As inspiration for more adventurous culinary efforts I’m following along with Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa, in my tiny New York kitchen. Let’s see if I can keep up with the Contessa!
Episode: “Jeffrey’s Treat”
The Set-up: Mr. Garten landed a new book deal, so Ina is celebrating with a bistro dinner
0:59 – Ina says that the first thing she and Jeffrey want to do upon arrival in Paris is eat bread and pastries. This seems like a perfectly natural reaction.
1:10 – Bread baking is a total mystery to me, and French pastry isn’t too far behind… watching this Strawberry Tart process carefully.
2:23 – Pro Tip #1: Keep the flour, butter, shortening and water super cold.
3:17 – Ina also claims to be intimidated by pastry, which makes me feel a little better.
4:41 – Next, the pastry cream – milk is simmering; eggs, sugar and cornstarch are mixing. This reminds me a lot of the Lemon Curd Tart filling steps.
5:35 – Ina says that the cornstarch prevents the pastry cream from turning into scrambled eggs. Tricky!
6:44 – This is quite a process (mixing, heating, sieving, cooling) so you know if anyone ever makes homemade pastry cream that they really, really like you.
7:29 – Pastry shell time. Pro Tip #2: Roll pastry dough from the middle and never stretch it to fit – it just shrinks back during the baking process.
11:16 – The shells are done and the pastry cream has cooled, so now Ina is assembling the tarts and arranging strawberry halves on the top.
12:07 – Pro Tip #3: Glazing the berries and pastry cream with a thin layer of apricot jam keeps the moisture in and makes the tart glossy. Gorgeous.
13:42 – Ina says she developed a taste for Whiskey Sours because her father gave her the cherries from his drink. Funny, I learned to like Manhattans the same way. Cherries, a gateway to boozy drinks.
14:55 – She’s not messing around with these drinks – no powdered sour mix here, friends.
15:38 – We on a quick errand to pick up the steaks for Filet of Beef au Poivre and get Pro Tip#4 in the bargain. Bill the Butcher says to look for marbling and a darker red color when selecting a piece of meat.
20:26 – Back at the proverbial ranch to make Matchstick Potatoes which really are classic at a bistro.
21:45 – Ina rinses the slivered potatoes in water briefly before drying them on papertowels and frying in hot oil. She doesn’t say why, but Food + Wine mag says it removes starch that can keep the fries from getting crispy.
22:57 – While the fries stay warm in the oven Ina moves on to the main course: Filet of Beef au Poivre
23:30 – Filet mignon sautéed in butter? Yes, please!
24:19 – Now a pan sauce that reminds me a lot of recipes past like Chicken with Shallots, which was delicious!
27:05 – It’s cocktail hour! If I’m not mistaken I think that’s a jar of Silver Palate maraschino cherries (aka the best $7 bottle of cherries, ever.)
28:21 – We get a quick interlude over cocktails while Jeffrey wraps up his writing for the day. Something tells me the chapter fueled by Jack Daniels will be a great read.
29:11 – Finishing touches on the au poivre sauce and it’s time for a dinner of steak frites.
29:50 – Ina and Jeffrey make a great bargain – steak au poivre to begin and end each book, roast chicken in between. Sounds like an excellent deal.
Next time I have a free afternoon with nothing but time I do want to try making those little tarts.
Ina may have a future as a mixologist with that beaker full of Whiskey Sours.
I love the idea of tradition-based celebratory meals – so far ours is pizza & champagne on our first/last nights in a new home…
Cooking a good steak seems like something I should have mastered by now, but I’m always looking to improve my skills on this basic technique and with birthday season upon us it seemed like a good time to try making Filet of Beef au Poivre.
The trickiest part for me was getting the butter hot enough - I always worry that it will burn and that I’ll have to start over - to give the filets a nice brown sear. The next trickiest part is resisting the urge to move the steaks around or check them too soon – again, the exterior crust is the goal and that doesn’t form if the meat is shifted around.
Mike is happy on the rare side, but I usually like my steak closer to medium than rare and while the recipe says that the steaks should come out medium-rare, I find that I usually need to add a minute or two to Ina’s cooking times. Same deal here – I’d recommend a meat thermometer too if you’re unsure how close the internal temperature is.
Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, definitely. The most important item is a sauté pan with enough space for the steaks to have plenty of room. I used a medium pan for two filets, a small cutting board, chef’s knife, liquid measuring cup, and measuring spoons. I also needed a plate and aluminum foil for resting the meat.
I made Filet of Beef au Poivre for Mike’s birthday with the filets I bought at Ottomanelli Bros and we were both really happy with the results. The au poivre sauce adds great flavor and if great steaks weren’t special enough it also ups the fancy-factor. We both love bitter greens like arugula and broccoli with beef, and since Brussels sprouts are one of Mike’s favorites I made Ina’s recipe for Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts as a side dish. It holds it’s own while complimenting the filet. Highly recommend!