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Recipes for an Instant Pot picnic

Lisa Futterman
Chicago Tribune

Now that I’ve been cooking in the Instant Pot for a while, I’ve been trying to think outside of the box about it. I’ve tripped up a few times (overcooked vegetables, undercooked beans), but I feel confident about Instant Potting everything from cheesecakes and flan to yogurt and paneer to risotto and biryani. It’s time for a new challenge.

I came across a recipe for country pate, a dish I had never tackled, done in the Instant Pot. Brilliant! Instead of being mildly overwhelmed by foil-wrapped bricks, water baths and caul fat, why not pressure-cook your forcemeat in a canning jar? And, if it’s already in a jar, why not take pate-in-a-jar to a picnic? And why not round out the offerings with more portable Instant Pot dishes?

I built a portable Instant Pot menu around the rich spiced meat classic, adding a fun savory spinach dukkah-spiced cheesecake-in-a-jar to spread on crackers or pita chips, and a gooey individual chocolate dulce de leche pudding cake-in-a-jar to spoon up for dessert. Grab a baguette and some mustard, then throw your jars, some spreaders and spoons in a cooler and go. Add some crunchy cut up raw vegetables, olives and cornichons, and you are all set.

These recipes beg to be made ahead, but if the idea of slaving over a hot Instant Pot all afternoon gives you any form of discomfort, pick just one and tell your picnic pals to pack the rest of the basket. Staying home this weekend? The jars of pate and cheesecake make fantastic appetizers (with their super-cute jar presentation) for a dinner party, and I don’t need to explain to you how delicious those cake jars are served warm from the Instant Pot with gelato on top! Just let them cool down a bit before serving, so your guests don’t burn their fingers.

Country Pate

Note: You’ll need four 8-ounce glass canning jars, such as Mason jars, with tight-fitting lids. If you have more of the forcemeat than can fit into the jars, save it to saute in a skillet to use in scrambled eggs or as a pasta topping. This recipe calls for chilling the mixture 8 hours before cooking it, then chilling the cooked pate again overnight.

Prep: 20 minutes, plus chilling time

Cook: 45 minutes

Makes: Four 8-ounce jars, about 8 servings per jar

2 cloves garlic

1/2 pound bacon

1/2 pound raw chicken livers, rinsed

1 pound ground pork

5 tablespoons brandy

3/4 teaspoon Chinese five-spice

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped

2 tablespoons butter

2 shallots, chopped

1 egg

2 tablespoons heavy cream

11/2 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt

In a food processor, chop the garlic. Add the bacon and liver; pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add the pork, brandy, five-spice, pepper and thyme. Chill, 8 hours or overnight.

In a small skillet, heat the butter over medium-high heat until melted. Add the shallots; cook until beginning to soften. Allow shallots to cool slightly, then add them to the meat mixture along with the egg, cream and salt. Stir to combine well.

Pack into four 8-ounce canning jars; tap firmly on the counter to remove air pockets. Screw the lids on loosely and set on a rack in the insert of the Instant Pot. Add 1 cup water to the bottom of the insert. Seal and cook for 15 minutes at low pressure.

Allow pressure to release naturally, about 10 minutes. Carefully remove the Instant Pot lid directing the steam away from you. Remove jars from pot; allow to cool on counter. Screw the lids on and chill overnight before serving with fresh baguettes, cornichons and Dijon mustard.

Nutrition information per serving: 64 calories, 5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 45 mg cholesterol, 0 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 5 g protein, 145 mg sodium, 0 g fiber

Savory Instant Pot Cheesecakes

Note: You’ll need three 8-ounce glass canning jars, such as Mason jars, with tight-fitting lids. Use the cheesecake as a spread or dip for crackers and crudites.

Prep: 25 minutes

Cook: 25 minutes

Makes: 3 jars, about 24 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 pound spinach, chopped

1 clove garlic, chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 package (8 ounces) reduced fat cream cheese, at room temperature

2 eggs

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons dukkah, see recipe

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, then add the spinach and garlic. Cook until spinach wilts, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow the spinach to cool. Squeeze out any excess liquid.

Combine the cream cheese, eggs, Parmesan, dukkah and spinach in a large bowl, by hand or with an electric mixer. Season to taste, then divide mixture among three 8-ounce canning jars. Cover loosely with lids, then set on a rack in the insert of the Instant Pot. Add 1 cup water to the bottom of the insert. Seal and cook at high pressure, 7 minutes.

Allow pressure to release naturally, about 10 minutes. Remove the Instant Pot lid carefully, directing the steam away from you. Remove jars from pot; allow to cool on counter. Screw lids on tightly; refrigerate for 2 hours before serving as a spread with crackers, pitas and raw vegetables, such as carrots, sliced cucumbers and sliced red pepper.

Nutrition information per serving: 40 calories, 3 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 23 mg cholesterol, 1 g carbohydrates, 1 g sugar, 2 g protein, 82 mg sodium, 0 g fiber


Note: You can easily halve this recipe, but it keeps forever. Keep it around as a seasoning for hard-cooked eggs, avocado toast, raw or cooked vegetables, meats (dukkah chops or dukkah burgers!), fresh cheeses, yogurt or add it to olive oil for a bread dipper.

Prep: 15 minutes

Makes: 1 cup

1/2 cup hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, cashews or a combination, toasted

3 tablespoons white sesame seeds

3 tablespoons coriander seed

1 tablespoon cumin seed

1 teaspoon fennel seed

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Place toasted nuts in a food processor; chop coarsely. (Or use a mortar and pestle.) Heat a small dry skillet over medium heat; add all the seeds. Toast gently until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add to the nuts in the mortar or food processor, along with the salt. Grind coarsely. Store in a tightly covered jar.

Nutrition information per tablespoon: 41 calories, 4 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 g carbohydrates, 0 g sugar, 1 g protein, 124 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

Chocolate Dulce De Leche Cake Jars

Note: You’ll need four 8-ounce glass canning jars, such as Mason jars, with tight-fitting lids.

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Makes: 4 jars (4 servings)

2 eggs

6 tablespoons dark brown sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/2 cup buttermilk

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/2 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

4 tablespoons canned dulce de leche

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, butter, buttermilk and cocoa powder. Whisk until smooth. Add flour, baking powder and salt, stirring to combine.

Divide batter among four 8-ounce straight-sided canning jars; add 1 tablespoon dulce de leche to each jar. Place lids on loosely. Place jars on a rack in the Instant Pot; add 1 cup water to bottom of pot. Cook at high pressure for 7 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally, about 7 minutes more. Remove the lid, being careful to direct the steam away from you.

Unmold the jars; serve the cakes warm with ice cream scooped on top, or allow to cool and tighten the lids, then serve cold or room temperature, plain or with whipped cream.

Nutrition information per serving: 364 calories, 17 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 132 mg cholesterol, 47 g carbohydrates, 32 g sugar, 8 g protein, 489 mg sodium, 2 g fiber