Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa, and her cookbooks are already a source of guidance for basic recipes but her show serves as my inspiration for more adventurous culinary efforts. So now that I’ve got the essentials down it’s time to branch out. I’ll choose a recipe from an episode of the Barefoot Contessa to try in my tiny New York kitchen. We’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!
Episode: “Anniversary Dinner”
The Set-up: Ina and Jeffrey are celebrating their 39th anniversary with a special dinner on the porch outside the barn.
0:21 – Ina says that she and Jeffrey had a white, multi-tiered fruitcake at their wedding. Umm, eww no thank you.
0:39 – Thank goodness she’s not going to recreate the fruitcake monstrosity. Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Buttercream frosting is a no brainer substitute.
1:24 – Cake batter is underway. The secret ingredients for making chocolate flavor really come through: coffee and vanilla.
2:02 – Cake pans in the oven! I really need to try making a layered cake sometime which if I'm honest will probably be never…
2:59 – Ina’s telling stories about their first anniversary. She went nuts looking for something within the $5 budget. He got her a cashmere scarf. I think Jeffrey and my husband have the same M.O. when it comes to gift giving rules: Ignore!
4:07 – Ahh, their wedding album is so sweet! I love black and white wedding photos and Ina’s hairstyle is straight out of the 1960s.
4:34 – That is a MASSIVE pile of chopped chocolate. How did she resist sneaking a small sample? That’s discipline.
5:50 – I had no idea that buttercream frosting had egg whites in it. I wonder what other hidden ingredients are in my desserts – please don’t tell me!
6:03 – Okay, unless it’s rum. Rum works.
11:06 – The chocolate frosting looks so, so good. Pro tip: A hot palette knife will make the frosting surface super smooth.
14:15 – Mischief is afoot! Instead of working Jeffrey has been secretly out shopping for Ina. That sly devil.
15:00 – Coq Au Vin time and it’s off to a great start: bacon!
16:20 – Chicken, carrots, onions and garlic have all been browned in the lime green Le Creuset. I think that's the kitchen item I use most and Ina is a devotee of cast iron french ovens.
16:30 - Next? Deglazing the pan with cognac. Ina doesn’t say what she uses, but I’m assuming she and Busta Rhymes agree: pass the Courvoisier. No? Just me? Okay, cool.
17:00 – Onward! The chicken goes back into the pot and into the oven.
20:22 – Decorating the porch with candles and lavender napkins. So simple and elegant. I’d love to get a look at her linen closet. No, that is not a euphemism.
21:08 – I think Ina just hated on button mushrooms.
22:30 – Ina is thickening the coq au vin sauce with flour mashed into softened butter. This is brilliant – no lumps!
27:00 – Jeffrey is super stealth. Ina’s presents have been hidden table-side for the big reveal. Mission accomplished.
27:10 – Garlic mashed potatoes with sautéed garlic and a splash of heavy cream. Aaand, now I’m hungry.
29:00 – Dinner and presents are served! Jeffrey is totally busted for giving Ina more than the allotted 1 present and invokes the ‘hubby’s prerogative’ clause of their marriage. I like his style.
29:38 – The moment I’ve been waiting for – cake!! Wedding cake cutting re-enactment complete, and it’s another successful anniversary celebration.
Lessons Learned: I’ve made beef bourguignon in the past and the recipe for Coq Au Vin is very, very similar so I felt confident that I could handle this one and whip up some Garlic Mashed Potatoes too. Making the dish is pretty straightforward but there are a few different steps, so I had to pay close attention and make sure that I did them in the right order. The Coq Au Vin alone is pretty small kitchen friendly 1 large pot, 1 medium pan, a few basic kitchen implements, and a plate or two for reserving the chicken while the vegetables sauté. Adding the Garlic Mashed Potatoes to the mix made it more complicated and took some focused organization to coordinate with the final stages of the Coq Au Vin. At one point I had 4 pots and pans going on the stove. So, if your kitchen is really tiny or you don’t have that much cooking equipment another side dish might be better. Roasted potatoes or crusty bread perhaps?
My husband loved this and commandeered the leftovers the next day, so that’s a definite vote in favor of making this again. This would be great for a dinner party too especially served with a fresh salad or greens.