbath begins. It has kosher adaptations of international recipes, and it also suggests holiday menus and has a lot of Passover-friendly food.

The downside of keeping kosher and being an Instant Pot connoisseur, is that you’d have to own three Instant Pots – and all that extra counter space – to actually make dairy, meat and kosher for Passover food.

My Instant Pot is fleishig, used for meat or pareve dishes. I tried several of Shoyer’s recipes, including my first-ever attempt at a dessert in the Instant Pot, and they all came out great. Here are two of my favorites, which were big hits at my Shabbat table.

French onion soup puree with shredded short ribs

This is a pretty sophisticated and fancy-looking dish, but it’s also perfect for my kids. When I or my mother make chicken soup, my kids love eating chunks of chicken in the soup. I liked the idea of French onion soup where, instead of using beef broth, the beef cooks with the soup – and then my kids can get those meaty chunks they love from the garnish!

May be made three days in advance or frozen.

Serves 6-8

Meat, Gluten-free, Passover
Hands-on time: 35 minutes
Time to pressure: 13 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes4 Tbsp. oil, divided
2 strips short rib/flanken on the bone, about 680 g. total, each strip cut in half
1 kg onions, sliced
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 cups hot water
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper
5 sprigs fresh thymePress saute, and when the display reads “hot,” add two Tbsp. of the oil to the inner pot. Add the meat and sear for five minutes on each side, or until browned. Remove to a plate and set aside.

Add the remaining oil and the onions, and stir. Cook for 25 minutes total, stirring about every four minutes. After the onions have cooked for about 15 minutes, use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot, to mix around the browned pieces into the other onions. If the machine turns off, turn it back on to saute.

Add the garlic and cook for another two minutes. Add the water and stir for a minute with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom of the pot clean again. Press cancel. Add salt, pepper and thyme. Return the meat to the pot.

Secure the lid, ensuring that the steam release handle is in the sealing position. Press the pressure cook button and set the cooking time for 30 minutes. When the cooking time is complete, turn the steam release handle to the venting position to quickly release the pressure. Press “Cancel” and remove the lid.

Remove the meat to a plate and discard the thyme, making sure you remove all the stems. Use an immersion blender to puree until smooth. Taste and add more salt and pepper to taste.

When the meat is cool enough to handle, use two forks or gloved hands to shred it, discarding bones and extra fat. Store separately from the soup and reheat separately. Serve soup garnished with the meat on top.

 French onion soup (credit: Courtesy) French onion soup (credit: Courtesy)

Chocolate lava cakes

As Shoyer writes in the recipe, lava cakes aren’t usually Shabbat-friendly, but I can say from experience: This one tastes great, even when made a day in advance and then reheated on the plata or Shabbat-friendly hot plate. Even my husband liked it, and he’s not usually a fan of rich desserts.

I took some liberties with this recipe, removing two tablespoons of coffee granules that were supposed to go with the cocoa, and using flour. If you want the recipe to be kosher for Passover or gluten-free, replace the flour with an equal amount of potato starch.

Serves 6

Dairy or Pareve
Hands-on time: 12 minutes
Time to pressure: 7 minutes
Cooking time: 7 minutes

198 g. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup coconut oil, margarine or butter
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
2 large eggs plus 2 yolks
½ cup sugar
¹⁄3 cup potato starch
Spray oil
1 cup waterYou will need six ramekins (I used aluminum individual muffin cups, easily found in Israeli supermarkets). Place the chocolate and margarine into a heatproof bowl and microwave for one minute, stir, and then melt for another 45 seconds, stir, and, if needed, for another 30 seconds, until melted. Add the vanilla and cocoa and whisk in.

Place eggs, egg yolks and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix at low speed to combine, and then turn the speed up to high and beat for three minutes or until stiff. Add the flour and beat at low speed to just combine. Gently fold in melted chocolate mixture.

Spray the ramekins with spray oil. Divide batter among them, about ½ cup in each mold.

Place the water into the inner pot and insert the steam rack. Place three of the ramekins around the rack. Secure the lid, ensuring that the steam release handle is in the sealing position. Press the pressure cook button and set the cooking time for seven minutes.

When cooking time is complete, press “Cancel.” Turn the steam release handle to the venting position.
Carefully remove the ramekins from the pot. Add another two Tbsp. of water to the pot and put the remaining ramekins in, cooking as you did the first three. It will take the Instant Pot only about two minutes to reach pressure this time.

Let the cakes cool for at least 30 minutes. To unmold, run a thin knife or small metal spatula around the edge of the cake, place a plate on top, and turn the cake onto the plate.

Optional garnish: Confectioner’s sugar and fruit.

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