Thursday, December 31, 2015

ALOHA from the Instant Pot!

More unbelievable goodness from the Instant Pot: Soft, sweet, pull-apart Kalua Pork that takes 75 minutes in the magic pot as opposed to eight hours underground! AMAZING!

Instant Pot Kalua Pork

3-4 lb. pork shoulder, seasoned liberally with salt, pepper, and granulated garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 cup beer
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
2 large bay leaves

Brown the seasoned roast in the olive oil, then add it and everything else to the IP and cook 75 minutes on Meat/Stew with NPR. Remove bay leaves and shred the meat with two forks.

After making the Kalua Pork, I saved the cooking liquid (as I always do!), chilled it overnight, removed the layer of fat on top, and ended up with three cups of flavorful stock. Then I decided to try the rice function on the IP. I cooked two cups of long-grain white rice in the liquid for 12 minutes at low pressure (the default mode on the rice setting).

The rice came out perfect and very tasty, but it did scorch pretty badly on the bottom. I haven't had that problem with brown rice and other grains, especially when you grease the pot with a little oil first. Maybe it doesn't happen when you just use water, or maybe I should do the pot-in-pot method next time. I will keep experimenting with that and report back.

In the meantime, I fried this flavorful rice in a large skillet in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil along with one shredded carrot, four sliced scallions, two cloves of minced garlic, a cup of frozen peas, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and one whole egg. Then I served the Kalua Pork on top. Make your own take-out, yo!

Monday, December 28, 2015

A New Holiday Classic Pops Up

There has been this Tip Hero video going around Facebook for a caramel and chocolate-drizzled popcorn that looked so easy and so good, that I just had to try and make it myself. Actually, I made it for some friends for a post-holiday get-together and gift exchange, and now I think I might make it every year! It would certainly be perfect for a treat for my work colleagues...or just for ME! Mwa-ha-ha!

Holiday Popcorn
(Source: Tip Hero)

To make the popcorn:
2/3 cup popcorn kernels
1/3 cup vegetable oil (or 6 T)

1. Heat the oil in a large pot with a lid over med heat. Add three or four of the kernels to the pot and put the lid on.
2. When they pop, add the rest of the popcorn kernels and put the lid on again. Immediately remove the pot from the heat for 30 seconds. (This is to ensure the kernels are all about the same temperature so that they will pop almost at the same time).
3. Put the popcorn back on the burner, shaking the pot back and forth. It should take about two minutes for the popcorn to pop without burning or leaving too many spare kernels. When it takes several seconds between pops, it’s ready.
4. Immediately pour into a large bowl and cool to room temperature. This should make about 12 cups of popped popcorn.

To make the caramel corn:
12 cups popped popcorn
2 cups almonds (also good: peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (6 oz) salted butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup 60% chocolate chips
2 teaspoon vegetable oil

1. Heat the oven to 250F.
2. Once the popcorn is made, combine the following ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat: brown sugar, butter and corn syrup. Stir while the butter and sugar melt together and let the mixture come to a boil, about eight minutes, then let it boil for two minutes.
3. Stir in the baking soda and remove the pan from the burner.
4. Put the popcorn and the nuts in a large bowl and pour the sauce over and mix well. Line two half-sheet pans with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Divide the popcorn mixture between the two trays.
5. Bake 60 minutes, stirring each pan every 15 minutes. Remove from the oven.
6. Put the choc chips and vegetable oil in a bowl or microwave-safe measuring cup and microwave 50% power two to three minutes, stirring every 45 sec or so, until completely melted.
7. Drizzle the chocolate evenly over the caramel corn on both pans. Let the pans sit at room temperature for three to four hours while the caramel corn cools down and the chocolate sets, then break apart into clusters.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Instant Pot Tutorial Videos

My beloved friend Kurt received an Instant Pot for Christmas (perhaps gifted by yours truly), but he's scared of it. So I decided to try something new myself to walk him through it, and to show him that the magic pot is nothing to fear. I had a big package of chicken thighs to deal with, so I just threw them in the pot with whatever seasonings caught my eye--basically, whatever was nearby, and I could grab quickly: seasoned salt, pepper, granulated garlic, ground celery, dried Italian herbs, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce. Oh, and a half an onion, chopped. Then I added a generous cup of chicken broth, put the lid on, turned the knob to seal, and hit the poultry button which defaults to 15 minutes.

Since the scariest part is opening the pot, I decided it might be a comfort to my best friend (and maybe to you, dear reader) if I made some real-time videos to show him that no one dies when releasing the pressure. (This is not your momma's old pressure cooker!)

Video #1 (Opening the pot):

Video #2 (The big reveal):

Video #3 (Ready for crisping under the broiler):

Video #4 (Out of the oven, crispy and gorgeous!):

Video #5 (Gilding the lily):

After making FIVE Instant Pot videos for Kurt yesterday, he complained that I hadn't started at the very beginning. Apparently, he needed a video tutorial of me putting on the lid and pressing a button. Sheesh. Then I ended up making a quick soup with the leftover chicken broth, so here are a few more videos.

Video #6 (From the top):

Video #7 (Soup, Part I):

Video #8 (Soup, Part II/Finale):

Friday, December 25, 2015

Instant Pot Primer and Resources for Newbies

MERRY CHRISTMAS! If Santa brought you a new Instant Pot for Christmas, I have info to share to help calm your nerves and bolster your courage to jump in and try it out. First, read the manual and do the water test, then make something easy, like boiled eggs (eggs on the trivet, cup and a half of water underneath, 4-6 minutes on manual, quick release and into an ice bath). Or if you have a steamer basket, make potato salad: Peel and cut potatoes in one-inch chunks--enough to fill the pot about 2/3 full--then place them in the basket and put four whole eggs on top of the potatoes, and cook on manual for four minutes (that's right--four minutes!), then proceed with your favorite potato salad recipe.

The first thing I made in the IP was a pork roast, and another friend who just got her pot did the same thing. A 3-4 lb. shoulder will take 50-60 minutes on manual after you brown it on all sides, season it as you wish, and add at least a cup and a half of liquid (beer or broth) with it in the pot. I also love to add sliced onion, chopped garlic, and a couple of cups of sauerkraut, or use Latin flavors instead and make some killer carnitas for tacos or burritos. YUM!

Invaluable Instant Pot Resources:
As far as cookbooks go, I recommend Great Food Fast by Bob Warden. I also HIGHLY recommend watching many YouTube tutorials. My favorites are from Simple Daily Recipes--the hostess is a hoot and half! Also, check out the websites Pressure Cooking Today and Hip Pressure Cooking. But the best advice I have for newbies is to join the Instant Pot Community here on Facebook. Everyone is so nice and helpful with giving ideas and advice. I post here all the time, sharing recipes and photos and asking questions of my own.

Indispensable Instant Pot Accessories:
1. STEAMER BASKET (Pop the handles off this one, and it fits perfectly!)
2. SPARE SEALING RING (I like to have one for savory foods and one for sweet/delicate things as strong flavors can transfer.)
3. GLASS LID (I use this when slow cooking or making yogurt.)
4. SILICONE MINI-MITTS (Perfect for getting the hot stainless steel insert out of the pot.)
5. CHEESECAKE PAN (There are those who claim that only a six- or seven-inch pan will fit, but I have this set, and the smallest, eight-inch fits perfectly for a slightly larger cheesecake to share with others--if your self-discipline is that strong!)
But most IP folks have one like this:
Or this:
6. PIP BOWL: You probably already have one of these anyway, but you'll want a small, heat-proof bowl--Pyrex or stainless steel--for cooking things "pot-in-pot." Like six inches in diameter, I guess? I bought a SS one at Home Goods for two or three bucks.
7. BAMBOO STEAMERS (These may not be “indispensable,” but they are great for making potstickers/dumplings.):

Happy Insta-Potting newbies!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Cookie Swap 2015: Christmas in Russia

I never feel like the semester is over and it's truly winter break until the Padulas' Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange is upon us. And every year, Janice and Domenica seem to raise the bar, and the event gets more and more fabulous! For 2015, the theme was Christmas in Russia, and it was amazing. BEHOLD the photographic evidence thereof.

From top to bottom, you can see:
1) The gorgeous table setting
2) Hello from the other side
3) This year's cookie assortment (with my favorite milk from Vermont)
4) Roasted Marrow Bones with Onion, Caper, and Dill Relish, Cornichons, and Rye Bread
5) Beef Pirozhki
6) Left to right: Kutya (traditional Christmas wheat berry pudding), Smoked Salmon with Creme Fraiche, Caviar, and Fresh Dill, a Russian caramel, and a cookie shaped and decorated like a mushroom
7) Ukrainian Beef Borscht
8) The co-host's boyfriend...and kitchen help, Marcus! :-)
9) A dish with salmon, mushrooms, rice and crepes inside pastry with a beautiful wreath design on top--I think it's called Kulebyaka
10) Inside the Kulebyaka and a potato pancake stuffed with meat and mushrooms called Kolduny
11) Russian Honeycomb Cake
12) Inside the incredible cake: Puff pastry, cream, tart cherries, and dark chocolate ganache
13) Slice of the cake
14) The packaged cookies (and my friend, June and Martie, chit-chatting--which is the best part of the party, of course)

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Stuck on Potstickers

I have been craving dumplings lately, and they no longer seem to carry the big bag of frozen ones at Sam's Club...or anywhere in town that I can find. So screw it, says I! I'll make my own! These are pork, mushroom, garlic scapes, Tuscan kale, and carrot potstickers that I crudely fashioned with my own two hands. They ain't pretty, but they sure is tasty! ‪Oh, and I used the "steam" function on my Instant Pot for the first time. Worked great!

Of course, I used odds and ends that I dug out of the fridge and freezer, but feel free to substitute whatever you have rattling around your kitchen. Ground chicken would be great or turkey sausage instead of pork. Swap cabbage for the kale, green onions and a few garlic cloves for the garlic scapes, white mushrooms for brown, etc. Use what you have!
Instant Pot Potstickers

Cook together until the meat is browned:
1 lb. pork sausage
4 oz. Baby Bella mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup garlic scapes, finely chopped
1 large carrot, shredded
1 cup Tuscan kale, chopped

Stir in:
2 tablespoons Bulldog sauce (or hoisin or oyster sauce)
1 tablespoon ponzu sauce (or soy or teriyaki sauce)
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 teaspoon sriracha, or to taste
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 package wonton wrappers/skins 

Let filling cool before forming the dumplings. Place a generous teaspoon of the filling on each wonton skin, dip your finger in a small dish of water, then wet each side of the square. Fold together and shape as you desire. Steam for eight minutes in the IP then NPR (or in a covered pan on the stove top with perhaps a half cup of water). Serve with a dipping sauce of rice vinegar, ponzu/soy/teriyaki sauce, and sriracha (stirred together, amounts to taste). I estimate you'll get about 48 dumplings.