What’s for Dinner Tonight: Shrimp scampi, cooked in an Instant Pot, pasta and all

Of all the breakthroughs I’ve had in the Instant Pot this summer, the best might be bonding over the device with my mom.

She’s been getting creative with that 6-quarter multicooker I gave her a few weeks ago, cooking lots of beans dishes for her and my dad and swapping recipes with her neighbors, both of whom had Instant Pots in their kitchens, but hadn’t yet used them.

Now, all three of them are pressure cooking meat, rice, legumes and more in their multicookers, and I couldn’t be happier to hear reports about their progress over the phone.

RELATED: Stepping up your Instant Pot game with scampi, curry and cheesecake

One of the dishes I told my mom you could make in an multicooker was shrimp scampi. She was as excited as I was to learn that you could cook the spaghetti in the white wine butter garlic sauce under pressure. You do have to get the amount of liquid right, which I’ve explained in the note below. This version is a hybrid of two recipes from “Dinner in an Instant” by Melissa Clark and “The Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook” by Laurel Randolph.

Shrimp Scampi With White Wine

In this version of shrimp scampi, a convergence of two similar recipes from Melissa Clark and Laurel Randolph, the shrimp are cooked in garlic and white wine for just 1 minute under pressure; then you’ll remove them from the pot but leave the liquid. It’s a little tricky to strain the liquid into a measuring cup to add just enough water to have 1 1/2 cups, but it’s worth the effort when you taste thin spaghetti cooked under pressure in that savory sauce. This dish comes together quickly, and the pasta absorbs all that flavor after just a few minutes in the multicooker.

Don’t forget to use quick or manual release when letting the steam out of the multicooker in this recipe. Unlike natural release, which allows the steam to slowly let out over 10 or 15 minutes, quick release requires a hand towel or a long utensil to flip the vent open and release the steam in a steady (sometimes loud and spattering) burst.

— Addie Broyles

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup thinly sliced fennel (optional)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine or stock
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 pounds shrimp, shelled and deveined
8 ounces thin spaghetti, broken in half
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Using the saute function, melt the butter and oil in the pressure cooker. Stir in the fennel, if using, and garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine or stock, salt, red pepper flakes, black pepper and shrimp. Select manual and cook at high pressure for 1 minute. Use a quick release once the shrimp have finished cooking and remove the shrimp from the pot with a slotted spoon. Reserve.

Pour the remaining liquid in a large measuring cup. Add enough water so that the total quantity is 1 1/2 cups. Return the liquid to the pot and add the pasta, a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Stir the pasta to separate the pieces and coat them with liquid.

Place the lid on the pressure cooker and cook on high pressure for 6 minutes. Release the pressure manually. Add the shrimp back to the pasta and stir. Season to taste. Serves 4.

— Adapted from recipes in “Dinner in an Instant” by Melissa Clark and “The Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook” by Laurel Randolph

12 tips to know when you’re cooking on an Instant Pot for the first time

You’re either on Team Instant Pot or you’ve thought about it.

Instant Pot is the best-known brand of what’s called an electric multicooker, which allows you to steam, saute and slow cook countless foods. I make this chicken curry during my early attempts to figure out if I was on “Team Instant Pot.” Not everybody loves these multicookers, but it seems everyone has an opinion about them. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

 

In months of thinking and talking about multicookers, I’ve realized that if you don’t already have one, you have an opinion about it. Earlier this week, I published my “Confessions of an Instant Pot skeptic-turned-convert,” and with that story, I compiled 12 tips to get you started.

If you’re on the fence about getting one, hopefully these stories will help you decide if it’s right for you. If you already have one, maybe you’ll learn something you didn’t know. If you’re already an Instant Pot pro, I’d love to hear your tips and insight to help me get to know the 8-in-1 appliance sitting on my kitchen counter. Shoot me an email at abroyles@statesman.com if you have favorite IP recipes and insights to share.

  • Check out from the library (or buy or borrow from a friend) two or three multicooker cookbooks. With several books to consult, you can compare recipes for common dishes – risotto, ribs, beans, for instance – to find out the different ratios, cooking times and techniques the various authors use. Melissa Clark’s “Dinner in an Instant” and America’s Test Kitchen’s “Multicooker Perfection” are the most “foodie” of the multicooker books I used, but Laurel Randolph’s books “The Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook” and “The Instant Pot No-Pressure Cookbook” feature the easiest and most interesting everyday recipes.
  • Start off using the saute and manual functions. Many multicookers have a bevy of buttons — sometimes, too many, in fact. Mine has more than half a dozen presets for cake, eggs, porridge, rice, stew and meat, but none for beans. I haven’t used the dish-specific functions enough to know if they work better than using the manual function to program a specific cooking time, which is what most recipes call for. I have used the “steam” button to steam vegetables — broccoli steams in the time it takes for the pressure cooker to come up to temperature — but the result would be similar if you used the manual button.
  • Pressure cooking is for dishes that are usually boiled, braised, stewed or steamed, and you do generally need to follow a recipe, but that doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvisation, according to Randolph. “You can’t just throw random things in and adjust as you go, like you can on the stovetop,” she writes in “The Instant Pot No-Pressure Cookbook,” “but as you progress in your pressure cooking journey, you’ll learn what does and doesn’t work and come up with plenty of your own signature dishes.”
  • Natural and quick release are the two options for releasing steam in the Instant Pot. Natural release is when you leave the valve on “sealed” and let the pressure naturally release from the pot, usually in about 10 and 15 minutes. Many recipes call for quick release, when you’ll manually turn the valve to release the steam quickly. Use a hand towel or oven mitt when touching the valve so the hot steam doesn’t burn your hand.
Tayama is another brand of multicooker that you can find online. I gave away my brand name Instant Pot to my mom and bought another one to see if the cooking techniques vary by brand. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman
  • If you don’t have a multicooker but are curious about them, ask to borrow a friend’s or hang out with them while they use it, and if you decide to buy one, don’t feel obligated to buy the official Instant Pot. The multicookers from the brand that launched this craze — and whose name has become a genericized term, like Kleenex or Q-tips — have what’s called a lower power availability, the measure that America’s Test Kitchen uses in its multicooker ranking. This could be why many of my first dishes took longer to finish than the recipes estimated. Compared to other brands, America’s Test Kitchen also noted that the Instant Pot struggled to maintain consistent heat while on the slow cooker function.
  • Don’t secure the lid on a multicooker unless you have at least a cup of water in the pot, and don’t use the lid when you’re using the saute function.
  • Don’t pressure cook milk or cheese, which can foam and scorch. Add those to the dish after you’ve finished cooking it under pressure. The same is true with roux and other thickeners, which can be added after the soup or stew has cooked under pressure.
  • You can double or halve recipes, often without adjusting the cooking time, but make sure there’s at least a cup of liquid, and don’t fill the pressure cooker more than halfway, which can lead to a clogged pressure release valve.

  • Cut large pork and beef roasts into quarters to help them cook faster. To make pulled pork, I left a 4-pound pork butt whole, which took more than 50 minutes to cook under pressure, which is still less than the 2 or 3 hours it would have taken in an oven but not as fast as I’d hoped.
  • Many multicookers, including the basic Instant Pot models, continue to keep the contents of the pot warm even after the pressure cooking has finished. If you don’t want any more heat on the food, especially in the case of polenta, quinoa or other grains, make sure to use the “cancel” button after the pressure cooker timer has beeped to turn it off.
  • Buy extra food storage containers. In the first few weeks of using the Instant Pot, I had more leftovers than I could eat, so I bought extra plastic containers to give the food away and store it in the freezer.
  • Multicooker not pressurizing correctly? Check the silicone gasket ring that fits inside the lid. If the flexible ring is loose, the cooker won’t heat properly.

Ask Addie: When I had Instant Pot questions, this reader had answers

For many cooks who are well-established in their cooking routines and averse to any appliance with more than a few buttons, it might take a while to warm up to the idea that you can cook everything from cakes to hard-cooked eggs in a single electric countertop appliance.

So many buttons, so many recipes, so much hot steam. It’s no wonder the Instant Pot is confusing for first-time users. But it’s also easy to master once you get started. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

In June, I finally got over my multicooker misgivings. I’d been an Instant Pot skeptic for years, in part because I genuinely had questions about how it functioned and whether it would “work” for how my family eats. But I knew I needed to throw myself into the Instant Pot world to understand why it’s so popular and see if it’s an appliance that I’d want in my own kitchen.

In this week’s food section, you can read all about my first month as an Instant Pot cook, including tons of tips and recipes to help you get started.

RELATED: 12 tips to get started cooking in an Instant Pot or any multicooker

Confessions of an Instant Pot skeptic-turned-convert

But first, I wanted to share some really great advice I got just before I unboxed the appliance. After I posted a series of questions on my blog, a reader (and Instant Pot fan) Thomas Embleton took the time to answer via email and his answers helped me get over my initial fears that I would accidentally blow up the appliance or that it was simply overhyped.

With a month of multicooker cooking under my belt, I can concur with his answers and have added thoughts, where relevant.

I feel overwhelmed by just how new this cooking device feels. Is that normal?

Yes, I’ve had mine for years, upgraded as better models came out and still am overwhelmed by what it can do. If you buy into the accessories, you can really expand your cooking. I would suggest a trivet that also allows you to steam eggs (soft to hard, depending on time), a tempered glass lid for sautéing, a second inner pot for mixed meals (also called pot-in-pot cooking) and a veggie steamer basket with handles.

Ribs are one of the popular Instant Pot dishes because you can cook them in about 30 minutes under pressure. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Will the steam from the pressure cooker heat up my kitchen, thus defeating the purpose of not turning on my oven?

I just heated up my IP to make a brown rice/quinoa recipe and could not feel any heat coming from the top as it came up to pressure. Once at pressure, the lid is sealed and no water (or heat) will escape. A benefit of an IP is you can reduce the amount of water in most recipes because it does not boil/steam away. (AB: I also learned that as long as you have at least a cup of water in the Instant Pot, you’ll have enough liquid to steam or cook something, and that the multicookers have several levels of built-in safety mechanisms to prevent any explosions or overheating inside the pot.)

Which of the approximately 12,000 Facebook groups should I join?

I don’t use Facebook, so I prefer to use the following sites: hippressurecooking.com/pressure-cooker-recipes and seriouseats.com/recipes/topics/method/pressure-cooker

How many dishes am I going to have to make until I feel someone proficient on it?

I have some favorite dishes I have been modifying 10 to 15 times as I get it closer to my perfection. I would suggest hosting potluck dinners to try them out on others. I worked out a recipe to make bean soup for my mother (for a good source of nutrients), and it took about 3 to 4 tries to get it right.

RELATED: How to make risotto in less time than it takes to walk the dog

Breaking in my new Instant Pot with rice, beans and a New York-style cheesecake you have to try

After cooking on a multicooker for several weeks, I discovered that it’s good for staples and single-ingredient foods, such as potatoes or corn on the cob, but it’s also perfect for making meals, such as macaroni and cheese and chicken curry. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Are my kids going to eat it?

I make my brown rice/quinoa dish, especially for our 3-year old granddaughter. I wrote 90 percent of this email while this week’s batch was cooking, and it finished in 14 minutes. It is now resting for 15 minutes, then it will be ready.

What happens if I try to cook without an official Instant Pot recipe?

I haven’t used the branded cookbook since Day 2, relying on other recipes and trial/error.

What if all these Instant Pot cookbook recipes don’t really look that appealing?

Don’t cook veggies in the IP unless making soup or stews. (AB: I have found corn, broccoli, potatoes and green beans an exception to this.)

Am I really going to cook more beans if I can cook them faster?

I make a bean dish weekly.

What am I going to do with all of those beans?

Eat them and live longer.

 

How to make risotto in less time than it takes to walk the dog

Risotto isn’t a dish you think to make at the last minute, unless you have a multicooker.

Before electric pressure cookers (in the form of Instant Pots) started taking over American kitchens, you had to stand by a stove for 30 or 40 minutes to make risotto, slowly stirring liquid into the rice.

Last night, thanks to this new multicooker I’ve been using for the last few weeks, I made risotto while I walked my dog. It really was that fast.

To recap, I bought an Instant Pot, the brand whose name is more familiar to us than the term “multicooker,” and over the past few weeks, I’ve realized that the feature that makes these multicookers so useful is the pressure cooker.

Stove-top and electric pressure cookers — and pressure cooker risotto (and cheesecakes, for that matter) — have been around forever, but none has been as useful as the ones that also allow you to saute, steam and slow cook in the same appliance. Most models allow you to program it to start at a certain time, and some you can turn off or adjust from your phone.

I haven’t used the yogurt function yet, but I can tell you that the multicooker has been handy to make hard-cooked eggs, corn on the cob, broccoli, curried lentils and rice, chicken curry, quinoa, cauliflower mac and cheese, pork ribs, refried beans, chorizo potato salad, rotisserie chicken (and tortilla soup), corn chowder and, finally, risotto.

This creamy Italian rice might already be the dish that sold you on buying a multicooker — it’s certainly the most mentioned dish when I’ve talked with readers online about what they love cooking in their Instant Pots. (It seems like cooks who have a different brand of multicooker still call it an Instant Pot, but maybe parlance will evolve as our cooking habits do.)

Risotto recipes are in every single multicooker cookbook in my house, and they are similar in quantity and method, calling for 1 1/2 cups arborio rice and 3 or 4 cups stock. I found that packages of arborio rice often contain 2 cups of rice, so I adjusted the recipe to fit that quantity. I also preferred to add more liquid at the end to make a slightly creamier risotto, but the consistency of your risotto will depend greatly on the exact heating specifications of your multicooker and how much liquid evaporates during the heating and steam release process.

RELATED: Fresh corn adds a summer spin to this (Instant Pot-friendly) clam chowder

Instant Pot Basics: How to make refried beans and New York-style cheesecake

If you want to add spinach and feta cheese, stir them into the risotto as soon as it has finished cooking and the steam has been released. The spinach will cook in the residual heat. You can freeze leftover risotto and, because the texture won’t be the same as when it was freshly made, you can use it to make a cheesy mashed potato-style side dish or to add as a thickener to a creamy potato soup.

Parmesan Risotto

This risotto cooks for 6 minutes under pressure, but it takes about 12 to 15 minutes for the multicooker to heat up. All in all, you can make this risotto in less time than it takes to walk the dog, which I found out the other night. When the pressure cooker timer is up, the primary heat turns off, but there is still a “warming” function that it defaults to as the steam starts to release naturally. Ideally, you’ll be nearby to manually release — or quick release — the pressure, which will give the risotto an ideal texture and get dinner on the table even faster. With this risotto, I served steamed broccoli and a bacon-wrapped steak cooked in a cast iron skillet.

— Addie Broyles

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons white wine (optional)
2 cups arborio rice
4 cups chicken stock
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Pinch dried thyme (optional)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter

Press the saute button on the multicooker. Turn heat to medium, if you can adjust it. Heat the olive oil and then add the diced onion. Stir and cook until the onions start to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and rice and cook, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Add the wine, if using, to deglaze the bottom of the pot. (If not using wine, use a little of the chicken stock at this step.) Add the rest of the liquid, salt, pepper and thyme, if using.

Turn off the saute function. Place the lid on the multicooker and use the manual program to cook under pressure for 6 minutes. Quick release the pressure and then remove the lid of the multicooker. Remove the pot from the cooker so you can hold onto the edge of it while you stir in the Parmesan cheese and butter. (Removing the pot from the cooker will also keep the rice from continuing to cook as it thickens.)

The rice will thicken as it cools, but you can add a little more stock or Parmesan cheese to thin or thicken the dish before serving.

— Addie Broyles