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: “Say Cheese”
The Set-up: Ina is experimenting with her favorite cheeses and creating new cheese-related recipes.
0:20 – Ina is paying a visit to what appears to be the cutest cheese shop in all of the Hamptons. Cue Monty Python sketch humor in three, two, one…
0:27 – “Stinking Bishop from England.” Hah. Classic.
1:12 – We’re back at Ina’s and its Goat Cheese Tart time. I think I may lack the patience required, but her caramelized onions for the tart look amazing.
2:45 – Just found out that puff pastry is involved in this recipe, no pastry making required. Hallelujah!
4:02 – Onions + thyme + white wine = “Very Provencal.”
4:44 – Tomato + goat cheese + basil = “Very Provencal.”
5:29 – I think we’re in need of a “Barefoot in Provence” travel episode. We could call it “How Provencal is That?” Are you listening Food Network? The people have spoken!
6:07 – I just realized that the tarts are dough + tomato + cheese = essentially fancy pizzas.
7:34 – Jeffrey has arrived on the scene just in time to fulfill his responsibilities as “Chief Taste Tester.” That’s the kind of C-level job I’d be well qualified for. I wonder if the position comes with profit sharing.
7:38 – Or really good chicken stock options? (I’m so sorry.)
10:11 – Back in the cheese shop – crossing my fingers for more inappropriate cheese names.
10:12 – Alas, no luck on the names, but now I’m noticing that this shop appears to be totally unattended. Did Ina break in or are they just a really trusting bunch?
11:20 – Coeur a la Crème time and Ina has the most adorable heart shaped mold. What a cute Valentines Day present this would make! I might have to break down and get one…
12:15 – Ina’s making a Savory Coeur a la Crème with lemon zest and pepper instead of mixing in sweeter flavors like vanilla and raspberry. I wonder if this would work with something like plain Greek yogurt? (see below for the answer)
15:00 – Jeffrey Garten, aka “The Dean” of taste testing, is up for the challenge of drinking a glass of rose and eating some cheese. Clearly a highly skilled profession.
15:15 – For those at home taking notes - step one to getting Jeffrey’s attention: rattle a box of crackers. Step two: serve cheese. Coincidentally, step one works well on Maddie-pup too. She and Jeffrey must be kindred spirits.
19:45 – Baked brie, always a good idea. Combined with green apples and honey – winner!
21:29 – New cooking equation: pears + Stilton + port wine = “Very English.” I’m fairly sure this is the only culinary circumstance where “very English” is considered high praise. Sorry Britain, but you still have a lot to overcome in the food-rep department.
22:47 – It’s taken me forever to develop a taste for bleu cheese but now a recipe involving Stilton or Gorgonzola is actually appealing. Bring on the baked pears and walnuts!
26:33 – So far we’ve done recipes with Parmesan, goat cheese, cream cheese, brie, and now Stilton. But the real question is: where’s the Gruyere? I can’t believe it didn’t clear the Top 5!
28:10 – Lunch is served – two baked pears halves stuffed with Stilton, walnuts, and cranberries on a bed of arugula with port vinaigrette dressing. My favorite kind of salad – gorgeous presentation, but easy to assemble.
29:00 – Jeffrey, C.T.T. of Barefoot Contessa Inc., is back in the office. Ina ribs him a little about this being a lifetime appointment. Tenure track perhaps?
29:42 – The Dean pronounces the Stilton recipe “delicious.” Excellent political maneuver Prof. Garten.
I still want a Barefoot in Provence episode.
Kind of fascinated by the Coeur a la Crème recipe – that could be a dangerously tasty addition to our appetizer options.
Adding “investigate Chief Taste Tester and/or Dean of Tasting career opportunities” to my to-do list.
Lessons Learned: Oh, dear. I attempted to make the Savory Coeur a la Crème recipe while home visiting my parents. Since we’re all trying to be healthier and because I had some notion that it might work I tried making it with plain greek yogurt only instead of cream cheese and heavy cream. Suffice it to say: 24 hours later and my Coeur a la Crème hadn’t set very well and the lemon zest in combination with the tang of the greek yogurt was a little too acidic for any of my taste-testers. I think it might have gone better if I had used at least some cream cheese for balance and gone with herbs instead of lemon. In any case, the blame belongs directly at my feet – so sorry Ina! – and means that I will have to try this again actually following the instructions this time. What a novel idea!
Update: I tried again over the weekend and it's a night and day difference. The cream and cream cheese have a much mellower flavor and balance nicely with the acidity of the lemon. This is also very, very easy and definitely small kitchen friendly. One bowl, one sieve, cheese cloth, a microplane - that's it!
The Verdict: We really liked this recipe and even preferred it without the chutney. I could see making a savory coeur a la creme as an appetizer for a cocktail party.