Monday, July 13, 2020

Instant Got

Anyone who has one of these things knows that Instant Pot is not a kitchen appliance, it is a religion. Some call it a cult, but they are not among us who know that these counter-top droids are a gift from God.

So far, I have used ours to make:

  • Risotto
  • Butter chicken
  • Beef stew
  • Cheesecake
  • Pea soup
  • Lentil stew
  • Fudge cake
  • Cornbread
  • Mushroom soup
  • Beef bourguignon
  • Short ribs
  • Navy bean soup
  • Hard-cooked eggs

And, of course:

  • Rice

Now, you can make all of these things without an Instant Pot (which everyone calls an "Instapot," but I am kind of hard-nosed about that). But there is something entrancing about using this machine. First, you do it all in one pot, and it is small enough to fit in your dishwasher. Second, it is a pressure cooker, so it is fast. Third, the magic of pressure cooking is all about the thermodynamics that allow its interior to rise above 100 Celsius and that, in particular, allow the water in your food to rise above it as well (trust me on this: you cannot make water rise above that temperature at ordinary atmospheric pressure, even in an oven set to 500F; it will boil away first). That results in amazingly tender cooked meats.

There are other virtues to this wonder of science, but I will end with: Fourth, when it pressurizes, it just sits there, silently, until the timer you set expires. You couldn't really even open it if you wanted to, as it seals tight while pressurized. It makes no noise. It emits no steam. It sheds no drops of water. As far as you will ever know, it could be sending what's inside to another dimension of time and space, one where benevolent Kanamits apply advanced technologies we will never have, after which it is returned to you in a form you cannot achieve in any other way. And that really is its more beguiling feature. You just seal it, wait, and when you can open it again, you will (if you do it right) have a meal you won't believe. Something about that quiet mode of operation makes it seem all the more enchanted. It doesn't ever seem to be "doing" anything. But it works.

Which brings me to my question. My penultimate entry was "Hard-cooked eggs." You just put a half-dozen of them on the trivet that lifts things above the bottom of the pot, add a cup of water, and pressure-cook on "high" for eight minutes (for eggs from the refrigerator; seven minutes, if the eggs were at room temperature). Blow the release valve immediately and put the eggs in ice-water when the time expires. You will have perfect hard-cooked eggs. And, so far, every single one of them has given up its shell without a fight.

You know what I mean. Hard-cooked (or "hard boiled") eggs often seem glued to the insides of their shells. Huge chunks of egg-white come off with them as you try vainly to peel your way down to a smooth ovoid. I've tried every trick there is, too. Suction. Shaking in a jar of water. Some kind of Swedish plastic scalpel. All work half the time, just like your fingers. But my Instant Pot eggs seem to be "wrapped" in their shells, not welded to them. Now, a shy egg might still be in my future, ready to keep its modesty as I do my best to see it in the nude. But, so far, all have just let their shells slide off. So, is it possible that pressurizing an egg does something to the seal between it and its shell? Something that breaks that seal? I mean, it's not like this machine hasn't already earned my obeisance for life. But this would elevate it from being a gift of God to the status of an idol in its own right.

Any of you making hard-cooked eggs with your Instant Pot? What have they been like to peel?

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