Even if they are usually gimmicky, I am often fond of contraptions advertised to make cooking at home easier, or if nothing else, more interesting than the norm.
I still look at George Foreman’s grill with fondness. After all, it is a “lean mean, fat-reducing grilling machine.” It can be a nightmare to clean, but if you wrap some asparagus in foil with red onions, sea salt, and only a little olive oil, you have nothing to worry about.
I wouldn’t recommend using it to make burgers if you live in a small apartment and worry about your spot smelling like turkey burger patties for longer than any human should have to endure, but personally, I still find that less embarrassing than barbecuing on the sidewalk. Either way, they have grill skillets for that, and if all else fails, a delivery app to spare all parties of shame.
In college, I embraced the FryDaddy because, for the life of me, I needed catfish nuggets made just the way I like it. That and, to be blunt, I never got over the fish grease that popped in my face as a teen. I used a FryDaddy well into my 20s. Yes, some of my friends joked about the name, but they all said my fish smelled good.
And I know this counts as a controversial decision among select groups, but I love the Air Fryer.
Apparently, an Air Fryer is sort of like a convection oven. I didn’t know what a convection oven was until I spotted people naming it to insult Air Fryer enthusiasts. After Googling, I went, “Oh, that thing my grandma had!”
Listen, it is the American way to pretend you invented some shit that already existed and it is my duty as a citizen to be suckered into monetarily supporting the rebrand.
Regardless, it makes great salmon, yuca fries, regular fries, and obviously chicken wings. As a rule of a thumb, though, I still recommend people use the Louisiana brand’s Air Fryer seasoning. I’m closer to 40 than 30, but chicken nuggets will never not comfort me. That mix, coupled with my seasoning makes for a great time — and in a plague, we have to find joy where we can, repetitive or not.
Unfortunately, there is one trendy cooking contraception (pardon my country) that I have purchased but have yet to use: the Instant Pot.
When I first heard of it, I fixated on the word pot. I love a crockpot so I assumed it was going to be a little like that. Then the box arrived, and with it, my terror soared. I was not familiar with pressure cookers before this purchase and I have yet to take the plunge.
I first shared my fears publicly a year ago. I’ve never been that big on Halloween outside of Hocus Pocus and appreciating the sight of men in “slutty” costumes, but it felt as good a time as any to share my concerns with the world. There I found a tribe in my responses.
Like others, I started to ask myself some questions — mostly centered around whether or not I ran the risk of my face being caught up in an explosion.
I am a clumsy somebody, and for reasons I cannot explain, electronics and I have some kind of cold war going on for as long as I can remember. It would be just my luck that while using the Instant Pot, something goes awry and half my face is gone. Not everyone can pull off the Harvey Dent look.
It also kind of made me feel guilty. As in, I wasn’t raised to think you can whip up some of these items in that short amount of time. How dare I not wait eight to 10 hours like my elders. So, between fears of fire and brimstone slapping me directly across my face combined with the thought of disregarding the slow cooker values instilled in me at a young age spurred more panic.
I continued to express my fears online for more holidays.
As you can see, I was thinking about my fear of the Instant Pot on Valentine’s Day. Don’t worry: I’m fine with being single. Love will come, but I don’t want to burn my home or myself down while waiting for it.
April 25th was more of a random declaration, but for the record, it is both National Hug a Plumber Day and National Telephone Day, respectively.
Since then, I have tried to conquer my fear at the encouragement of others.
I looked at many YouTube tutorials. Let the Instant Pot hive tell it, you can make damn near anything with the machine in a short amount of time. They make it look so easy. They make it look so rewarding. Did it make me hungry? Maybe, but I was still turned off more than not.
I will admit that I would really like to make some short ribs that didn’t taste like I was a Texan that never learned to appreciate beef, and in theory, the Instant Pot could help me. At the same time, maybe that’s more of a sign that I just need to move somewhere that I can barbecue outside? Well, after I ask my dad to finally teach me how to barbecue versus just submitting my order to him.
Tease me all you want, but if something goes wrong, who is going to throw water on my face? Who is going to tell me when it’s okay to stop doing the stop-drop-and-roll combo at the first sign of fire?
After an entire year, the pressure cooker doesn’t feel any less terrifying to me. But instead of punishing myself, I have decided that as much as I loathe navigating choices from a place of fear, isn’t fear all the rage this year? No matter what select sociopaths and simpletons say, we are still in a pandemic.
If anything, I’m being responsible. I have to purchase a better health insurance plan in this latest enrollment cycle of Obamacare, and it doesn’t seem very adult to tempt fate with an Instant Pot when I already have to worry about what happens with the coronavirus. And really, now more than ever have I learned the virtues of patience.
Life doesn’t work on my schedule and neither shall my ribs.
So if you want an unused Instant Pot, feel free to drop me a line. I am not touching that thing. Not now. Not ever.
Super-Cheap Dinner # 6
We’re going to make subscribing to The Bittman Project worth it, in part by offering super-cheap, super-delicious recipes you’ll want to cook. The idea is that we’ll post one ultra-budget-friendly recipe each week for subscribers only. While this can’t ever be more than back-of-the-napkin math (“affordable” is subjective), we figure that cooking your way through these recipes over the course of the year will more than offset the cost of an annual subscription, which amounts to about $1.35 per week.
Potato Pancakes With Scallions and Kimchi
A simple skillet cake is perhaps the quickest way to get potatoes on the table, even if you factor in the flipping technique. And the dipping sauce is absolutely killer. Extra points to anyone who tells us how to make it in an Instant Pot.
I use my Instant Pot to make mushroom wild rice pilaf regularly - cooked perfectly every time, hands-off as soon as I sauté the garlic or shallot and mushrooms, then add the rice and the stock. It’s divine. And I can make the rest of dinner and/or catch the news while it cooks. Start to finish, about 45 minutes unattended.
Yep, that's me. It took me 6 months to work up to doing the water test, and then another 3 to cook something (I forget what) -- just too much bother for something I can do on the stove with a little more time -- of which I have plenty. Plus, everything I might want to make requires sauteing first -- and who wants to saute chicken pieces in an awkward pot when it's so much easier just to do it all in a cast iron pan?
You'll find my used-once instant pot on my local marketplace in spring...or as soon as I can find it after exiling it to my overcrowded storage room.