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. I’ll follow along with an episode of the Barefoot Contessa, then choose a recipe to try in my tiny New York kitchen. We’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!
Episode: “Jeffrey Home Alone”
The Set-up: I think the Episode title says it all….
0:19 – Ina starts us off by making calling in to question Jeffrey’s ability to assemble a non-cookie based meal when she’s away from home. Zing!
1:07 – Despite her jokes about Jeffrey eating nothing but dessert, she is making him Espresso Ice Cream. First step: scald the milk. Pro Tip #1: Ina describes this process as heating the milk until the edges begin to bubble and steam rises, but doesn’t come to a boil. This seems like a really subtle difference, I’d have to watch it really carefully.
1:34 – Ina has the egg yolks and sugar beating in her Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer and adds the scalded milk to the mixture. I’m glad to see that even Ina Garten has trouble pouring into the bowl of a mixer – a thoughtful friend would get her the pouring shield attachment as a gift…
3:39 – The ice cream custard has been heated and thickened – now it’s flavoring time! Quite a bit of ground espresso, a little Kahlua, and some vanilla so that Jeffrey will be buzzed either way.
5:10 – Step one of Parker’s Beef Stew is to marinate the beef in cabernet sauvignon with smashed garlic and a bay leaf for a few hours.
9:01 – The beef pieces are done marinating and it’s time to start cooking. Ina drains the beef, but retains the marinade for cooking later. I always thought that was a no-no, but I doubt she’s trying to off Jeffrey with beef stew. Not terribly subtle.
10:13 – While Ina sautés the beef (tossed in flour) and chops up onions, carrots, potatoes and mushrooms she offers us Entertaining Tip #1: People often expect an elegant dish, but something causal like beef stew for a dinner party can be a welcome surprise. And, it has the added benefit of being a dish that improves with time.
11:24 – I think Ina’s having one of those days in the kitchen – she burnt her finger when heating the ice cream mixture earlier and now she just flinched away from the hot stew pan. Ina, I feel your pain, sometimes it all just seems to go sideways!
12:36 – She didn’t really explain why, but the stew making process involves two large pots – one to sauté everything in, which she deglazes with the marinade, and one to roast in the oven. I’m trying not to be jealous of her pots. (That’s not a double entendre.)
14:16 – The stew goes into the oven and the Espresso Ice Cream mixture goes into the ice cream maker for phase 2 of the freezing process. I don’t own an ice cream maker and I can’t honestly see myself using one – Häagen-Dazs is way easier.
19:08 – Ina is chopping chocolate covered espresso beans to mix into the Espresso Ice Cream – I love a little texture in my ice cream, so I am 100% on board with this addition.
20:22 – We cut to Jeffrey driving home. He remarks that Ina usually leaves him a ton of food when she has to be away and that it’s “really tough being Mr. Garten.” Yes, that espresso ice cream looks like torture.
21:17 – Back at the Garten homestead Ina’s making one last thing: Cranberry Orange Scones. She says Jeffrey will be “really spoiled” so they’re on the same page when it comes to the care and (literal) feeding of her husband. I can’t get too snarky because I actually think it’s really sweet.
22:35 – Scone time and Pro Tip #2: Keep the butter very cold and dice it into small cubes – this keeps the small pieces of butter together and when the heat of the oven hits them they release steam which makes for a light scone. This is so key for all pastries and biscuits.
22:48 – Pro Tip#3: Keep all the other ingredients cold (eggs, milk) to help the butter stay cold.
23:03 – Ina recommends dried cranberries for this recipe since they’re a little sweeter. I’m also guessing that they’re 100% easier to find in the grocery store in months other than November.
24:05 – Ina rolls out the Cranberry Orange Scones dough and says that she’ll bake a few now and freeze the rest to bake later. Having fresh scones just waiting to be baked is a level of domestic mastery I aspire to…
27:23 – The scones are out of the oven and Ina’s making a quick glaze out of orange and confectioner’s sugar. They look amazing.
29:08 – Ina packs her overnight bag and is out the door with a parting zinger about Jeffrey starting with the ice cream and a flip of her perfectly periwinkle pashmina.
29:39 – Fast forward to Jeffrey digging in to the Espresso Ice Cream. The phone rings and it’s Ina inquiring about the chicken stew. Jeffrey plays right into her hands, complimenting its deliciousness. BUSTED! But all is forgiven as long as he saves a little for her. The End!
All the recipes Ina made took a few steps, but also seem forgiving on the serving timing – trying to serve everything at the exact moment it’s ready is stressful!
Some good tips re: the temperature of the ingredients – such an important element in baking – write Pro Tip #2 down or commit it to memory!
The Gartens make me laugh – they obviously know each other’s quirks and yet the teasing gentle even after 35+ years of marriage.
The combination of cranberry and orange is a favorite flavor combination for Mike’s grandmother, and since we were driving out to celebrate her 93rd birthday last weekend I decided to make Cranberry Orange Scones. I’ve never made a scone before, but these are fairly straightforward and they came out beautifully.
I do have a tendency to roll out dough too thinly, so my Cranberry Orange Scones were a little flatter than Ina’s, but the texture was light and the orange flavor really came through. Ina often talks about garnishing with an ingredient, so I took a page from her playbook and I did make one very small change by putting a little of the orange zest I had left into the glaze. The glaze really does add a little extra punch of orange flavor, so don’t skip this step.
This recipe is fairly small kitchen friendly. I used one large mixing bowl, two sheet pans and basic kitchen tools, like measuring cups, spoons and a spatula for the dough, and then another small bowl and a teaspoon for the glaze.
The recipe does require enough counter space for rolling out the dough, and assumes that you have a rolling pin as well as a biscuit cutter. I bought a set of four from the housewares section of Zabars for about $10, but if you don’t feel like springing for them the rim of a pint glass is about the right size and in a pinch could also function as a rolling pin.
Lastly, don’t hate me, but I actually do have a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, compliments of our wedding shower, and while it's too big to have designated counter space, it did come in handy here. The Cranberry Orange Scones dough is quite thick with all those cups of flour, so if you’re stirring by hand prepare for a work out.
The Verdict: I had quite a few taste-testers since the house was full of family and the Cranberry Orange Scones definitely went fast as people came back for seconds, so prepare to make extras if you have a large group. These really were easy and given the reaction of the crowd I think they’d be well received if I made them again. Give these a shot for your next brunch or hostess gift.