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: “Back for the Weekend”
The Set-up: Ina and her friend, T.R. Pescod, have worked out a trade: he’ll bring some provisions from the city and she’ll cook for their respective weekend guests.
0:05 – Wheatberry Salad, eh? I have never heard of a wheatberry in my life so this should be educational!
0:54 – A wheatberry is neither wheat nor a berry. Discuss. Can you tell that I grew up watching SNL in the 1990s? Thank you, Mike Myers.
3:01 – Ina is cooking lots of things in advance including this salad. Smart lady. When I’m hungry it seems like so much work to make something – better to have it ready to go, hence the beauty of leftovers.
4:39 – Time to check in with T.R. Have I mentioned how much I love T.R.? One of my proudest moments was recognizing him in rerun of Sex in the City. I need to get out more.
5:15 – T.R. is getting his shopping list instructions – and wearing the hell (pardon my French) out of a v-neck sweater, corduroy jacket, and Clooney-esque hair. Whew!
5:22 – T.R.’s quote of the episode: “You know me; I’m all for decadence.” This was in reference to chocolate cake, but I think we both know that statement has broader applications. Watch out grocery store clerks!
7:13 – Now for the Chicken Pot Pie! Ina is roasting the chicken in the oven and I can attest that the extra step is worth it – with this method the chicken really does turn out ‘succulent.’
11:16 – This roux isn’t for the butter or cream averse. Good thing we started with a healthy salad.
11:23 – Pro tip: chicken bullion cubes to add extra flavor. Not just for Mad Men-era cooking!
12:02 – Ina’s adding frozen pearl onions to the pot pie mix which she likes because they don’t need peeling. This begs the question: who at Bird’s Eye is peeling bags full of tiny onions? The world may never know.
12:30 – Back to T.R.’s adventures in grocery shopping. The butcher behind the deli counter seems only mildly charmed by T.R.’s salami-related questions. This man must be made of stone.
13:11 – Ina is the Boy Scout of pastry crust: always prepared. Thank goodness for the rest of us that frozen puff pastry exists.
15:22 – The pot pies are cooked in the most darling little tureens. I know I’ve mentioned my interest in seeing Ina’s linen closet, next I want a tour of the china cabinet. Still not a double entendre.
15:35 – I count three instances of Ina using the word ‘succulent’ so far in this episode. My theory: a virulent case of word of the day calendar.
20:14 – Ina’s making split pea soup now and offers a pro tip for mincing garlic. This seems pretty basic, but I like how she sprinkles some technique into the show periodically. Again, educational!
21:42 – T.R. again and he’s doing admirably well with his shopping. Salad greens, heirloom tomatoes, check!
23:34 – I have been anti-split pea soup from a young age, but this episode is challenging me to try them out again. Perhaps I’ve matured?
27:49 – T.R. has arrived at Ina’s and it’s time for the hand-off. He can’t come in for a glass of wine – clearly he has more willpower than I would after battling weekend traffic – because his guests are arriving soon. Boo.
28:26 – Last recipe of the night: tomato sandwich with basil garlic mayonnaise. Ina has the right idea – even a quick bite eaten at the kitchen counter can be special.
I love Ina, but T.R.‘s comedic timing is gold. We need to import him from NY more often.
Cooking ahead of time, especially if you have weekend guests, is a great idea. Now to be that organized…
I really want to try the Split Pea Soup recipe sometime soon. Look at me branching out!
Lessons Learned: I already had most of the ingredients on hand for Chicken Pot Pie and it’s one of my husband’s favorite meals, so this won out over Wheatberry Salad. What can I say, we’re not really health nuts. That’s the beauty of this recipe too – nothing overly special or fancy needed so it was easy to do this without a trip to the grocery store. It’s moderately small kitchen friendly – one sheet pan, one large pot, one medium pot, a cutting board, a few kitchen tools, and some ramekins. My one caveat is rolling out the puff pastry – that was tricky on 1 square foot of counter space. I do also recommend the smaller size baking dishes if you are cooking for a two or want a more elegant presentation for a dinner party.
This is so, so good. Really chicken-y and the veggies take on that deep flavor without losing their freshness. Mike said: permanent green light to make this again anytime.