Last year, before my husband and I got married, we painstakingly created wedding gift registries. From a long list of kitchen, bath, and household supply stores, we chose Target for its broad range of staple items, and Williams Sonoma for those items that we’d never buy on our own, but that our parents and siblings told us our kitchen should have. One Sunday afternoon in July, my Mom helped me hand select items for each registry in person. We visited Target first, and then Williams Sonoma, and using the barcode scanner that can you leave you a little trigger happy if you’re not careful, I built a wish list.
Months later, my sister and Mom mailed invitations to a host of family and friends for a bridal shower in my honor. In small, pink lettering at the bottom of the invitation were the words, “Sarah is registered at Williams Sonoma and Target.”
The day after that beautiful shower, cream and white gift-wrapped boxes with “Williams Sonoma” in black lettering covered the living room floor. Generously, we’d received nearly every item on the wish list. Now, we just had to find a place to store it.
We unpacked each shiny, new item, and searched for a place in our kitchen cupboards and pantry. Old spatulas, worn cookie trays, and a well-used coffee pot made room a zester, a pie plate, an electric vegetable chopper, and an Instant Pot.
More than one year later, that Instant Pot sat collecting dust, tucked away in the pantry next to the Ninja blender.
Until the Coronavirus outbreak.
Working from home, and staying at home, every day while the state is on a lockdown, I could only walk by the pantry so many times and ignore that Instant Pot.
And like many people, I’ve been cooking more often during this outbreak. The time after work that used to be reserved for Rotary meetings, yoga classes, dinner with friends, and doctors’ appointments is replaced with time to try something new in the kitchen. Last week, I baked bread for the first time – a surprisingly simple traditional challah bread topped with everything bagel seasoning. And the week before, I made chocolate chip banana bread.
It’s also time to try a new take on a favorite recipe. One of my husband’s favorite meals is General Tso’s chicken cooked in the Crockpot. One day, he suggested I make the same exact recipe, modified for the Instant Pot.
I rolled my eyes.
Though I’d heard nothing negative about this fancy pressure cooker, I remained skeptical.
“I love my Instant Pot,” was what I kept hearing my friends and coworkers exclaim. “I cook everything in it,” one friend told me. “Everything cooks so fast,” another friend shared.
It’s not that I wasn’t interested in trying the Instant Pot. But, I’m very loyal to the Crockpot– for both its simplicity and its hands-off approach. After a few steps, I can leave it alone for a few hours and return to a complete, ready-to-eat meal. Because there are just a few steps, completed by pressing just a few buttons (power, temperature, and time), it’s very difficult to screw up.
The Instant Pot looked as if it had way too many buttons, and way too many steps. Which meant way too much margin for error.
But, not one negative review.
Hard to argue with that.
I dusted it off, and followed the instructions for assembly.
An hour later, our dinner was ready.
The General Tso’s sauce wasn’t as thick as the Crockpot version, and I missed the breaded version of the chicken (no pre-breading and sautéing chicken in this version), but I couldn’t believe how fast that previously raw chicken had turned into tender, flaky pieces.
It was chicken, flash cooked in sweet, spicy sauce in 10 minutes, on top of jasmine rice.
My husband liked the Instant Pot version. Overall, I did too.
And I learned an important lesson.
I didn’t have to doubt my cooking abilities just because I was using something I’d never cooked with before.
Now, time to break out that pie plate.