Four years ago, Doug asked if I’d be interested in an Instant Pot (pressure cooker) for Christmas. My ears heard ‘Crock Pot’, to which I whole-heartedly replied, ‘Yes!’
On that Christmas morning, I carefully opened the package, but much to my surprise, an Instant Pot was revealed! Doug, beaming, expected me to be doing the same. Instead, I looked puzzled thinking he’d made a mistake, when, in fact, the mistake was mine. I smiled, thanked Doug, graciously accepted the gift, and placed it in a closet.
My daughter Mandy was just here for a visit. Before she arrived we planned to prepare a few family favorites together – including yalanchi. I told her I was considering making something with my never-used Instant Pot and she was thrilled to hear that I finally felt comfortable enough to step out of my comfort zone.
Allow me to explain my IP apprehension: Back in my early days in the kitchen, pressure cookers were used on the stovetop. Sometimes the pressure within the pot was so intense, it would literary blow the lid off, often creating a hole in the ceiling.
Mandy assured me that wouldn’t happen in the IP, so we unpacked it, did a dry-run with the ‘machine’, and she guided me like a pro. (It’s pretty funny that my daughter was giving me, a retired culinary teacher, a lesson in cooking!)
With Mandy helping, I agreed to give it a try.
The recipe we chose to make came from Ani Ehramjian, cousin Margaret’s twenty-something-year-old daughter. I had seen on FB Ani’s photo of the yalanchi she made using an Instant Pot, and it looked delicious.
To help with our experiment, Ani sent me her family’s recipe for ‘Stuffed Grape Leaves – the Instant Pot version’.
Mandy and I worked side-by-side, made some slight adjustments to the recipe, and were very pleased with the final outcome.
Many thanks to Ani for the recipe, and to Mandy for helping me overcome my anxiety about cooking with a pressure cooker!!
Yalanchi (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
- Instant Pot (Optional)
- 5 cups yellow onion (finely chopped)
- 1 cup flat leaf parsley (finely chopped)
- 1 cup rice (short or medium grain)
- ¾ cup olive oil (we used about 1/3 cup olive oil in all)
- 3 lemons (juiced)
- 6 oz tomato paste (undiluted)
- ¼ cup pignolia nuts (we used 1/2 cup)
- ½ tsp allspice (we used 1 tsp)
- ½ tsp dried mint (finely crushed)
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 18 oz grape leaves (rinsed and stem ends removed. We used the Tamara brand grape leaves from Armenia.)
Preparing the Filling
- In a non-stick skillet, toast pine nuts over low heat until fragrant and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Finely chop onions.
- In a large pan, sauté onions in 2-3 Tbsp of the oil over medium heat for 10 minutes until softened.
- With heat on low, add the rest of the ingredients – except for the grape leaves. Mix until combined, and then remove from heat. Set aside to cool completely.
Rolling the Grape Leaves
- Spread open each grape leaf with the shiny side facing down and the stem end toward you.
- Place a spoonful of filling in the center, fold over both sides and roll from the bottom of the leaf to the tip.
- Wrap tightly enough so the yalanchi won’t unravel during cooking, but not so tight that expanding rice will burst through the leaf.
- Line Instant Pot inner liner with ripped leaves.
- Put wrapped grape leaves in rows in pot, pack tightly. Do not exceed the limit line marked on the pot.
- Add 1 cup of water to the pot, squeeze in extra lemon juice if desired. (Special Note: Ani said do NOT place a plate on top of the stuffed leaves in the IP!)
- Following the manufacturer’s instructions for your Instant Pot, cook for 15 minutes on normal pressure, then 15 minutes natural release. It’s that easy!
- Chill until ready to serve.