Pressure Cooker Chicken & Prune Tagine

Pressure Cooker Instant Pot Chicken Tagine

At the end of winter, food seems to need extra flavor. I’ve got lots of tricks for adding that flavor: plenty of aromatics, spoonfuls of spices, intense dried fruit, salty olives, or rich olive oil. In this chicken tagine, a hearty end-of-winter stew, I use them all. The best part is that the ingredients are all healthful, even while the standalone dish they create is hearty and satisfying. With sweet potatoes and chickpeas right in the pot, the tagine doesn’t need rice or couscous on the side.

Perfect InstantPot Chickpeas

Perfect InstantPot Chickpeas

I had the most idiotic moment in the kitchen a few months ago, when I tried to make the chickpea portion of the puréed Chickpea and Kale Soup from the Franny’s cookbook in my InstantPot.

The InstantPot is an electric pressure cooker that’s taken over the nation’s kitchens. Like any pressure cooker, it speeds up time by increasing the pressure inside the cooking environment. Everyone has her InstantPot obsession – the one dish that makes the appliance worth it. For me, it’s beans. Soaked dried beans become evenly soft in 22 minutes, a consistent outcome I have found with no other bean-cooking method.

20 Dinner Tasks To Knock out Early in the Day


I work from home, and one way I’ve found to make weeknight dinners part of the routine is to take five minutes here and there throughout the day to do a little prep. That might mean picking up an onion on my way back from a meeting or measuring out the soy sauce and sugar for gyudon in between calls. By the time I’m ready to really make dinner, dinner seems half made.

I know not everyone has the luxury of typing three feet from her fridge, but I thought I’d share the list of the little tasks I often do to divvy up the dinner cooking between my tired evening self and my peppier morning version. Many can be done while the coffee drips or on Sunday evenings, or even in the 10-minute layover between the office and the yoga studio. I’ve always loved food shopping (#15) during my lunch break, especially when I’ve worked near markets with speciality ingredients.

  • Remove kale leaves from the stem
  • Wash and dry greens (here’s how to store them if you do this more than a few hours in advance)
  • Measure out ingredients
  • Make sauces (like green sauce or peanut sauce)
  • Pick herbs off their stems
  • Marinate meat
  • Air dry your chicken
  • Take ingredients like butter, meat, or leftovers out of the fridge to temper
  • Soak grains (or beans)
  • Wash all the dishes
  • Make pizza dough (it takes less than 5 minutes to stir together a batch of no-knead, and you can adjust the amount of yeast for how long you’ll be letting the dough rise as per this post on Smitten Kitchen; once you have dough, homemade pizza is basically like making grilled cheese)
  • Parboil potatoes (pre-cooked potatoes roast up quicker)
  • Whisk together a salad dressing
  • Put sliced shallots in a bowl with vinegar (it’s the start of many a good veggie dish)
  • Plunk ingredients in the slow-cooker (try onions, tomatoes, a sweet potato, olive oil, and chicken thighs)
  • Go shopping
  • Toast nuts (since they’re good on top of salads and quinoa bowls and wherever you need some protein)
  • Roast vegetables (since they’re just as good room temp as hot)
  • Grind bread crumbs and toast them
  • Caramelize onions
  • Chop vegetables (except onions and garlic) and store in a bowl beneath a damp paper towel

Two Gifts: Coconut Granola and a Scale


The last-minute gift for your family and friends is a jar of this homemade coconut granola, which hits all the right notes: salty, sweet, crunchy, and rich. I love it.

The gift for you (or your favorite baker) is a kitchen scale. Hear me out. 

A Beef Stew


For the second Sunday in a row, there’s a pot of this stew in the oven. That’s a picture of how colorful it looks when it goes in. When the timer beeps, four hours later, the greens and oranges have caramelized into the height of flavor.

It’s based off of the very famous (in my world) and very good Silver Palate short rib recipe. But there were a few stoppers in that recipe for me, namely beef stock, which I never have. I decided that any liquid would do, there are so many vegetables in the pot anyway, that flavor emerges inevitably. So far I’ve used: chicken stock, red wine, tomato juice from the can, and water. The stews are a little different each time, but always tasty, and the recipe is easy enough to make just for yourself, though also a fancy main dish for parties.

The original short ribs contribute plenty of flavor and fat, and they have one more perk: Since they’re bigger, you brown fewer. Pieces of chuck roast work just as well, you’ll just be browning a few minutes longer. After that step, the rest of the ingredients get piled into the pot and hoisted into the oven. For four hours, you do whatever you need to do on Sundays, and then you eat.

Here’s the recipe.

Catching Up

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Whew, I didn’t mean for my pause to go on quite that long. Three months is the longest period of time I’ve gone without posting on Big Girls, Small Kitchen in eight years, a break in routine that should have seemed shocking – except, it didn’t! It seemed exceptionally natural to take a little break, especially from social media. I found relief in not thinking about likes on instagram or links on twitter or sharing on facebook at all, and relaxation in cooking for family, friends, and me without simultaneously drafting posts about every bite.

But I am here and working! I recently wrote about a diamond dealer who opened his own shelf-stable hummus biz, a pastor who runs a rooftop farm whose harvest supplies her food pantry, and what it means that venture-capital money is seeping into the food world. I went deep into the world of breakfast potatoes, developed Thanksgiving leftover recipes, and learned about wok cooking from Fuschia Dunlop. This semester, I helped teach a class about the New York City economy as an adjunct lecturer at a journalism program for graduate students.

I have also been cooking. Over the summer, I soaked raisins to create my own sourdough starter and have been baking dozens of loaves of sourdough bread from Sarah Owens’ book, Sourdough. I used discarded starter to make pie crusts, biscuits, puff pastry, and veggie pancakes. For weeknight dinners, I’ve made curries and dals, pot pies and beef stews, and a poached chicken with ginger-scallion sauce from the first issue of Chris Kimball’s Milk Street.

To round out the explanation for my absence, there’s one more thing I’ve been doing: taking care of my first baby, whom we welcomed in August!

Though I’ve been cooking more than ever and writing plenty too, this happy shift in the amount of time I have to do my work forced a parallel shift in priorities, and BGSK kept ending up at the bottom of the to-do list.

Yet, I am working on a plan for this space. I think what I’d like to do is fill it back up with the recipes I’m really cooking, rather than produced and scheduled and developed dinners that I hoped you would like. I’d like to talk about incremental cooking, cooking for the week, and the simple dishes that are delighting me right now – perhaps without the perfect pictures and lengthy intros of the current blogger aesthetic. We’ll see.

In the meantime, thanks for reading and cooking from the archives. I’ll be back soon! -C