Inside Stories

My gas was shut off before the pandemic but I haven’t stopped cooking. Here’s what I'm making

By Austin Havens-Bowen  |
April 8, 2020 - 2:15PM

The hotplate provided by the building boils water well, but doesn't work for serious cooking. 

Ronnie Bauch

Ronnie Bauch is a violinist and arts administrator who lives on the Upper West Side with his wife Sandy. On February 25th, the gas was shut off in their co-op building because of a leak and they were handed a hotplate to use for the next few months. Then came the Covid-19 pandemic, which closed restaurants and made grocery shopping challenging. Because he’s a serious cook, he decided to purchase a few new appliances and keep on cooking. Here’s what he’s been making. 

Our gas was shut off because Con Edison found a leak in our building’s basement. The next day, we got a memo saying that the problem would be fixed “as soon as possible,” but with no real timeframe. Rumors started to fly that it would be several months before gas was restored, so I decided to check in with my super, who confirmed it would be three to five months.

The next morning, we were told to come down to the lobby to pick up a hotplate. Our co-op building has 27 floors with around 220 apartments, and it was a sight to see so many college dorm-style hotplates.

My wife and I renovated our kitchen a few years ago, and because I’m a rather serious chef, we have a high-end stove. But now, I was stuck with a hotplate and our 45-year-old toaster oven—which makes great toast but not much else. 

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I knew even three to five months with a hotplate wouldn’t work. It heats water and fits a small frying pan, but it’s small and you can’t control the temperature so you can’t do any serious cooking on it.

At that point, the coronavirus wasn’t as serious in the city. That night, I went to hear the Branford Marsalis Quartet play at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and while I was waiting for a friend, I walked around William Sonoma. They were having a sale on Instant Pots, so I decided to order one when I got home. I picked it up the next day and started to figure out what I could cook.

Day by day, the pandemic got more serious and most of the stores and restaurants around us started to close. That’s when we realized that it would be much longer than three to five months before gas is restored—the word is now a year to a year-and-a-half.

One day, I was watching TV and saw a commercial for the Emeril Lagasse air fryer and I decided to order one. My wife thought I was joking and got a good laugh out of it—but a week later it was delivered. I opened it up and replaced our 45-year-old toaster oven. 

My new Instant Pot and air fryer are actually working out great. The biggest challenge is adjusting my recipe's cooking times since I’m working with much smaller appliances. Most people like these sorts of appliances because they cook fast, but that’s not my thing. 


Rotisserie chicken cooked in the Emril Lagasee air fryer.


Ronnie Bauch

I’ve cooked everything from a rotisserie chicken (I’ll never have to buy one at the store again) to steamed cod with scallions and ginger in my airfryer—and even banana date bread. One of my favorite recipes using my Instant Pot is a chicken dish with white wine and morels. 

The Instant Pot is also great for Indian dishes because you can saute and braise with it. I recently went to an amazing southern Indian restaurant in Ottawa and bought the chef’s cookbook so I look forward to trying those out using my Instant Pot.


Banana date bread baked in the air fryer.


Ronnie Bauch

It’s been fun trying to think of creative ways to cook since I can’t use my nine-quart Le Creuset dutch oven or anything like that right now. I’m a violinist, so adapting to my new cooking tools has been similar to learning to play with a new instrument. It’s about learning how to complete a task with the tools provided. I’ve also enjoyed sharing recipes with my friends who usually only use an Instant Pot to cook beef stew. 

For groceries, I drive up to Fairway in Harlem every week or two. It’s a bit crowded and they have the lines spaced out for social distancing, but overall it’s not bad. I haven’t run into many things I use being sold out—except for real Indian Basmati rice. We have a local Greek market on Columbus Avenue that we go to for last-minute items because they’re well stocked.


Braised short ribs with red wine and porcini mushrooms cooked in the Instant Pot.


Ronnie Bauch

The best part is that it’s actually brought my family more together. My grown kids live in Missouri, and my daughter has had an Instant Pot for years, so she gives me pointers and I share my new recipes with her. Anytime I get an error message, I reach out to her. 

I run a music festival in northern New Hampshire so I spend a lot of time there. My wife and I might end up escaping there since it’s not as bad as it is here in NYC (even though we’d have to quarantine for 14 days), but for now, I will keep cooking gourmet meals in my makeshift kitchen.


Chicken with white wine and morels cooked in the Instant Pot (see recipe below). 


Ronnie Bauch

Ronnie Bauch's Instant Pot Chicken with White Wine and Morels 


4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided  
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
½ cup flour for dredging  
Kosher salt and ground white pepper  
4 shallots, chopped   
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1.5 oz. dried morels  
3 cups water  
1/2 cup chicken stock
¾ cup dry white wine (Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, e.g.)
Juice and zest of one lemon  
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped


1.  In a small saucepan (or Instant Pot), bring three cups of water to a boil. Remove pan and add morels (or turn off the Instant Pot and add morels to the water) stirring well.  Let soak for 30 minutes or more. Drain mushrooms, reserving the liquid. Strain the liquid and quarter any very large mushrooms, if desired.

2. Rinse the chicken thighs and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper and dredge lightly in flour.

3. Using the Instant Pot high sauté setting, heat three tablespoons of the butter along with the olive oil. When the fat is bubbling, add half of the floured chicken pieces to the pot and cook, uncrowded and undisturbed, for 3-4 minutes per side, until nicely browned. Remove browned chicken to a platter. Repeat with remaining pieces. 

4. Using the low sauté setting, add the shallots and garlic to the pot and cook for three minutes. Season with kosher salt. Add the morels and cook for an additional two to three minutes. Turn the sauté setting to high and deglaze the pot with white wine, cooking for three minutes, or until the alcohol evaporates, scraping up any brown bits.  

5. Add the reserved morel soaking liquid and chicken stock to the vegetables. Bring to a boil. Add chicken back to the pot and stir. Cover the Instant Pot and pressure cook on high for 20 minutes. Leave the pressure on for another 15 minutes. Release pressure and remove lid.

6.  Place the chicken pieces on a serving platter. Add lemon zest and juice to the sauce and blend well. Add remaining butter and cream. Taste for seasoning, adding salt, if necessary, and simmer on the low sauté setting until slightly reduced. Pour sauce over the chicken pieces and sprinkle fresh parsley on top.

7. Serve with roasted asparagus and rice



Austin Havens-Bowen

Staff Writer

Staff writer Austin Havens-Bowen covers the rental market and answers renters' questions in a column called Realty Bites. He previously reported on local news for the Queens Ledger and The Hunts Point Express in the Bronx. He graduated from Hunter College with a BA in media studies. He rents a one-bedroom apartment in Astoria with his boyfriend and their two cats.

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