There were two things that got me excited about learning how to cook:

  1. Emily is really good in the kitchen, so I know she will be a big help (ok, let’s be honest – she does all the hard stuff.)
  2. We have an Instant Pot, which to me feels more like I’m playing with technology than cooking. It also cuts down on a lot of prep time, doesn’t require stirring/watching, and is pretty easy to clean up.

This week, Wendy and Sarah were away on a road trip so it was just Emily and me. We had a chance to experiment with some dishes and took advantage of it.

First up, we made carnitas. I am really clueless in the kitchen, so I had to look up what carnitas was (I mean, I knew I ordered it at Chipotle, but didn’t really have a clue what it was.) Thankfully the recipe I had told me which meat to buy in the grocery store (and when I mentioned it was Pork Butt, my daughter decided we would only call it carnitas from now on.)

The recipe I used was from here:

I have never made carnitas before, but from looking at other recipes, it seems like something that normally takes a long time. Like 8-10 hours. Now I know that low and slow results in some great tasting flavors, but I’m not ready for that kind of investment just yet. The Instant Pot recipe called for 30 minutes of cook time (though it was probably more like 90 minutes beginning to end.) That seems more reasonable and for about an hour of it, Emily and I watched a cooking show on tv.

I did get to learn my first real cooking term/technique in this process. The first step was to saute the pork. I had to look up what that meant, but then I realized it is just ‘brown the meat in a hot pan’. I’ve done that before but didn’t know the term. Emily did most of the work on the mojo, while I was figuring out how to saute. Since it was just the two of us, we had pork for two days. We had it on tacos one day and made nachos another. I forgot to take pictures of the process, but here is how it turned out as nachos:

Carnitas Nachos

The meat was tender and juicy, and the mojo flavor was really great. I can’t wait to make this one for my wife when she is back.

After having our fill of Mexican themed dishes, we decided to try ribs next. The ribs were in the freezer, so I ran some warm water over them just long enough to get the plastic cover loose. Rubbed salt and pepper all over them and then put them into the Instant Pot for 20 minutes (with warm up and natural release, they were in for about an hour.) When they came out, we coated them in barbecue sauce and put them in the oven for 8 minutes to finish them up. Here is the recipe we used:

and here is how they turned out:

Baby Back Ribs

Next time I think I will go with the full 25 minutes of cook time. These were not quite ‘fall off the bone’ ribs, but they did pull off the bone pretty easily without leaving any meat behind and they tasted amazing.

Next, we went for an Italian flair and made a Spicy Italian Sausage and Penne Pasta. This was a really fun and easy dish to make and it was unbelievably good. I will have to substitute milder flavors for the rest of the family, but Emily and I thoroughly enjoyed this. The recipe was from here:

Let me summarize what we did in my laymen terminology:

  1. Brown the sausage
  2. Pour in water
  3. Pour in noodles
  4. Pour in pasta sauce (we used store bought this time, but Emily makes a great sauce)
  5. Sprinkle with some seasoning
  6. Turn on Instant Pot to 7 minutes

Beginning to end this was on the table in 30 minutes and it was the best pasta dish I have ever eaten. We used a spicy sausage and added red peppers to it and really achieved a great flavor. Here is the finished product with some shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan:

Spicy Sausage and Penne

Our last experiment this week was a dessert. I had a lot of friends share recipes with me (who knew that there were so many fans of Instant Pot.) One that stood out to me was a recipe for a Chocolate Lava Cake. Emily and I both love chocolate lava cake and thought this would be fun to try. Here is the recipe we used:

and here is how it turned out (before and after ice cream and toppings):

Chocolate Lava CakeChocolate Lava Cake with Ice Cream Chocolate and Caramel

The cake turned out very dense, and while it had a good flavor, Emily did not like the texture at all (I got over it and finished mine.) We might try again with a different recipe, but in general, I think I will leave the desserts to Emily and the oven.