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: “Barefoot Classics”
The Set-up: Ina is revisiting some favorite recipes from her years running The Barefoot Contessa specialty food shop.
0:53 – A quick overview of the Barefoot Contessa days, and then it’s on to Ina’s new version of the sticky buns they used to make.
1:20 – These are called Easy Sticky Buns and already I can tell that they’re going to be dead simple, no yeast dough required. Instead it’s defrosted puff pastry.
2:34 – Ina says when she first thought of using puff pastry, she was worried that they might not be as good as the original, but now she thinks they’re even better, which is convenient…
3:15 – So far the ingredients have been butter, sugar, pecans and puff pastry so we’re off to a great start.
4:37 – Note to self: make more puff pastry-based items.
5:09 – Buns are assembled and baked which means it’s time to cue Jeffrey to arrive and try to abscond with as many sticky buns as he can. His allotment on camera: one.
6:42 – I’m not sure it’s possible to eat a sticky bun without ending up a little sticky and so far it’s getting the best of Jeffrey.
9:03 – Moving on to the promised Mustard Chicken Salad. Interesting, I didn’t realize that this would actually be a salad, with cherry tomatoes and broccoli
10:46 – Hmm, blanching and shocking are not my favorite techniques – kind of a pain
11:21 – Ina says she like the flavor but not the texture of mayonnaise, so she always thins it a bit with chicken stock or white wine to make more of a sauce.
12:55 – I’ve used Ina’s technique of roasting the chicken for chicken salad before and it’s really really good. Pro Tip #1: Roasting chicken with the bone-in and skin on keeps the meat really moist.
13:59 – She says they used to make “huge vats” of Mustard Chicken Salad – I wonder if she’s having a traumatic flashback.
14:04 – A little tarragon to add another layer of flavor and it’s time to serve! Ina suspects that Jeffrey will remember where this is from…’
18:27 – Ina says they used to make “millions and millions of pounds” of roasted vegetables and that she can’t really think of any vegetable that isn’t better cooked that way.
19:48 – She’s over at the farm stand and decides to get a combination of root vegetables – sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots and a butternut squash.
20:10 – Pro Tip #2: Cut all the vegetables in similar sizes so that they roast at the same rate.
21:29 – It’s comforting to watch Ina wrangle a butternut squash and realize that it’s tricky even for a seasoned professional!
22:36 – She’s roasting the vegetables at quite a high temperature: 425 degrees.
23:01 – Pro Tip #3: If you’re serving the vegetables as is, put them all in big groupings on one platter and season individually. The parnsips get sea salt, carrots get parsley, sweet potato gets a drizzle of maple syrup, and the butternut squash gets fresh pepper.
27:45 – Ina says the key to turning a profit in the specialty food business is knowing how to use the leftovers and in her case she wants them to taste better than the original dish.
28:14 – In this case, she’s turning the left over vegetables into Roasted Vegetable Soup and some extra brioche bread into croutons.
29:53 – The soup is pureed, croutons are toasted and Jeffrey has arrived to have dinner. So cozy!
I’m dying to make the sticky buns, but the contrarian in me wants to fuss with the whole yeast dough process….
Ina’s point about leftovers certainly holds true at home too, and why waste perfectly delicious food?
It just occurred to me, if Jeffrey eats well now imagine the BC days when there was an entire shop full of freshly prepared items.
I’ve roasted vegetables and made soup many times before, but Roasted Vegetable Soup is the ultimate in my book: a pureed soup based on a variety of roasted vegetables sounded amazing. Here’s what I learned.
Vegetable Prep – Time to get familiar with your peeler and chef’s knife! We’ve talked about this before, but this is a great opportunity to practice your knife skills and take care to cut the pieces a consistent size. It will help the outcome of the soup since the recipe calls for roasting different vegetables simultaneously.
Vegetable Roasting Time – Which brings me to my next point. Ina in her infinite wisdom has selected dense vegetables that all roast at the same temperature for the same length of time. Brilliant. As I’ve cooked more and more I’ve internalized the cooking times, but it’s always helpful to have a reference handy – so I put together the chart below.
Flavor Combination – The recipe calls for carrots, butternut squash, parsnips, and sweet potatoes to be roasted and then pureed together. I wondered if in the end it would be too sweet, but actually the flavors blend beautifully and the crisp croutons make a great counter point to the smooth soup. Lovely in its simplicity.
Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes. I used a large cutting board, vegetable peeler, chef’s knife and large spoon to prep the vegetables. I also needed two rimmed baking sheets (aluminum foil or parchment paper optional), a spatula, 5.5 qt French oven, and a blender. A food processor, food mill, or stick blender would work just fine too.
Roasted Vegetable Soup is perfect for late fall. We had it for a weekend lunch served with a green salad and a few pieces of cheddar cheese and crisp apple slices for a hearty and satisfying meal. I went with multigrain croutons for a rustic touch instead of brioche or challah. Either way, this soup is simple, healthful, and easy to whip up a big batch to have on hand or to make use of leftover odds and ends. It’s also a gorgeous color and would make an excellent starter for a more formal Thanksgiving feast.