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: “Feature Flavor”
The Set-up: Ina is creating recipes for a shoot in New York that highlight specific ingredients.
0:52 – As always, Ina is on a quest for more flavor – this time she’s jazzing up Butternut Squash Soup with Curry Condiments and a little extra spice.
1:07 – Oooh, yum instead of just plain butternut squash Ina is roasting the vegetables with apples and onions too.
2:26 – Interesting, I’m devoted to my Blendtec, but Ina says she likes to use the food processor for pureeing; I suppose it depends on what texture you’re seeking.
3:30 – Ina says when she’s participating in a photo shoot she wants the food to be the real thing, not something painted up just to look good. We agree 100% - no tricks around here, just delicious food.
4:38 – Now for the curry powder, and since the blend from brand to brand varies Ina recommends trying a few until you find the one you like. She’s so conscientious!
5:10 – Hmmm, I’ve eaten a fair amount of curries, but I’ve never seen banana as a condiment or ingredient, but Ina seems to like the combination.
6:03 – Ina said she’s working with Quentin Bacon (photographer), Cyd McDowell (food stylist), and Philippa Brathwaite (prop stylist) on this shoot, so naturally I had to pause the recording to go follow all of them on Instagram.
7:22 – Over to NYC where the team is set up in a studio with everyone buzzing around cooking, choosing just the right cutting board, and spooning soup into rustic bowls. So. much. fun.
10:14 – Back to Ina to retest a classic Barefoot Contessa recipe: Maple Oatmeal Scones which she says is inspired by memories of oatmeal with maple syrup.
11:29 – Looks like even with the maple syrup these scones will still be relatively savory, not much sugar is going into the dough. Butter is another story….
12:35 – Ina and I are so on the same page when it comes to mixing in liquid measuring cups, which is a pro stance. Why dirty another bowl?
13:01 – Man, I love Ina. She tells a quick story about getting a call from The New York Times inquiring about whether Barefoot Contessa had scones other than plain. Her answer (a small fib): “Oh, yes. We make cranberry, apple, maple oatmeal, etc.” And then, had to spend the next week actually figuring out more flavors.
13:16 – Reminds me of Winston in Ghostbusters, “Ray, when someone asks you if you’re a god, you say: YES!”
14:44 – While the scones are in the oven it’s time to mix up a maple syrup-based glaze to drizzle over the top.
15:37 – A quick visit to the photo studio where the team has decided a simple basket lined with a red napkin is the way to go for these scones.
19:40 – Recipe number three for the article is Lemon Pasta with Roasted Shrimp and I have to agree that boiling shrimp is no longer something I’m interested in doing!
20:58 – The timing on this recipe is perfect, the shrimp take just 6-8 minutes in the oven and cappellini is a really quick-cooking pasta.
21:32 – A double hit of lemon for this sauce, both zest and juice, just the way we like it! Reminds me of a similar recipe I made last summer that includes tomatoes too.
22:43 – Styling nerd moment, I just realized that Ina has done both plated, process and vessel shots. How well rounded!
23:21 – Both Ina and the shoot team are reaping the perks of working with good food: good eating once the shot is captured!
26:15 – On to a little Ask Ina action which is all about flavor today (surprise!) First question: Marcy wants to know how to store parmigiano reggiano so that it doesn’t go bad? Ina says she divides a large piece in two, wraps them both in plastic, and keeps one in the freezer until she needs it.
27:24 – Janice doesn’t like cilantro and needs a substitution. Ina’s with her (not a fan) and says she either leaves it out, or replaces with fresh parsley.
28:36 – Tom is hoping for a great and easy marinade recipe. Ina suggests this Chicken Marinade and recommends reserving half the marinade (no contact with the raw meat) to pour over the chicken after it’s cooked as a double hit.
29:58 – The last message is from the photo studio where everyone is tucking in to soup, pasta, and scones. Ina sees the finished results of the photos (gorgeous) but decides that next time she wants to be in on the fun in person!
Amazing how just a small change like adding a second type of flour, or roasting can amp up the flavor.
Now that I’ve been reminded of my shrimp & pasta recipe, I’m craving it!
Wonder if the photo studio team (or Ina) need an extra pair of hands….?
I admit, I have made scones before on more than one occasion (see here and here along with some blueberry scones that didn’t make the blog for some reason), but Maple Oatmeal Scones were my first attempt with a plain scone, ie. one that doesn’t have fresh or dried fruit mixed in. I will say that if you’re a scone beginner it is easier when you don’t have to worry about bruising and smushing tender strawberries or trying to ensure even distribution of dried cranberries.
Very Cold Ingredients – As I’ve seen better and better results from keeping the ingredients cold I’ve become more conscientious about maintaining a cool temperature throughout the process. I’d recommend leaving everything in the refrigerator until the last minute and popping the bowl with the butter/flours mixture in to chill while you’re measuring and mixing the buttermilk/egg/maple mixture. Side Note: I’ve now taken to mixing dough with a fork and folding the ingredients together, which I think really helps to keep a light texture and prevent over mixing.
Very Cold Equipment – Call me crazy, but I’ve also started putting my baking sheets in the freezer while I mix scone and biscuit dough. They get really chilled and keep the finished scones cool while I portion the remaining dough.
Flavor – The depth of the oats and whole wheat flour lends a lovely mellow flavor that’s very lightly sweet (depending on how heavy-handed you are with the glaze.) However, even with a really high quality syrup the maple flavor doesn't come through as much as I'd like. I'm thinking about fiddling with the recipe a bit to include some granulated maple sugar (PS: Merle Maple is my mom's family's maple syrup company!) or maybe maple extract to punch up the mapley-ness. To counter balance some of the sweetness I also added just a light sprinkle of flaked sea salt to some of the scones and really loved the addition.
Portions/Yield – I could tell from the ingredient amounts and the approximate yield that this recipe as written makes a very large batch. Perfect if you’re having a big group or if the scone is meant to be a substantial element to a meal. I wanted something more moderate, so I cut the ingredients in half and still was able to yield 16 medium-sized triangular scones (4-5 bites.) Something to keep in mind!
Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, totally. As always, I skip the stand mixer when I can - it's just too heavy to haul out! Instead, I used a large mixing bowl, a pastry cutter, and a table fork to mix the dough instead. I also used two rimmed baking sheets, a 1-cup liquid measuring cup, dry measuring cups and spoons, a rolling pin, a bench scraper (a chef’s knife will sub too), and parchment paper.
I’ve had my eye on Maple Oatmeal Scones, but it wasn’t until we were invited to a Halloween brunch party (thanks Alex!) that I found the perfect opportunity. I’ll speak for myself and say that once Mike and I did a little quality control check it was tempting to stay home and stuff ourselves with scones.… Alex’s friends seemed to enjoy them too and I can say with great confidence that unless you just don’t like maple that these will quickly become one of your favorites. Light in texture, surprisingly delicate in flavor, so flipping good.