Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Instant Pot™ or Pressure Cooker Tomato Bisque (Tomato Soup)

As most of you know, I've been on a bit of an Instant Pot kick lately, so expect to see many of my recipes being converted for pressure cooking.

This week, I adjusted my Creamy Tomato Bisque recipe and served it during a visit from my in-laws with some nice toasted cheese sandwiches.  It was very well received, because who doesn't like grilled cheese and tomato soup?  The whole thing, start-to-finish, takes about a half-hour.

Instant Pot™ or Pressure Cooker Tomato Bisque

Note: If you wish, you can use 1/2 cup of water plus a generous tablespoon of Better than Bouillon.  If you have neither on-hand, water will do just as well.  A teaspoon of dried basil will also work here, though fresh has a much better flavor.

2 28-oz cans Whole or Crushed Tomatoes
2 sprigs fresh basil
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 small onion, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream or half & half
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

  1. Switch the pressure cooker to saute mode.  Add olive oil and onions and sweat the onions until they just begin to soften.
  2. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, a heavy pinch of salt and pepper, and basil.
  3. Place the lid on the cooker and set the valve to closed/sealing.  Press Cancel, then Pressure Cook and set timer for 10 minutes.
  4. Once the cooking cycle is complete, quick release pressure and carefully open the lid.
  5. Using an immersion blender, blend the contents of the pot until it is as smooth as you can get it.
  6. Place a wire mesh strainer over a bowl.  Working with one to two ladlesful at a time, pass the soup through the strainer, swirling and pushing with the back of soup ladle.  Discard the remaining seeds and tough bits.
  7. Rinse the pressure cooker pot and return the soup to the pot.  Switch the cooker back to Saute and bring the soup to a bubble.  If it is too thin, allow it to reduce a bit.  Once it reaches the thickness you like, add salt, pepper, and sugar to taste.  If you're used to commercially canned tomato soup, you may like it on the sweeter side.
  8. Melt in the butter and pour in the cream, stirring.
  9. Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches, of course, preferably made with nice artisan bread.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Instant Pot™ or Pressure Cooker Chicken and Rice Soup

The other day, I decided I wanted a "dump and cook" chicken soup that could be done in the Instant Pot™.  My wife suggested chicken and rice, which was a great idea, since rice normally cooks great under pressure (and in no time at all).

I'll admit the first attempt wasn't perfect.  For reasons I can't explain, I decided to let it release pressure naturally, even though I know very well that rice is a quick-release ingredient.  I also added way too much rice.  The result was mushy and thick, but nonetheless delicious.

The recipe below makes corrections for those two mistakes.  I haven't actually tested it yet, so I present it with caution, but I'm pretty sure it'll work just fine.

Instant Pot Chicken and Rice Soup

Note: This recipe uses white rice.  It can be done with brown rice, but the cooking time would need to be longer (about 20-25 minutes).

4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
1 pound of boneless skinless chicken
1/2 cup of white long-grain or jasmine rice
1 large onion
3/4 pound of carrots
2 large ribs of celery
salt and pepper
olive oil
  1. Wash, peel, and cut all ingredients into spoon-sized chunks.
  2. Switch the cooker to saute on high and heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bottom of the pot.  Saute the vegetables with a pinch of salt until they begin to soften.
  3. Add the chicken to the pot, stirring.  Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the rice, stirring, followed by the liquid.  Make sure all the rice is scraped off the sides and submerged into the liquid.
  5. Place the lid on the cooker.  Switch to pressure cooking high pressure and set the timer for 6 minutes.
  6. As soon as the cooking cycle completes, perform a quick pressure release.
  7. Open the pot carefully, letting steam flow away from you.  Stir the soup and give it a taste.  Adjust seasoning and serve hot with nice crusty bread or cheesy toast.

Instant Pot is a trademark that I use and mention without permission from the trademark owner.  Most of my Instant Pot recipes can be made in any similar multi-cooker or a stove-top pressure cooker, provided it can handle the settings described in the recipe (typically, high pressure for a designated amount of time plus saute/browning).

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Instant Pot or Pressure Cooker Chicken Marsala

I received an Instant Pot for Christmas and I've been making dinner in it almost every night for the past week or so.  I might be a little bit obsessed.  Just a little.  ;-)

Last night, I decided it'd be a good idea to convert my Chicken Marsala recipe for the IP.  It came out awesome, though it's not quite the "dump and stir" recipe you might expect for the IP.  In order to maximize flavor and texture, you need to do a fair amount of prep.

Instant Pot Chicken Marsala

Note: This is probably the only occasion where I'm going to say it's okay to buy Cooking Wine from the grocery aisle instead of a good drinking wine.  It makes a perfectly good Marsala sauce.  If you have a nice Marsala, feel free to use it, though you might have to use extra salt and the sauce might come out sweeter.

8-10 oz Baby Bella (Cremini) Mushrooms
1-2 pounds Boneless Chicken
1 large onion
3/4 cup of Marsala Cooking Wine
1 cup water or chicken broth
1 large clove of garlic, minced or pressed
olive oil or butter (about 1/4 cup)
1/3 cup Cornstarch
salt and pepper

  1. Thickly slice or quarter the mushrooms.  Chop the onion into a large dice (about 1/2 inch).
  2. Switch your multi-cooker to the saute setting and coat the bottom generously with oil or butter.
  3. Place 2 tablespoons of the cornstarch into a bowl or measuring cup and add 1/4 cup of water.  Stir thoroughly until no lumps are visible.  Set aside.
  4. Place the remaining cornstarch in a shallow bowl or plate.  Season with salt and pepper.  Coat the chicken with cornstarch.
  5. Working in batches, so as to not crowd the pan, saute each side of the chicken to develop a firm yellowish crust (it will not completely brown).  You don't want to cook the chicken through.  Just develop the crust.
  6. Remove chicken to a plate and add the vegetables to the pot.  Add additional olive oil and a pinch of salt.  Saute vegetables until they start to soften and lose some of their liquid.
  7. Add the wine, scraping-up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes to allow some of the alcohol to dissipate (else it will get trapped inside the pot and be kind of boozy).  Add the chicken stock and season with pepper.
  8. Nestle the chicken into the liquid and close the lid.
  9. Set the valve to closed and set your pot for high pressure and 6 minutes.  Allow the pot to complete the cooking cycle and release the pressure naturally.
  10. Open the pot and remove the chicken to a plate again, gently as it may start to fall apart.  press Cancel and Saute.  Bring mixture to a bubble.
  11. Stir-in the cornstarch and water mixture, which should thicken the sauce.  If it's too thick or gloppy, add a little water until it's the thickness you like.  Taste and adjust seasoning.
  12. Serve chicken and mushroom sauce over rice, pasta, grains like farro, mashed potatoes, polenta, or as-is with a good portion of nice crusty bread to soak-up the sauce.


  • You may find you have a lot of extra gravy and mushrooms after you've served all of the chicken.  This can be frozen or refrigerated and then used as a delicious pasta sauce.
  • If you wish to make this recipe faster, try tossing the mushrooms and onions with olive oil and a pinch of salt and microwaving them covered on high for a few minutes instead of sauteing them.  This should serve the same purpose of softening them and removing some of the water and can be done while you're browning the meat.

Instant Pot is a trademark that I use and mention without permission from the trademark owner.  Most of my Instant Pot recipes can be made in any similar multi-cooker or a stove-top pressure cooker, provided it can handle the settings described in the recipe (typically, high pressure for a designated amount of time plus saute/browning).

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Cranberry Relish

Every family has one or two recipes that come out during the holidays that are fairly unique to their family.  My family has Cranberry Relish.

It's not a pickled relish as you might expect from a hot dog relish.  It's all fruit, made with fresh cranberries, a whole orange, a whole apple, and just enough sugar to take the puckery edge off a bit.

Over the years, this has become my favorite condiment for that after-Thanksgiving turkey and stuffing sandwich.  I'll gladly pass the jellied stuff for a big heaping spoonful of cranberry relish.

Enjoy the recipe below.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Relish

Ocean Spray actually sold a similar product in a tub in the refrigerator section of the grocery store back in the 80's or 90's.  It came in various additional flavors, such as cran-raspberry, but the texture and taste was nearly the same.  I'm not sure what ever happened to them.

1 12oz package fresh or frozen cranberries
1 large range, preferably a thin-skinned variety
1 whole apple, preferably a less-tart variety
1/2 to 1 cup of granulated sugar to taste

  1. Wash the apple and remove the core and seeds.  Chop the rest of the apple, skin and all, into large chunks.
  2. Wash the orange and slice-off the stem and blossom end so that you can see the orange flesh.  If using a thick-skinned variety, such as a navel orange optionally remove half of the peel (the thick white pith is the most bitter part).  Chop the remainder of the orange into large chunks, removing any seeds as best as you can.
  3. Wash cranberries if using fresh.
  4. Place the apple and orange chunks into the bowl of a food processor outfitted with a steel blade.  Process in pulses until the fruit is very finely chopped, almost pureed.
  5. Add the cranberries.  Pulse just until the mixture is the texture of hot dog relish.
  6. Remove mixture to a bowl.  Stir-in 1/2 cup of sugar.  Taste and add additional sugar until you like it.  Keep in mind that the mixture will sweeten slightly as it sits, so you may wish to under-sweeten it and add more sugar the next day.
  7. Pack into an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days.  Serve.
Optional Canning Instructions
This product is made of high-acid ingredients and thus is safe to can.  The instructions provided below were devised by reviewing recipes for pickle relish and making some adjustments to buy a little extra safety.
  1. If the relish seems dry, add about 1/2 cup of water or commercial orange juice to loosen it up.  This will keep the density down for safety.  You might also wish to allow the mixture to macerate overnight in the refrigerator, which usually extracts juices naturally from the fruit and softens it.
  2. In a large pot, heat the mixture just until it is heated through and is at a simmer.  Remove from the heat.
  3. Pack into jars no larger than quarts.  Leave 1/2 inch head space.  De-bubble as best as you can, wipe the rims, and add lids and rings.
  4. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Pickled Swiss Chard

Pickled Swiss Chard

I like Swiss Chard.  It grows really well in my garden, has a mild flavor as greens go, and can be substituted for spinach, kale, and other hearty greens in soups, stews, frittatas...you name it.  Plus, it has a long growing season.  In fact, we've had a frost or two and it's still chugging away in my garden like it's nobody's business.

Unfortunately, this year we ended-up with too much.  I planted about 8 plants plus we joined a CSA, so I was receiving bunches of it from the farm each week.  We've also had a busy summer where I wasn't home cooking as much, so I really couldn't keep up with it.  I had to find a way to preserve it.

When it comes to greens, the easiest and most common way to preserve them is to blanch them in boiling water, drain, then freeze.  However, I find they get mushy and lose the fresh flavor that I love, so I was looking for something a little different.  I considered pressure canning them, but I figured that'd have much the same problem, plus they'd get kind of gray-ish.  Then, a thought hit me.

In my family, we've always eaten brassicas and greens (broccoli, spinach, cabbage, etc.) with a dash of vinegar.  I don't know where it started, but my Dad always did it and so I picked-up the habit.  It's a great way to give them a little pick-me-up flavor without drowning them in sauce or seasoning.  So why not pickle my chard?

I tried a single jar and it came out awesome.  So here's the recipe for you today.


Pickled Swiss Chard

For the Brine:
2 cups cider vinegar
2 cups water
1-2 tablespoons sugar (to taste)

1 teaspoon of pickling salt per jar
As much Swiss Chard as you like

  1. Wash chard leaves thoroughly.  Strip the rib out of the center and chop it into half-inch pieces.  Chop the chard into 1 to 2 inch squares.
  2.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.  Working in batches, blanch the chard and stems in the water until the greens wilt slightly.  Remove into a colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking and set the color.
  3. Prepare brine by bringing ingredients to a simmer until the sugar is dissolved and liquid is hot.
  4. Pack washed pint jars with 1 teaspoon of salt each and blanched chard, packing it full but not so tightly that it is compacted.  Leave 1 inch of head space.
  5. Pour brine over chard in jars leaving 1 inch of head space.  De-bubble as necessary.  Make additional batches of brine as needed to fill jars.
  6. Place lids and rings on jars.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.
Pickled Swiss Chard (in a Purple Jar)

Why is it Safe?
A 50/50 vinegar/water brine recipe is typical for most vegetable pickles and according to the NCHFP, sugar and spices can be modified at will in a pickle recipe (sugar is not acting as a preservative).  This particular recipe was adapted from the Food In Jars recipe for Garlic Dill Pickles with additional review of similar recipes.  A processing time of 10 minutes was chosen instead of 5 minutes to err on the side of caution against the chard being packed too compactly and making a denser product than cucumber pickles.