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A&E >  Food

Instant gratification: Instant Pots can bring sweetness to the holiday menu

Rice pudding and flan might not be the first two things that come to mind for Christmas dinner.

But Los Angeles-based cookbook author Laurel Randolph has adapted two of her own recipes for the holidays and both are easy and quick – and, of course, delicious.

Randolph served both desserts to local audiences when she was in town last week to prepare a four-course meal with Spokane “Top Chef” Chad White. The “Top Chef Meets the Instant Pot” cooking demonstration and dinner sold out.

The Spokesman-Review’s Northwest Passages Book Club and Yoke’s Fresh Markets hosted the event, during which Randolph and White created a holiday meal for about 70 people using Instant Pots.

The final course was gently spiced caramel flan with a thin layer of chocolate. And, during other cooking demos in Spokane last week, Randolph served an eggnog version of her rice pudding.

“They’re both good for the holidays,” she said.

Randolph is the author of “The Instant Pot Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook” and has also written for Los Angeles Magazine, Serious Eats and Eating Well.

Her latest cookbook, “The Instant Pot No-Pressure Cookbook,” was released in May. That’s also when she made her first trip to Spokane as a special guest at The Spokesman-Review’s Dorothy Dean Home Cooking Show.

She returned to town last week for a series of cooking classes, demos and meet-and-greets as well as the Dec. 5 dinner with White. It was his first time cooking with an Instant Pot. By the end of the event, he was joking about opening a restaurant where all the cooking is done in Instant Pots.

Randolph made nine flans for the event, which married White’s passion for Latin flavors and Randolph’s Instant Pot expertise. She adapted a salted caramel flan recipe from her latest book to include cinnamon and a thin layer of chocolate for the holidays.

“Flan is not really a traditional holiday dessert, but it’s a great one,” Randolph said. “It’s gluten-free. And you can flavor it any way you want, with cinnamon or nutmeg or other holiday flavors.”

She used a springform pan set inside an 8-quart Instant Pot to make her flan. A tart pan with a removable base or regular pan would also work. “I just run a knife around the edge, put a plate up to it and flip it real quick,” Randolph said.

The flan can be served chocolate-side up or caramel-side up.

“In the pot, the chocolate side is up. But I flip it to get it out,” Randolph said. “Either way, it looks nice and it’s going to taste good.”

The chocolate is melted in advance in a separate pot on the stove top. So is the caramel.

“It’s not safe to make caramel in an Instant Pot,” Randolph said. “It’s not meant for candy-making, and hot sugar is really dangerous. It’s not ideal conditions for caramel.”

It does, however, present ideal conditions for rice pudding.

“The rice pudding is nice to make in the (Instant) Pot because you don’t have to stir it all the time,” said Randolph, who made her rice pudding for appearances at River Park Square and Second Harvest last week. “You can add chocolate chips. You can add fresh fruit. You can make it whatever flavor you want to.”

She makes a version, for example, with mango and black sesame. To make this one taste like eggnog, she added nutmeg and garnished the dish with crushed gingersnaps.

And, she said, “You could also add some rum at the end, if you like.”

Instant Pot Eggnog Rice Pudding

By Laurel Randolph

With five minutes of prep, 10 minutes to cool and 15 minutes to cook, this holiday dessert takes a half hour in all.

1 cup short-grain white rice, rinsed well and drained

5 cups whole milk

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, plus extra for decoration

1 pinch salt

2 large eggs beaten, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup gingersnap cookie crumbs (optional)

Combine the rice, milk, sugar, salt, and nutmeg in your Instant Pot. Whisk together and secure the lid.

Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes and use a natural release.

Whisk the cooked rice and milk mixture well. Temper the eggs by slowly adding 1 cup of the hot milky rice to the eggs while whisking constantly. Add that mixture to the Instant Pot slowly, whisking the whole time.

Turn on the sauté function. Whisk until the mixture is simmering and starting to thicken up. Turn off the sauté function. Add the vanilla and mix well.

Allow the rice pudding to cool. It will thicken greatly as it sits. Serve warm or cold. Top with a sprinkle of nutmeg and gingersnap cookie crumbs before serving.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Spiced Chocolate Flan

By Laurel Randolph

3/4 cup sugar

1 1/2 + 1/4 cup water

2 cups whole milk

2 cinnamon sticks

1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped

2 large eggs

4 large egg yolks

1 (14-ounce can) sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon table salt

Prepare a 7- or 8-inch metal cake pan or ceramic baking dish that will fit inside of your Instant Pot. Fold a 1 1/2 -foot long piece of aluminum foil to make a long, 2-inch-wide sling. Position the middle of the sling under the pan so that the ends stick up on either side creating makeshift handles.

Add the trivet to your Instant Pot and add 1 1/2 cups water.

Combine the sugar and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Stop stirring, turn the heat up to medium-high, and bring the mixture to a boil. Cook, swirling the pan occasionally (but not stirring), until the mixture turns a deep amber color, about 6-10 minutes. Immediately pour into the baking dish before the caramel solidifies. Let cool for at least 5 minutes.

Combine the milk and cinnamon sticks in a medium sauce pot. Heat slowly over medium-low heat, stirring. Once the milk is bubbling on the edges but not boiling, turn off the heat. Remove the cinnamon sticks and add the chopped chocolate. Stir until melted and combined. Let cool for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolks. Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and salt. Whisk until the mixture is totally combined. Add 1/2 cup of the warm milk mixture, whisking constantly. Repeat two more times until well mixed. Add the rest of the milk mixture and mix well, without adding too many bubbles to the mixture.

Strain into the baking pan, pouring on top of the caramel. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Carefully place the pan with the foil sling on the trivet, making sure that the sling isn’t getting in the way of the lid. Secure the lid.

Cook at high pressure for 20 minutes and use a natural release.

Carefully remove the pan using the foil sling and set it on a wire rack. Remove the foil on top and let cool to room temperature before refrigerating, uncovered, overnight.

To serve, remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving. Run a paring knife around the very outside of the flan. Invert onto a serving platter.

P.S. Remember that there’s caramel in there! Use a serving dish that can hold the caramel sauce, too.

Yield: about 8 servings

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