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: “Post Cards from Paris”
The Set-up: Ina and Jeffrey are channeling their trips to Paris via a French-themedstaycation.
0:47 – Ina and Jeffrey’s routine when they go to Paris is to drop their bags and go immediately to Café Varenne for the Country French Omelet. Sounds good to me!
1:02 – The recipe starts with sautéing thick-cut bacon (or lardon if you have access).
2:30 – Then the potatoes are cooked in the rendered bacon fat and I’m in heaven already.
3:18 – Ina says she hates making individual omelets, but this one is big enough for two so it works perfectly.
4:21 – Now that the bacon and potatoes are both cooked the egg goes into the pan and the filling is added back in. This seems like a hybrid of an omelet and a frittata, which is perfect in my book – no flipping required!
5:39 – Jeffrey arrives on the scene just as the omelet comes out of the oven and he correctly identifies the inspiration. Good memory! Now to divide the responsibilities on grilling & shopping, neither of which are his strong suit…
6:23 – At least he has a delicious breakfast to fortify himself for the day, and this might be the simplest recipe that involves actual cooking I’ve seen on this show.
9:42 – Moving onto the Potato Basil Puree. Pro Tip #1: involves blanching and shocking the fresh basil will help set the bright green color. Tricky.
10:17 – Now a little trip down memory lane to visit the Bistrot de Paris where potato puree is standard issue with many dishes.
11:29 – Pro Tip #2: Use an electric hand mixer to get really light, fluffy mashed potatoes.
12:03 – Only Ina could mix pale green cream into mashed potatoes and not have the entire bowl look like pea soup.
13:44 – Jeffrey is off to the wine shop to get advice from Jack on what to pair with their dinner. Jack suggests several from the Rhone valley and Jeffrey chooses the one that shares its name with the Marché de Raspail- Ina’s favorite Parisian market. Great job.
14:55 – The main course comes from Ina’s go-to butcher, Guilhien Jean-Bernard on the Rue de Bac, where she often buys veal chops.
18:26 – Ina says this is meant to be a day-off, but how can that be when there’s a camera crew around? Best not to look to hard at the logic.
19:40 – Anyway, she’s out in the backyard grilling the Veal Chops with Roquefort Butter, while Jeffrey tries to redeem his reputation as a bad shopper by picking up a lovely surprise: apple tatin just like the one they have at Café de Flore. He’s so sweet!
20:15 – Pro Tip #3: if making a sauce is too much trouble, use a compound or flavored butter instead and put a piece or two on top of the grilled chops.
21:38 – Ina says she does several different kinds of compound butter, white truffle for a special occasion or mustard butter too.
22:59 – While Ina puts the finishing touches on the veal chops Jeffrey secrets the apple tatin in the pantry until it’s time for the big reveal.
23:12 – Dinner on the terrace as they channel Café de Flore, even more so when Jeffrey brings out dessert. They’re adorable!
26:35 – Switching gears to Ask Ina. Deborah is baking brie in puff pastry, but isn’t sure whether to remove the rind. Ina says the rind is edible, but recommends whole wheel of Camembert rather than a wedge of brie since it’s neater when baked.
27:41 – Andy is having a rough time with his coq au vin, it turns purple! Ina manages to tell him nicely that that’s what it’s supposed to look like thanks to the red wine.
28:24 – Chris is hoping for some recommendations on Parisian food markets. Ina says she loves the Marché de Raspail and La Grande Epicierie in Le Bon Marché department store.
29:50 – Alice is desperate for a recipe that will make hot chocolate like Angelina’s in the Rue de Rivoli. Ina has a suggestion Double Hot Chocolate for how to make it at home. Jeffrey reaps the spoils of the recipe demonstration. Winning!
I love the idea of basing a menu around cafes they’ve visited in Paris, what a great way to relive a trip!
All of these recipes are quite simple, but perfectly highlight the ingredients.
I wonder if the Gartens need a helper on their next trip….?
Is it nuts that I’ve never made an omelet? I’m not sure that this Country French Omelet fully counts, but at least I’m on the right track. Here’s what I learned…
Bacon – I’d recommend dicing the bacon a little larger than you’d think, somewhere between 1/3” – 1/2" inch wide across each strip is about right, since it will shrink a bit as it cooks.
Potatoes – Bless Ina for the skins-on note, no peeling required! Just make sure to dice them all about the same size. I’d recommend a small cubes about 1/3” square so that they’ll cook all the way through without burning on the outside. Remember all your sautéing lessons and resist the urge to crowd the pan. For this recipe a medium potato (baseball-ish sized) will fit nicely in a 10” sauté pan.
Cook Time – I made an individual portion with about half the called for potatoes and bacon; using 3 eggs in an 8” stainless steel sauté pan. Because the portion was a bit smaller I started the assembled omelet in the oven for 6 minutes, at about 7 minutes it was 90% set so I took it out assuming that the eggs would continue to cook a little as I snipped the chives. If you like your eggs fully set you’ll likely need to add 1-2 minutes to the overall suggested cooking time.
Omelet Plating – I was convinced that I’d be scraping this omelet out of the pan cursing eggs for being so darn sticky, but amazingly it came right out with very little help from the spatula needed. The combined power of bacon fat, olive oil, and butter I suppose– which PS: makes the bottom of the omelet incredibly delicious.
Small Kitchen Friendly?
1,000% This recipe is perfect for anyone with limited cooking equipment/space. I used an 8” stainless steel sauté pan (use a 10 inch if you’re making the full recipe), a medium cutting board, chef’s knife, small bowl, a table fork, and fish spatula.
Ina’s Country French Omelet is one of those recipes that’s greater than the sum of it’s parts and elevates all of the ingredients. This is the type of recipe that’s perfect anytime of day – a little toast & jam at breakfast, maybe a small side salad at lunch, add a toasted tartine with Gruyere at dinner and it’s a meal. The fact that the ingredients are so simple that you’re likely to have them on hand at any point means that you’re no more than 25 minutes away from a delicious meal. Just the kind of effort most of us have at this busy time of year. Let all the choirs of angels sing!