Too Hot to Cook? These Instant Pot Recipes Will Save You.

You’ll tame potatoes and squash in mere minutes.

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In the middle of a brutally hot summer—even by Austin standards—I’m not keen to fire up the oven. But at the farmers market, many of the vegetables I encounter are hardy ones that do well with a long, hot roast. There’s loads of butternut squash, a “winter” vegetable that in Texas gets picked and sold in high summer, and potatoes, dug in the spring and stored by farmers to be sold all through July and August. 

But one can’t survive on ice cream and takeout alone. Lucky for me, my colleague Kiera Butler introduced me to a gadget that has since become wildly popular: the Instant Pot. It’s a tool that can replace all manner of other contraptions, like rice cookers and crockpots. But the function I prize above all others is its service as a pressure cooker—one that, since it’s well insulated and driven by electricity, adds very little heat to my kitchen, even as it cooks like an absolute demon. 

And I’ve since discovered a concept I had no idea existed: pressure steaming. You just drop a steamer basket into your pressure cooker, add a little water, and you’ve got a magical tool. You can take a rock-hard, whole potato or a halved butternut squash, and in a matter of minutes, bring it to the fork-tender stage. For potatoes, this technique is particularly amazing, because it allows you to rapidly cook them whole, in their peels, without diluting their flavor with lots of water, as happens when you steam or boil them after they’ve been cut up. Pressure-steamed whole potatoes make for potato-ier potato dishes. 

Once you get the veggies steamed to perfection, you can just cut them up, add some fat and seasonings, and fast-brown on the stove-top or under the broiler. For the potatoes, you can also just cut them up, toss them in a vinaigrette, and create a fantastic potato salad, no oven-heating necessary.  

You can pursue this technique in any pressure cooker, not just an Instant Pot. But this countertop, electric-powered contraption works great for beating the kitchen heat.

Fast-Broiled Potatoes
(Yields three generous portions)

Six or seven fist-sized potatoes
Some olive oil
Salt and freshly ground back pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, mashed flat, peeled, and finely chopped
A pinch or two, to taste, of crushed chili flakes
1 bunch parsley, chopped (optional)
Place a metal steamer basket at the bottom of an electric pressure cooker and add 1 cup of water. Add the potatoes, seal the lid, and pressure cook for 14 minutes. Release the pressure and remove the lid. The potatoes should be fork-tender. (If they’re not, give them another 2-3 minutes.) Turn on your oven’s broiler. Move the potatoes to a cutting board, halve them, and cut each half into three pieces. Add the potatoes to a bowl and toss with two good glugs of olive oil and plenty of salt. Heat a large cast-iron skillet on the stove top until it’s smoking hot, drop in the potatoes and spread them across the bottom and broil them in the oven until they’ve browned. Flip them over, and repeat. When they’re nice and brown, remove them from the oven and add the parsley and garlic, tossing well. Turn that cursed broiler off, and serve immediately. 

Quick-Caramelized Butternut Squash
(Yields four generous portions)

1 butternut squash, halved lengthwise
Salt and freshly ground back pepper, to taste
1 quarter-stick of butter
Place a metal steamer basket at the bottom of an electric pressure cooker and add 1 cup of water. Add the squash halves, cut side down, seal the lid, and pressure cook for 12 minutes. Release the pressure and remove the lid. The squash should be fork-tender. (If they’re not, give them another 2-3 minutes.) Place the squash on a cutting board, and let cool. When your hands can tolerate it—after 15 or so minutes—peel the squash and cut it into bite-sized wedges. Place a large cast-iron skillet on the stove top over medium heat, and add the butter. Once it’s melted, swirl to coat the skillet and carefully place the squash wedges on the pan in one layer. Dust the squash with salt and pepper, and once they’ve browned on one side, flip and repeat. Serve immediately. 


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