United at dinnertime
As a home cook, I liked to indulge myself in kitchen experiments. But as a stay-at-home mom with kids and crazy schedules, that became a luxury I didn’t have time for. Back then we had some muddled mealtime values evolved from living and traveling in different parts of the world. We cooked every meal from scratch and always ate at the dinner table, but due to work constraints our girls would eat before us. Then when the kids started school, I realized that dinner time might be the only occasion during the day when the four of us could be united without distractions. It was my mission to make 6 pm dinner a new norm for us, and from what I had learned from my friend, Meg, a slow cooker seemed like just the ticket.
I didn’t know where to begin and my culinary knowledge was being challenged by this alien piece of kitchen equipment. My first slow-cooked recipe was chicken broth. It felt like a safe bet as something which could bubble away gently all day without spoiling. I studied my prized cookbooks in a new light, adapting recipes and incorporating fresh produce from my urban garden. My favorite adaptations included a Jamie Oliver–influenced Ribollita, anything French from Anthony Bourdain’s Les Halles cookbook, and a coffee and cocoa dry rubbed brisket inspired by a close friend. I soon banished the myth that slow cooker food was one-dimensional – grey, stewy, and gruel-like.
Make room for the Instant Pot
Fast forward to 2015 when my beloved slow cooker had to make room for a newcomer: my first Instant Pot® (a type of multi-cooker). A multi-cooker can be intimidating, so to get started I went back to basics and tested my Instant Pot with chicken broth, the same recipe I began my slow cooker journey with. The results were astounding! This new device genuinely does produce the richness of a broth simmered for hours.
I immediately dashed out to purchase more ingredients, this time for Julia Child’s Coq au Vin. As soon as I lifted the lid, the mouthwatering smell of chicken and herbs bathing in a rich red wine sauce hit me. I spooned it straight into my mouth from the pot. It was my ‘ah-ha’ moment; to be able to create a dinner-party-worthy dish, cooked in minutes, was a true revelation.