Midnight Writer

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IP and the Art of Cooking

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A Quick Note

First of all, my apologies to any of you that stumbled on to this by mistake. Even though I work (and have lots of friends) in the Information Technology field, “IP” in this case is not “Internet Protocol”, but “Instant Pot”. Sorry, this is a cooking story.

I joked around with one of my daughters that the “problem” with so many of the Instant Pot recipes was that you have to read a bunch of related story before you get to information on how to cook the meal. Out of fear that I may be breaking some long-standing tradition, combined with the a bit of pretentious “Surely I can be interesting” attitude, I’m going to do the same. However; if you really want to just skip to the Cashew Chicken & Rice w/Mushrooms recipe, you can find find it here – Cashew Chicken & Rice w/Mushrooms

Is it Really “Cooking”

I have this habit of getting interested in something, doing some initial research, then really going into in-depth stuff only after I’ve purchased, or made the trip, or otherwise committed myself. I suspect it’s just part of my ADD personality.

I did the same thing with our Instant Pot (except I didn’t really do much research before buying, only after). A couple days ago, because virtually everything I was seeing about the IP was positive, or downright gushing, I decided to Google Hate “Instant Pot”. Believe it or not, my computer didn’t self-destruct, and no one from the IP Cult of Believers showed up at my door with pitchforks and torches (yet). The results turned up a few “exploding pressure cooker” stories (mostly about other brands), and a few “This doesn’t cook as quick as ‘they’ claimed” stories, but interestingly; it mostly turned up stories about people ready to hate it, then changing their minds.

However, I found a few that touched on a major theme that I found interesting – they basically alluded to the idea that “you’re not really cooking” with the Instant Pot. Now, I’m paraphrasing a little. To be fair, they talked about removing the “romance” from cooking – the tasting and adjusting and warm household smells and even lifting the lid and checking on status. I have to admit, at one level I agreed. To some degree, it really is “mix abc and do xyz, and it’s perfect”. But after more consideration, the “new technology” inner beast in me rose in defiance, ready to defend our new household gadget (and the $120 we paid for it).

There are a ton of “pros and cons” reviews of the IP, and this isn’t going to be one of them. I’m going to concentrate on that one aspect, Is It Really Cooking, and my personal (though brief so far) journey with it. To let you read an example yourself, please see My Final Instant Pot Review. Was I The Only Person To Hate It? I’m going to use what Karen (the blog author) said a lot in this post. Here is one of the quotes from that article that really exemplifies what I’m talking about.

… I like cooking. I like the process of cooking. I like stirring, and tasting and adding salt. You do not do these things with an Instant Pot. You put the food in, close it up and hope for the best. Which is my biggest beef with it. Cooking for me is something to be enjoyed and experienced and food is to be nurtured and tasted throughout the cooking process. There is none of that with an Instant Pot.

Karen Bertlesen – The Art of Doing Stuff

The author had also previously summed up the Instant Pot enthusiasts with this:

The obsessed people who will herein be referred to as The Cult of Instant Pot Lovers Who Maybe Don’t Actually Love Cooking so Therefore Love That The Instant Pot Allows You to Lock Your Dinner Up And Out Of Sight Like a Kidnapped Baby.

Karen Bertlesen – The Art of Doing Stuff

I took issue with her statement. I suppose she’s technically correct. I don’t consider myself “obsessed”, but some really may be, and maybe they fit that “Don’t Really Love Cooking…” nonsense. However, I think I understand the tone behind her comments, and I disagree with it. She sort of revealed that tone with one of her final comments:

I do not recommend the Instant Pot to anyone who enjoys the art of cooking.

Karen Bertlesen – The Art of Doing Stuff

I’m going to strongly disagree with that. I think it’s a bit pretentious, and just wrong at its heart. I’ll use her own analogy to explain.

The Artist Analogy

In her blog post, Karen used the analogy of an artist painting:

Imagine you’re an artist and you have a blank canvas and all your oil paints and brushes in front of you. You take your time building the perfect painting, adding things and blending them and taking your time lovingly creating it. That’s cooking.
Now imagine you whip off a kind of s****y paint by number in 13 minutes. That’s cooking with an Instant Pot.

Karen Bertlesen – The Art of Doing Stuff

The problem with her analogy is that most people who enjoy cooking aren’t like the artist she mentioned. If they were, they wouldn’t need any of the recipes on Karen’s blog; they would just roam the grocery store isles (or the cupboard) and grab their “paints and brushes”, and hit the “blank canvas” of their stoves and ovens, creating some masterpiece totally on their own. The reality is that most of us that do any level of cooking use her “paint by number” method to one degree or another. We don’t mix our own paints from scratch using our artistic imagination to create original masterpieces; instead we use recipes to find out what ingredients those who went before used, and the cooking times and temps, and what to look for as we cook. We may then change them up to our tastes, but most of us build on what someone else already “painted”. Universally, we call that “cooking” even if the recipe and method of cooking aren’t “original”.

I submit that though the Instant Pot can be the “paint by number in 13 minutes” device Karen alluded to (more on that in a moment); that is not the case for everyone. Most of the information I’ve seen repeatedly tells new users to try something, and adjust. The first day we got ours, I was frantically browsing the internet to find a recipe to throw something together quickly to surprise my wife. When I looked up “chicken and rice” for the IP, I got dozens, probably hundreds of hits; however, the few I looked at were all different. As if people had some idea of what they were going to make, then changed it up to make it their own. Before the end of the first week with the Instant Pot, I was able to put together a dish that had little to do with any of the recipes I had seen, totally based on mine and my wife’s taste. Sorry Karen, I may not be a Picasso, or even a Karen, but that’s still some art. Maybe it’s 3rd grader art compared to some of the stuff I see on your blog, but it is still “the art of cooking”. (BTW, on the flip side of things, I cook my chili for 12 hours, and consider that 3 hour stuff to be “amateurish” …just sayin’).

Even with all of that, there’s something to be said for busy people that would like to control what’s going in their food, but don’t have the time to stand over it and “nurture” the food for hours. For those, the Instant Pot can be a “life changer”. But, I suspect most people are just like me. To me, it will never be “everything I need” for cooking. It will be one more method to use when it fits. I can already tell, at least for me, it will be a well-used tool. But, I also know it’s never going to replace my Weber Grill or my turkey fryer (though I may try getting away from simmering chili for 12 hours).

So, with that rebuttal now finished, I’m ready to brag a little about what I did after less than a week of owning our Instant Pot.

Ready to Try My Own

After owning our Instant Pot for a little less than a week, I was poking around for another recipe to try. We had some chicken left over, and my rice with other foods still hadn’t turned out quite the way I wanted, so I mentioned to my wife that I was ready to try rice and chicken again. She suggested that I mix it up a bit by using our favorite “pre-seasoned” rice, so I decided maybe it was time to just try a recipe on my own. This is what I came up with.

After having the Instant Pot for a few days, I decided I’d try my hand at coming up with something on my own. I like chicken, and it’s a natural for the IP. The 2 attempts we’ve made with rice in the menu ended up with the rice a bit “mushy” for my taste, so I decided that chicken and rice would be a good choice to experiment and see if I can get the “rice added to food” process right.

Please Note – this being my very first “do it yourself” recipe, there’s a good chance it will change if I discover something didn’t work quite the way I wanted it to. For instance, both the other rice dishes we’ve done ended up with “mushy” rice, so I used 3/4 cup of liquid (for 1 cup of rice) on the first try with this. The rice was still a bit too mushy for me, so I changed it to 1/2 cup. My working theory is that the celery, carrots, and mushrooms add enough extra liquid to the mix to make up that other 1/2 cup. If you use the recipe with modified quantities, remember the Instant Pot requires at least 1/2vcup of liquid.

Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad Dressing & Mix
Zatarain’s Cilantro Lime Rice

For the coating on the chicken, I used 2 packages (for 4 breasts) of Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad Dressing & Mix. Over my wife’s strong objection, I added a very small amount of curry to the dressing, but Gini said she had to admit that it was great with the curry in it. Score one for the guy of the house!

I had planned to use jasmine rice, but my wife and I both like Zatarain’s Cilantro Lime Rice with other dishes. She asked me to use that, and it sounded good to me. If you choose plain rice instead, you may want to add some other herbs and spices to it.

I’m not a big vinegar fan, but I added a small amount of rice vinegar to the chicken broth to give it a all a little extra zing, and soy sauce instead of just using salt. I never use much salt, so you may decide to add a little.

As I said, this is subject to change as I experiment around. Please feel free to leave comments or suggestions if you see something that needs improvement.

Cashew Chicken & Rice W/Mushrooms

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Natural Release: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 People
Author: herb
Cost: $15.00
Print Recipe

Equipment

  • 1 Pressure Cooker

Ingredients

Main Ingredients

  • 4 count Chicken Breast
  • 1 cup Seasoned Rice I use Zatarain's Cilantro Lime Rice. If you use a plan rice, you will likely want to add other spices and flavorings.
  • 1 cup Carrots Sliced I prefer to use baby carrots.
  • 1 cup Celery Diced
  • 1 cup Cashews Unsalted Be sure to use unsalted – Can substitute peanuts, almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc according to taste
  • 1 cup Mushrooms Sliced
  • 1 tbsp Oil I prefer olive oil

Coating Mix

  • 2 oz Dry Ranch Dressing Mix I use Hidden Valley Original Ranch Salad Dressing & Mix. To spice things up, you may want to try their "Spicy Ranch"
  • 1 tsp Curry

Liquid

  • 4 tbsp Rice Vinegar
  • 4 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • ΒΌ cup Chicken Broth Use enough to bring total measured liquid to 1/2 cup for 4 chicken breasts

Instructions

Mix the Liquid

  • In a measuring cup, add the soy sauce and rice vinegar. Add enough chicken broth to bring the mix to 1/2 cup per 4 chicken breasts (1/8 cup per breast).

Prep the Chicken

  • Set your Instant Pot to Saute, if you're a purist (I prefer to saute in a separate pan)
  • While it's heating, mix the curry and ranch mix on a shallow plate. Coat the chicken breasts on each side with the mix.
  • Saute both sides to sear the outside of the chicken.
  • Set the chicken aside, and pour a small amount of the liquid mix in the bottom of the pot liner. Deglaze the bottom of the liner by using a flat wooden (or bamboo) spatula to scrape the cooked on pieces of coating. (This is important if you sauted the chicken in the InstantPot pan)

Mix the Rice and Veggies

  • When the bottom is completely clear, add the rice, carrots, celery, cashews, and mushrooms. Mix thoroughly, and pour on the remaining liquid.

Add the Chicken

  • Lay the chicken breasts on top of the rice and veggie mix.

Set the Instant Pot

  • Cover with lid and set the lever to sealing position. Cook on manual high pressure 10 minutes with manual pressure release.

Notes

This was the first “I did it myself” recipe I made in the Instant Pot. I liked it but my wife said it was great.
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