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: “Sweet Home Supper”
The Set-up: Ina invited Michael the Flustered Florist ™ for a dinner inspired by the comfort food of his Pennsylvania childhood.
0:44 – Ina kicks off this episode with Oven Fried Chicken and I am excited to see how she manages crispy chicken without a ton of frying oil.
1:30 – Oh dear, step one involved breaking down a whole chicken. Perhaps some day I’ll be as blasé about butchering as Ina is, but not yet…
2:26 – Step 2: marinate the chicken in buttermilk to tenderize. Why is buttermilk only sold in quarts? I literally never need that much, ever.
3:18 – Quick check in with Michael at the shop and he’s playing his role of “Flustered Florist” to the hilt. Give this man an Emmy!
4:09 – We’re back with Ina as she starts the pastry for Deep Dish Apple Pie. She correctly identifies pie crust as the top source of baking anxiety. Count me among the intimidated.
5:42 – Ina’s Pro Tips for pastry success include: 1. Very cold ingredients (butter, vegetable shortening, ice water). 2. Use the food processor on pulse to cut in the butter. 3. Chill the dough for 30 minutes before rolling.
9:11 – Now that the dough is resting we’re moving on to make the dressing for Green Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing, which mainly involves pureeing Roquefort (obvi) and mayonnaise in the food processor.
10:37 – Ina doesn’t say this, but I’ll bet the flavors in the blue cheese dressing improve if it’s made ahead of time.
11:36 – Onward to make the pie filling for Deep Dish Apple Pie! This is something else I struggle with, no matter how many apples I put in it always seems to cook down. Keeping a close eye on this step…
12:25 – Back to see what Michael the Flustered Florist ™ is up to – mainly covert delivery operations to patios and front stoops across the Hamptons.
13:53 – The Moment of Truth! Pie crust rolling time. Ina shares a few more Pro Tips for pie crust success: 1. A well-floured surface. 2. Keep moving the dough as you roll to make sure it isn’t sticking. 3. Use the rolling pin to help move the dough into the pie plate. 4. Ease the dough into the pie plate, don’t stretch! 5. Use a little water to re-seal any cracks.
15:45 – Ina calls this “mile-high apple pie” and she’s not kidding – I’d guess her filling is about 1.5 – 2 inches above the edge. Filing that away for later…
16:01 – Finishing touches are on – egg wash + a sprinkling of sugar to make the crust brown and a little shiny. Yum!
18:49 – Now for the frying of the chicken, which involves my least favorite cooking prep process: flouring the buttermilk soaked chicken pieces. Eww.
19:13 – Even Ina can’t quite mask her disgust over her flour-encased fingers. This is the reason Shake N’ Bake was invented.
20:56 – Chicken fryin’ time. This the other reason I never make fried chicken – what to do with all that oil?
21:48 – Pie is out of the oven, chicken is in the oven, and next Ina is making the Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes.
22:24 – Ina has heated the milk and butter on the stove before she adds them to the mashed potatoes - brilliant.
23:30 – Now for the sour cream and the seasonings. I bet the tang of the sour cream in the potatoes pairs beautifully with the buttermilk in the chicken preparation.
26:19 – Final prep on Green Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing. Ina’s play on a traditional wedge salad uses green leaf lettuce instead of iceberg. Good move.
27:07 – Ina’s solve for lettuce too big for a salad spinner is to whip it around in a kitchen towel which sprinkles her entire kitchen with droplets of water. Probably one of my all-time favorite moments.
28:32 – Well, we can trace the heirloom tomato craze back to at least 2005 when this episode first aired – Ina’s recommending them for this salad.
29:12 – Michael the Flustered Florist ™ has arrived and he and Ina are driving right into a supper that looks so, so good.
30:00 – PS: for folks following along at home – Ina’s pie did not fall in the middle and I swear I can smell the apples and spices through the TV. My stomach is growling.
Ina has such a knack for transforming old-fashioned recipes into something fresh.
I really need to make pie – after my dessert class a few weeks ago and now this episode it’s time.
If I were coming to dinner at Ina's after a hard day my menu would definitely involve chocolate cake.
Deep Dish Apple Pie it had to be done. I dug out my copy of Barefoot Contessa Family Style, rolled up my sleeves and prepared to make both the pie crust and the filling. If I had to identify my two major areas of “opportunity” I’d say rolling the crust and portioning the filling. I always seem to end up with a wonky shape and pies that seem really full, but then fall after they cool. Not life ending, but annoying when you’ve put in so much effort.
Alas, even though I followed the recipe to a T, I still fell a little short of where I wanted to be.
I’d chalk that up to two factors:
1. Not enough water in the pie crust. A careful observer will notice that the edge of my pie is missing in one section – that’s because it literally cracked a little and fell off during baking. I’d noticed when I was rolling out the dough that it felt a little dry and was prone to splitting a little, but it didn’t seem excessive, so I let it ride. Rookie mistake.
2. Not enough apples in the filling. I piled them up to what I thought was a crazy height and they still cooked down quite a lot resulting in a concave top. Rats.
Luckily, neither of these issues are insurmountable, but both have inexperience as their underlying cause – if I made pie more often it almost certainly would have been obvious where there were some areas for improvement before I actually baked it.
Small Kitchen Friendly?
Sort of. I needed a food processor, dry and liquid measuring cups, a butter knife and plastic wrap for the dough. For the filling I added a large bowl, chef’s knife, peeler, microplane zester, large cutting board, and wooden spoon to the mix. And, of course a pie plate. Parchment paper and a baking sheet will help with clean up.
I made Deep Dish Apple Pie for a New Year’s Eve dinner with friends. Since we’re on the same page about trying new recipes, I knew it was okay to bring something I’d never made before. I hate to sound ungrateful by complaining about apple pie, but I’m not sure that this one quite hit the mark. The crust was good, but the filling was overly tart – too much lemon with not enough sugar balancing it out. As result it was great with vanilla ice cream, but on it’s own…. In the end, I’m not sure that I’d make this particular version again, but it’s definitely not going to stop me from trying to find the perfect recipe or developing one of my own. That just means more PIE!