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: “Potluck Party”
The Set-up: Ina is advising the owners of Amber Waves Farm on how to make their potluck classy. If anyone can save them from disaster it’s Ina.
0:33 – Ina is working on Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons because this cooking lesson is going to be grueling and sustenance is required for both the teacher and students!
1:57 – Pro Tip #1: Add the garlic at the end of sautéing the onions so that it doesn’t burn.
2:15 – Ina recommends canned tomatoes in the winter (since they’ve been packed when really ripe), but it comes out sounding like a diss to all non-summer tomatoes. Harsh.
2:49 – We get a little overview of Amber Waves Farm (an Amagansett-based, CSA) but mainly I’m checking out the fashion of these two women who seem to have been lifted directly from a Barbour catalog. Oh, to be so perfectly wind-blown!
3:22 – Ina’s using orzo in place of the “classic” rice in tomato soup – I did not realize this was a thing.
4:38 – Amanda and Katie arrive at Ina’s and let themselves in through the garden. FYI, no Dobermans greet them, so either security is lax at the Barefoot compound, or they’ve been kenneled during the episode filming.
5:16 – Now for the Grilled Cheese Croutons, which are basically just mini-grilled cheese sandwiches and I ask you “How bad could that be?”
9:03 – The soup and grilled cheese have been served, now to get down to the cooking lessons. First up, Lemon Chicken with Broccoli and Bowties
10:31 – Pro Tip #2: Cook the broccoli first, then strain it out with a slotted spoon and re-use the boiling water for the pasta.
11:24 – As they hear Ina’s words of wisdom on measuring cup usage, Katie and Amanda reveal that one of their past potlucks resulted in everyone bringing beer, but no food. Now I understand why they have come to the master for lessons.
12:45 – Katie of the perpetual smile is assigned the grill work – rookie move, because Amanda gets to come back inside with Ina.
13:02 – Pro Tip #3: Adding the dressing to the broccoli and cooked pasta while it’s warm will help the sauce absorb.
15:18 – Has anything ever been made less delicious by the addition of pine nuts and parmesan? I didn’t think so.
20:30 – Now on to making the Wheatberry and Farro Salad and I have a confession to make: I have no earthly idea what a wheatberry is, or farro either for that matter. It turns out that they’re grains.
21:41 – I may have misjudged Katie of the perpetual smile. While Amanda has been chopping away on vegetable prep she’s doing easy things like draining the wheatberries. Quite a maneuver.
22:27 – Hmm, but now Amanda has been complimented on her perfectly chopped carrots. This is like the most understated Top Chef challenge ever.
23:59 – Taste-test time and I issue a triple-dog-dare for one of those girls to be all, “Eh, it could use a little salt.” No one accepts my challenge and Katie of the perpetual smile double dips her spoon. Two demerits.
26:05 – Fast forward to the day of the party. I can’t tell what season it is, but I’m assuming early spring. Ina is super bundled up against what looks like a really cold wind. Her hair is going 1,000 different directions. Yikes.
27:23 – Ina sent Katie and Amanda a rental list and they’ve gone very simple, but farm-y – white serving bowls, galvanized tubs, jam jar glasses. I approve.
28:14 – This is one of my favorite Pro Tips of all time, classic Ina, but also so easy to do! #4: provide matching bowls and unpack the potluck dishes into them for a pretty, uniform look to the buffet.
29:46 – Ina gives them a few more hints and then leaves Katie and Amanda to their own devices. We get a montage of people arriving and the buffet in the end looks like a perfectly rustic, Pinterest-worthy set up. I hope someone took pictures!
These ladies are pretty lucky to have Ina Garten on speed dial for their party advice needs.
Ina is obviously a master party planner for fancy shin-digs, but I love her ideas for making even the humble potluck stylish.
I think Amanda won the cooking part of the competition, but Katie was definitely Miss Congeniality.
I’m a sucker for any recipe that prominently features lemon and with my new grill pan I’m now able to take on more recipes that involve grilling, hence the Lemon Chicken with Broccoli and Bowties, was right in my wheelhouse. This recipe isn’t necessarily difficult, but it is one that rewards the organized cook, especially because it takes marinating time, multiple stages, etc.
No snafus in the preparation, but a few recommendations:
1. I marinated the chicken overnight, which I think was a good move.
2. The giant-ness (totally a word) of the chicken breasts I had meant that 10 minutes per side wasn’t quite enough to cook the chicken all the way through. I used a meat thermometer - always a good idea when preparing poultry - to help me make sure they were done.
3. My major recommendation is around the proportions. I only needed one large chicken breast and two broccoli heads to balance against 1/2 pound of bowtie pasta. Depending on your preferences this might be something to keep an eye on as you’re assembling the final dish.
Small Kitchen Friendly?
Kinda. I used a large pot (broccoli & pasta), a cast iron grill pan, and a small sauté pan. I also needed a medium cutting board, strainer, medium food storage container (for marinating the chicken), slotted spoon, microplane grater, measuring cups/spoons, meat thermometer, and a chef’s knife.
Mike and I both loved the Lemon Chicken with Broccoli and Bowties and when the entire recipe disappeared in only a day or two I wished I had made a bigger batch. The flavors are delicious and improve with an overnight in the refrigerator, so don’t be afraid to make this ahead of time or extra for leftovers. Definitely a great dish for an easy lunch with friends or as a contribution to a potluck picnic. It does take a few steps, but the results are worth it.