Category Archives: Food and Drink

A Good Appetite: To Transform Your Weeknight Cooking, Turn On the Instant Pot

I bought a multicooker almost a year ago to report on for this newspaper. I figured that after publishing my article, I’d stick the machine in the basement with all the other once-in-a-while appliances (like that electric deep fryer). Then I’d dig it out for braising the occasional large hunk of meat to tender perfection, which, as I immediately discovered, it does better than any other piece of equipment — Dutch ovens and slow cookers included.

Over time, though, the multicooker became so embedded in the rhythm of my everyday cooking that I never unplugged it. I ended up writing my new cookbook for it, “Dinner in an Instant” (Clarkson Potter), as well as an in-depth guide at NYT Cooking. It was the slow cooker that went into storage, where it will remain until my next stoop sale.

What I especially love about the multicooker is its inherent flexibility, pleasing cooks of all temperaments.

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The ribs are first cooked using the pressure-cooker function, then glazed and broiled in the oven to finish. Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times

If you’re an organized, plan-ahead type of person, you can use your multicooker exactly like a slow cooker. Just use the slow-cook setting with any of your old favorite slow-cooker recipes without even having to adjust them.

Culinary procrastinators, on the other hand, can take full advantage of the pressure setting, which cooks food in minutes instead of hours.

I’m in the latter camp, and so this is my routine: On the way home from work, I stop at the store for some beans or grains or a package of chicken thighs. I throw them into the pot with a mix of interesting seasonings. Then I make a salad while the pot does its thing.

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Coconut curry chicken can be made beginning to end in an hour. Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times

That’s it. A satisfying dish that would normally take an hour or more is on the table in 20 to 30 minutes.

Now earthy soups, supple stews and luscious braises are within reach for winter weeknights, instead of being relegated to weekends when I have hours to let them simmer. In the summer I can quickly cook beans and grains for salads without heating up the kitchen, or steam artichokes without having to stare at a pot on the stove. I don’t even have to be home.

No matter the season, my basic strategy for using my multicooker on weeknights remains constant: I estimate how many minutes I have before I want dinner to be on the table, and work backward from there.

Often, getting my meal done in the shortest amount of time is simply a matter of how you cut up the ingredients — the smaller the pieces, the faster they will cook. So while a whole brisket or boneless pork shoulder might take 90 minutes to braise under pressure, beef stew meat cut into 1½-inch pieces, or pork ribs cut into two or three rib sections, will be tender in 20 to 25 minutes. Save the large, impressive, company-worthy pieces of meat for when you have more time.

You can apply the same method for dense root vegetables like beets and potatoes. While whole roots usually need about 20 to 30 minutes to cook, slices or cubes take 5 to 10 minutes.

Because I rarely plan ahead, one of my favorite multicooker tricks is to cook dried beans on a weeknight without soaking them first. Of course, you can’t cut them up to make them cook more quickly, but you can select smaller beans. When time is tight, buy lentils, split peas or adzuki beans, which cook from their dried, unsoaked state in under 20 minutes. Save the chickpeas, kidney beans and cannellinis for when you’ve got close to an hour.

NYT > Food

Alice Waters on Sex, Drugs and Sustainable Agriculture

“To scale something is always going to be a challenge,” said Traci Des Jardins, the San Francisco chef who opened Jardinière in 1998. “How do you keep the integrity? That’s what she always struggled with. You have to make sacrifices along the way to do that, and she has been so principled that she was not willing to make a concession.”

Ms. Waters hates the word “scaling,” calling it a fast-food-culture term.

“I leveraged myself in the best of all possible ways,” she said. “I have given a philosophy of food which I learned from the French to everybody who works at the restaurant, and they take those values and make them their own.”

She remains singularly focused on what seems impossible in the current political climate: giving all American children free organic food at school and tying it into the curriculum. “Feeding children is a moral issue,” she said.

People, she added, should stop expecting the federal government to make it happen; public policy is too compromised by the interests of large food conglomerates. “Any way we do this has to be done outside of the government and outside the pyramid,” she said. We need to go through the doors that are open, not the doors that are closed.”

To that end, she is pondering new ways to raise money through taxes, or from investors like Jeff Bezos. “We’re working on a letter to him,” she said.

She sees parallels between the state of politics today and the battles of 50 years ago, but her strategy is not to fight directly.

“Now is not the time,” she said over dinner in the upstairs cafe at Chez Panisse. “We’re like the French underground. We are passing notes to each other. But soon there will be something, an event, and we will come forward together. No one knows how powerful we are. We are vigilantes.”

Ms. Waters ordered a couple of salads, one built with arugula and prosciutto and another of purslane, cucumbers and Charentais melon. A dish of roasted Monterey Bay squid came to the table, along with a tangle of hand-cut, herbed noodles with chanterelles and thyme.

 

Her philosophy is posted at the Edible Schoolyard at Martin Luther King Middle School in Berkeley. Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times

Dessert was a collection of fruit starring a perfect Flavor King pluot, the kind of dish that critics say is more about shopping than cooking. But it was perfect, as it was in the more formal restaurant downstairs the night before. After 46 years, Chez Panisse is still a great place.

She asked a waiter to fill her glass with rosé and then not bring any more. More than a glass or two makes her too sleepy, she said. Not as in the old days, which she writes about in the book with lighthearted relish.

Ms. Waters describes drunken high school romps in the back seats of cars and subsequent pregnancy scares, a love of men and drink so powerful it got her kicked out of a college sorority on morals charges, and trips across Europe that did as much to provoke her culinary awakening as her sexual one.

She approaches other revelations with more sobriety. There was an attempted rape by a man who sneaked into her bedroom with a knife in the mid-1970s. She survived by jumping out a second-floor window, an incident that helped build a kind of steely resolve and confidence.

Ms. Waters writes with great affection about the men who were her big loves and shaped her views on film, music and politics, as well as the look and feel of the restaurant.

These days, Ms. Waters is more of an executive editor than a chef at Chez Panisse. She eats there every day when she is town, offering many, many suggestions.

“I hope everybody can see that I have a valuable role as a critic, because I’ve been there since the beginning and I’ve seen the restaurant go through lots of changes,” she writes.

Still, she knows people sometimes don’t ask for her opinion because she can be what might charitably be called insistent. To that end, Ms. Waters has worked on becoming more polite, saying please and thank you to the people under her umbrella.
NYT > Food