When home cooks think of the Instant Pot, we may consider it a convenience tool, mainly used for cooking dried beans quickly or perfectly steaming eggs that are a cinch to peel. While the Instant Pot does a great job at those tasks, it can do so much more in your kitchen. I myself have branched out to making yogurt, cheese, chicken and dumplings, pulled pork, pasta and ribs regularly in my Instant Pot. But what about when you are feeling fancy?
The Instant Pot has become as common in kitchens today as the microwave, but I can't say I necessarily break it out when I want to cook a special meal. I typically use my multi-cooker as a workhorse not a show pony. I love to make party food in it, but I recently planned a very special dinner party for friends. They had treated me to a multi-course meal at a local pop-up restaurant, one of the best I've had since I moved to Florida ten years ago, where we enjoyed all of this deliciousness.
So to return the favor, I wanted to cook a really special meal for them. But could a multi-course gourmet dinner all be done in an Instant Pot? I was up to the challenge!
First, I needed ideas. Instead of scouring over the Internet and my cookbooks, I decided to go straight to the source and pose a question to the official Instant Pot Community Facebook group which has over 3 million members. (Can we get The Chopping Block's Facebook group to that mark, please? Join now!)
To my surprise and delight, over 600 people commented with ideas! Here are the top ones:
- Risotto (suggestions for everything from mushroom to truffle to champagne chicken)
- Sous vide steaks (unfortunately my OG Instant Pot doesn't have that functionality, but I could bring back this method)
- Braised Red Wine Short Ribs
- Beef Bourgignon
- Beef Stroganoff
- Duck Confit
- Duck Curry
- Duck a la Orange
- Osso Bucco
- Coq au Vin
- Chicken Picatta
- Chicken Marsala
- Lamb Tagine
- Lobster Bisque
- Lobster Tails
- Steamed Crab Legs
- Truffle Mashed Potatoes
- Crème Brûlée
Wow! Now that's a plethora of delicious dishes to choose from that can all be made with the Instant Pot. I won't share with you some of the ideas (or jokes, I assume) for food that couldn't be farther from "gourmet" in my opinion, but they were certainly entertaining.
I landed on this menu for the dinner party:
- Lobster Bisque
- Red Wine Braised Short Ribs
- Potato and Parsnip Puree
I also threw in a winter salad of Arugula, Avocado, Grapefruit and Pistachios with a Champagne Vinaigrette as a second course, but that wasn't made in the Instant Pot.
I still needed a special dessert. Since I had already made cheesecake and Crème Brûlée many times before in the IP, I decided to turn to my trusty Instantly Mediterranean by Emily Paster. This cookbook has so many dog-eared pages and post it notes sticking out of it, it's a little bit shameful to the poor book, but it's also proof that it's one of my go-to Instant Pot resources.
When I asked Emily about gourmet food in the Instant Pot, she responded with lots of ideas from her book:
"I think there is a lot of upscale or elegant food you can make in the Instant Pot! A classic French beef stew is both homey and elegant and it is terrific in the IP. My book has a recipe for Provençal Beef Daube that I think would qualify.
I also am a big proponent of cooking seafood in the IP. People are always afraid to overcook fish because it is easy to do and because fish is such an expensive ingredient for many people. Cooking fish in liquid in the IP almost guarantees no overcooked or dry fish. AND the IP contains that “fishy” odor that sometimes discourages people from cooking fish at home.
My book has recipes for some elegant fish stews like Cod with Tomatoes, Capers and Olives or Halibut with Chermoula. Also, I have a recipe for seafood paella and Mussels with Fennel, Saffron and Tomato that is very elegant - like something you would eat at a French restaurant!
Lastly, the desserts are quite elegant: Crème Caramel, Lemon Pots de Crème and Butterscotch Budino. ~Emily"
Emily's Crème Caramel it was! This is best made the day before serving so it was my first step on Friday evening.
Reprinted with permission from Instantly Mediterranean by Emily Paster
Scroll down for a printable version of this recipe
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups whole milk
1 vanilla bean (optional, note: I skipped this)
Zest of 1 orange (optional, note: I skipped this)
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
Pinch of fine sea salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Place 1 cup of the sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small sauce pan and stir just once to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, without stirring - an occasional swirl of the pan is okay - until the mixture turns a golden amber color and smells like caramel, 6 to 8 minutes.
2. Working quickly, divide the caramel evenly among six 6-ounce ramekins or custard cups, swirling each ramekin after adding the caramel to coat the bottom evenly. Set aside.
3. Combine the milk, vanilla bean, and orange zest (if using) in a medium saucepan. Slowly bring to a simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.
4. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the salt until pale yellow in color.
5. When the milk is just at a simmer, remove it from the heat. While whisking continuously, gradually and slowly pour the warm milk mixture into the egg mixture to temper the eggs. (Do not rush this step or add too much milk at one time or you will scramble the eggs.)
6. Place a fine-mesh strainer or piece of cheesecloth over a pitcher or large measuring cup with a spout. Strain the custard into the pitcher to remove the orange zest and any bits of cooked egg.
7. Divide the custard evenly among the ramekins, pouring it on top of the caramel. Cover each ramekin with foil.
8. Place the trivet in the inner pot of your electric pressure cooker and pour in 1 1/2 cups water. Arrange three ramekins on top of the trivet and carefully stack the remaining three ramekins on top of the first three. (If you have an additional rack, use it for stacking the ramekins.) Close the lid and make sure the pressure release valve is closed. Select the Pressure Cook function and set the cooking time to 9 minutes at low pressure.
9. When the cooking program is complete, allow the pressure to release naturally for 15 minutes, then manually release the remaining pressure and remove the lid. Carefully remove the ramekins and place them on a wire rack. Allow the custards to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
Note: Be careful when stacking the ramekins in the Instant Pot so that ramekins aren't touching the tops of other ramekins. That's why the custard on the top left has a little indentation. But not to worry, since you will be inverting this dessert, no one will ever know!
10. To serve, remove the cover and run a thin knife around the inside of each ramekin. Place a dessert plate over the top of one ramekin, then flip the ramekin and plate together and gently lift away the ramekin, leaving the crème caramel on the plate. Repeat with the remaining ramekins and separate plates. Serve immediately. Crème caramel will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days.
Note: There will be likely still be some caramel stuck in your ramekins. To clean them, simply put them all in a large pot with water and boil. That will remove any caramel residue from the ramekins.
This Crème Caramel was smooth, perfectly dense, flavorful and just the right level of sweetness. I love Emily's recipes because she spells out everything in each step, including providing tips to make the process easier for you along the way.
For the rest of the menu, I adapted recipes from the ideas provided from the Facebook group. One name who came up constantly in the suggestions was Jeffrey Eisner who has two Instant Pot cookbooks. I was surprised I had never heard of him before, but his website Pressure Luck is full of popular recipes like this Lobster Bisque. However, I made some adaptions to his recipe.
Instead of using Lobster Better than Bouillon to create a lobster stock as Jeffrey suggests, I made my own stock by first boiling the lobster tails until the meat was done (boil one minute per ounce of tail) then plunging the tails in ice water to stop the cooking process.
Remove the meat from the tails and return the shells to the pot and simmer for about 15 minutes. When you are ready to use, strain out the shells.
I swapped the white wine and cooking sherry in Jeffrey's recipe for an equal amount of brandy, because I really like the flavor of brandy in any seafood bisque, including shrimp.
I used half the heavy cream the recipe called for and added more lobster stock to get the bisque to the proper consistency. This was more to cut down on calories, but it certainly didn't compromise the flavor.
I served the lobster bisque garnished with scallions sliced on the bias with a little bit of minced parsley rather than oyster crackers as the recipe calls for.
It was delicious! I would definitely make this lobster bisque (or adapt for a lesser expensive option like shrimp) again. Once it was done, I transferred this bisque to a pot to keep warm until serving.
For the entrée, I wanted to serve the short ribs over a starch made in the Instant Pot, so I used Emily's guidelines in her cookbook for making mashed potatoes but added some parsnips to the mix to bulk up the vegetables. I would have added celery root but unfortunately my grocery store was out! Just like the bisque, I could keep these warm in another pot while the short ribs were cooking.
Add 1 cup of water to the pot, put a steamer basket in and fill with large dice of potatoes and parsnips. Cook on high pressure for 8 minutes then manually release. Remove the steamer, drain the water (reserve it if you want to use it to thin out your mash instead of milk), return the vegetables to the pot and sauté 1-2 minutes to evaporate all of the liquid. Mash the vegetables with a potato masher. Season to taste with salt, pepper, butter (or olive oil) and milk (or cooking water from the Instant Pot).
Now, onto the short ribs. I love the Red Wine Braised Short Ribs recipe from Amy and Jacky, a very popular Instant Pot recipe website. However, I made some adjustments. Since there was a 1/4 can of tomato paste leftover from the lobster bisque recipe, I added that to the short rib sauce.
But the biggest difference between my short ribs and Amy and Jacky's recipe is that I use an immersion blender to puree the sauce once the ribs come out. Then I shred the meat, removing the bones and the fat and then return the meat to the sauce. Short ribs have a lot of fat, so leaving them intact can mean your guests have to navigate removing all of that fat and the bones from their plate, so I find it easier to do it for them!
First, season the short ribs with salt and pepper.
Use the sauté function and some high-heat cooking oil (like grapeseed) and sear the ribs in batches on all sides until brown and slightly caramelized.
Add in the rest of the vegetables (onions, carrots and celery) and sauté, then add garlic and seasonings.
Deglaze with red wine and return ribs to pot.
Add the rest of the liquid and seasonings.
Cook on high pressure for 45 minutes and naturally release pressure for 15 minutes.
Remove ribs from pot.
Puree the sauce with an immersion blender. I find that by doing this, the sauce is at the perfect consistency, but if you need it to be thicker, you can add a slurry of cornstarch and water like Amy and Jacky's recipe calls for.
Return the meat to the pot and serve over the mashed potatoes and parsnips.
This meal proves your Instant Pot can do the hard work, even if you are cooking an elegant meal. My friends and I enjoyed it very much, and now I've decided I need multiple Instant Pot inserts to cut down on washing and reusing mine!
If you want to learn how to make more delicious and slightly fancy dishes in your Instant Pot that just happen to be vegetarian and gluten-free, don't miss our special virtual demonstration class this Sunday, February 6 at 10am CST.
Emily will demonstrate how to make:
- Tomato and Zucchini Pashtida (Israeli Crustless Quiche)
- Vegetable and Chickpea Tagine
- French Lentil Salad with Walnuts and Feta
Cooking in the Instant Pot is this week's challenge for our private Facebook group. Join, cook a dish in your multi-cooker and share it with other home cooks. It's also the place to get all of your cooking (Instant Pot or not) questions answered by our chefs!