Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!
Episode: “Happy Anniversary”
The Set-up: Ina and Jeffrey are celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary with a special dinner.
0:39 – Ina starts this episode by making two statements – first that Jeffrey is a “creature of habit” and second that Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce is a “fairly 70s” dish. I can’t speak to the veracity of these claims, so I’m just going to roll with it.
1:03 – Pro Tip #1: if you’re poaching your own shrimp, leave the shells on and cook them for three minutes in boiling water. It‘s all the time they need.
2:18 – Cut to Mr. Garten driving along and expounding on the importance of anniversaries and admitting that he forgot their 20th. I hope Ina made him sleep on the porch.
3:20 – Back to Ina peeling and deveining the shrimp (tails on.) She says that even though shrimp cocktail is “really old-fashioned” it’s the first thing to go at a party. Guilty as charged. I make a beeline for it.
4:33 – On to the cocktail sauce part of the recipe. I thought I had made this before, but as I review the ingredients list I’m realizing I’m totally unfamiliar with chili sauce.
5:11 – Back to Mr. Garten who is on a mission to bring Ina a box of brownies just like she used to send him in college. So sweet!
6:07 –Ina is hating on the old martini glass, crushed ice presentation. Guess what first Google image search result for shrimp cocktail is… I guess they were taking the name literally?
7:25 – She plates her dish using a silver bowl on a white platter, but isn’t above cutting a lemon into a retro-chic garnish. I suppose we all have to have fun somehow.
10:29 – On to the Rosemary Roasted Potatoes which if you’ve been following along for the past year involve the standard olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper, and in this case, minced rosemary. I seriously cook 90% of the vegetables we eat this way now.
11:36 – Over to Jeffrey who’s hitting up Michael the Florist TM for some ribbon to jazz up the box of brownies with. Good call, J, always enlist help!
12:45 – Ina has moved on to the Steak with Béarnaise starting with the sauce – white wine, champagne vinegar, tarragon – sounds good to me!
13:38 – Ina separates her eggs same the way I do by using the shells as little cups. Twinsies!
14:40 – Raw egg yolks + hot vinegar/white wine/tarragon/shallots + hot butter = béarnaise. Hmm. Usually adding hot things to eggs is a no-no, but the blender must prevent them from scrambling?
15:51 - It strikes me that this kind of recipe where the steps themselves aren’t that tricky, but the order is essential.
18:27 – Pro Tip #2: Remove the steaks from the refrigerator a few minutes before you intend to cook them to take the chill off the meat.
19:12 – Steak grillin’ time! Jeffrey’s grill-lighting activities are accompanied by the “getting things done” music. Charcoal chimney: check.
20:36 – Ina brushes the steaks with olive oil and then goes out to the patio to manage the grilling (read: tease Jeffrey) and then immediately abandons him to cook the main course. Ahahahaha.
21:44 – Ostensibly it’s so she can go inside to show us how to make String Beans with Shallots, so I’ll let it slide. This time.
22:18 – For a simple haricot vert this recipe requires a lot of equipment – a pot of boiling water, a bowl of ice water, a large skillet. Remind me to save this one for when we have a bigger kitchen!
23:33 – Jeffrey seems to be muddling along with the rib eyes pretty well and Ina does have some good-looking green beans. Dinner is coming together!
26:21 – Out on the terrace again to deliver the Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce – sustenance for Jeffrey as he grills, seems pretty fair now I guess.
27:10 – Actual “secret sauce” time as Ina reveals that the trick to make-ahead béarnaise is a few tablespoons of very hot water blended in at the last minute. Very tricky…
28:49 – Rosemary Roasted Potatoes are out of the oven, looking perfectly golden brown, steaks are off the grill and rested. It’s time to eat!
29:55 – As Ina teases Jeffrey about the time he forgot their anniversary over dinner he reveals the surprise: a walk on the beach and the box of brownies! So charming!
It’s amazing how some of the simplest dishes (I’m looking at you string beans) can have so many steps!
Ina has such a great way of de-mystifying seemingly fancy recipes.
I’m thinking this might be a great Valentines Day meal – just add a glass of red wine?
Talk to the Butcher – I’m always looking for excuses to practice cooking steak, but it’s also intimidating. After spending $$$ on a cut I worry that I’ll mess it up! I figured, who knows steak better than the butcher? So, I had a long conversation with Ritchie at Schatzie's about my plan to make Steak with Béarnaise and he recommended buying two different pieces: a 1 inch thick ribeye and a 1 1/2 inch thick NY Strip. This solved three problems - portion size, cooking time, and "doneness" - it allowed me to cook both pieces of meat for the same length of time and get one medium for me, and one medium-rare for Mike.
Pan Temperature – The steak is the star of this dish, so cooking it properly is essential and also honestly the trickiest part. I used an 8 inch cast iron skillet heated over high flame for 4-5 minutes before the steak even hit the surface. You want to hear that ssssssss sizzle sound. The length of time depends on the thickness of the steak and your desired internal temperature. A 1 inch steak cooked for three minutes on each side yields a medium (hot red) center.
Sauce Reduction – To get the right texture of the béarnaise sauce the vinegar/white wine/tarragon/shallot mixture should be reduced to about 2 tablespoons. It serves two purposes – concentrating the flavor and making sure the béarnaise sauce isn’t too thin.
Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, assuming you have a small food processor or blender. I also used an 8 inch cast iron skillet, a chef’s knife, medium cutting board, small sauce pan, liquid measuring cup, and measuring spoon.
I made Steak with Béarnaise for Mike and I – thanks to the excellent advice from Ritchie both steaks turned out just the way we like them. The béarnaise sauce is just slightly fussy, but thanks to Ina’s make-ahead hot water trick I made some earlier in the day refrigerated it and it still turned out beautifully. Steak with Bearnaise might not sound like a week-night meal, but it honestly takes less than 30 minutes start to finish and, btw it’s delicious.