Herb Roasted Cod

  Herb Roasted Cod  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Herb Roasted Cod | Image: Laura Messersmith

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 this week I’m making Herb Roasted Fish for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and “challenges” along the way along with suggestions on how to adapt Ina’s recipe to a small kitchen.

Episode: “Italian at Home”

The Set-up: Ina, Jeffrey and their friends are recreating recipes from a memorable trip to Italy.

The Menu: Herb Roasted Fish, Creamy Parmesan Polenta, Celery and Parmesan Salad, Affogato Sundaes

0:49 – Ina and Jeffrey took a trip to Florence, Italy recently and it seems like he won the ordering game at Cibrèo when he ordered a baked fish. Ina’s making her version at home.

1:30 – The technique is a little different – the Herb Roasted Fish baked in parchment paper which allows the cod and seasonings to steam together as they cook.

2:45 – Wow, this comes together so fast. Once the fish has its own sheet of parchment it’s topped with a few sprigs of thyme, a couple large olives, and a smattering of salt, pepper and olive oil. #howeasyisthat?

3:19 – Now that the fish is prepped – Ina is brushing the edges with egg wash to help seal the packets. It’s like a little craft project.

4:22 – PS: I see Ina doing this on her lovely butcher block cutting boards, but I’d probably just work straight on the baking sheet and save myself some clean up.

5:38 – Dinner is going to be served “al fresco” and the table setting is suitably rustic: a linen-lined bread basket filled with fresh lemons and lemon leaves.

6:01 –The theme is modern square plates, napkins, glasses lined up in a row and Ina is channeling her inner butler; making sure the spacing is just so. She thinks the Italians are so effortlessly stylish, but she is too!

9:33 – On to the Celery and Parmesan Salad. Ina says that Italians use celery more than Americans and I agree – why have I relegated celery to a filler or garnish?

10:40 – Per usual, Ina is making her own dressing but this time it’s a lemon and celery seed vinaigrette, not her traditional mustard-based version.

11:55 – The dressing also involves anchovy paste – another ingredient I have an odd relationship with. When I don’t know it’s there we’re cool, but it kinda weirds me out.

12:14 – One thing about a celery salad is that it probably stays crisp (even when dressed) for quite a long time.

13:29 Over to Barbara and Bobby Liberman who are on the hunt for wine. They’re sticking with Italian vineyards – a red for appetizers and a white for dinner. Success!

14:36 – For appetizers Ina is going rustic and casual – a few salted cashews, marinated olives, and some artisanal potato chips.

15:07 – It really doesn’t get easier than this. Step 1: open package, Step 2: place in silver bowl, Step 3: profit.

18:42 – Jeffrey, Bobby, and Barbara are relaxing in the backyard over the appetizers and reminiscing about their trip while Ina cooks Creamy Parmesan Polenta.

19:35 – Full disclosure: I am horrendous at cooking polenta it regularly comes out too thick and gummy. So, let listen to Ina’s words of polenta wisdom instead - whisk first to prevent lumps, then stir with a wooden spoon over low heat. It sounds so simple!

20:18  – Jeffrey makes an appearance to top off Ina’s glass of wine and gets to help out by putting the Herb Roasted Fish in the oven. He also wins husband points for checking on Ina.

21:00 – Time to finish the polenta by adding the parmesan cheese and plate the Celery and Parmesan Salad with shavings of parmesan, toasted walnuts, and parsley leaves.

22:11 – Dinner is served! Barbara immediately recognizes the fish recipe and exclaims how lovely it is. Well played, Ina.

23:39 – A mutual agreement that no one knows how to ask for wine in Italian, even though Bobby can (allegedly) order a bottle in six languages. That seems like a miss if you ask me, time to take some Italian lessons Mr. Liberman.

27:22 – While her guests wind down from dinner Ina’s working on dessert: Affogato Sundaes, which combine both dessert and coffee by pouring espresso over vanilla and hazelnut ice cream. Sounds like heaven.

28:36 – She’s using a Nespresso machine to brew espresso shots. Some day when we have slightly more counter space…

29:54 – These are insane: coffee liqueur, homemade whipped cream, and chopped chocolate covered espresso beans. I want to do a face-plant into these bowls. Amazing.

Final Thoughts:
What a fun idea to recreate a memorable dinner from a trip with friends.

Trust Ina to make a themed dinner so elegant and effortless with simple ingredients.

I don’t think I ever fully appreciated the power of a silver bowl to make everything feel special and intentional.

  Herb Roasted Cod  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Herb Roasted Cod | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I’ve wanted to try cooking en papillote - French for "in parchment" - or al cartoccio – since this is an episode about Italian cooking – for a long time and as I watched Ina cook the Herb Roasted Fish I was inspired to finally do it. What’s a bit funny to me is that if you replace the elegant cod with something like trout you’re really just one step removed from campfire cooking.

Fish Selection - It is worth asking your seafood counter helper for thicker, meaty pieces of cod as I find they stand up to the roasting process better. If, you have some variation in size among the filets, then I’d recommend putting the smaller ones on the same sheet pan and staggering their into the oven by a minute or two. That way everything is done at the same time and is perfectly cooked.

Packet Construction – I tried two different ways of sealing the packets – Ina’s empanada style and what I think of as deli style (rolled toward the middle and then tucked under. In both cases without the egg wash to seal them closed they did leak a bit but the results were still excellent.

Seasoning – The cooking process is somewhere between poaching and steaming so it’s important to add plenty of seasoning so that the delicate flavor of the fish is enhanced and the liquid creates a delicious sauce. I made a few changes to Ina's original recipe swapping in butter butter for the olive oil and capers for the olives.

  Herb Roasted Cod  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Herb Roasted Cod | Image: Laura Messersmith

Herb Roasted Fish in Parchment Paper (4 servings)

Ingredients:
4 (8 ounce) boneless snapper or cod fillets
2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (2-3 lemons) freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoons (3-4 sprigs) fresh thyme
2 teaspoons drained capers

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Pat the fish dry with paper towels and place each piece on a sheet of parchment paper. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper, then place 1/2 tablespoon of butter under each filet. Drizzle with lemon juice and scatter the thyme leaves and capers over the top. Repeat with the other three pieces of fish evenly dividing the seasonings among the pieces of fish.

Beat the egg together with 1 tablespoon of water for an egg wash. Brush the egg wash around the edge of the parchment paper and fold it in half. Carefully fold the edge of the parchment paper under and around the fish to make a package. Place the package on a sheet pan and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the fish is cooked through. Serve hot in the parchment paper.

Lightly adapted and rewritten from Ina Garten’s Herb Roasted Fish.

Small Kitchen Friendly?
1,000,000%. All I used were 2 rimmed sheet pans, a chef’s knife, small cutting board, measuring spoons (but really you could just estimate, this is a forgiving recipe) and a fish spatula. Parchment paper and paper towels are essential here.

The Verdict:
Lord this is good. Trust Ina to pinpoint a restaurant quality meal that takes so little effort you could almost forget you're cooking. Delicately poached code in its own buttery, lemony, faintly herbal juices while the capers add their own briny punch to the mix. Point 2: it will never cease to be a teat that in the time it takes my rickety little oven to heat up, I can have the entire main course prepped and ready to go.

  Herb Roasted Cod  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Herb Roasted Cod | Image: Laura Messersmith


Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast

  Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast | Image: Laura Messersmith

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 this week I’m making Blood Orange Marmalade for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and “challenges” along the way along with suggestions on how to adapt Ina’s recipe to a small kitchen.

Episode: “Say It With Food”

The Set-up: Ina’s helping her friend Cassandra make a gift basket of treats for her mother.

The Menu: Date Nut Spice Bread, Anna’s Orange Marmalade, Homemade Museli with Red Berries

0:45 – We’re mixing up the order as Ina shows us the finished gift basket – a wicker hamper stuffed to the brim with treats and wrapped in cellophane and raffia.

1:30 – Rewind! Now it’s the night before as we see all the effort that went into the gift starting with Date Nut Spice Bread, the star of the basket.

2:14 – Ina must have read my mind as she mixed the butter and sugar, followed by the eggs, 100% the same steps for any cake.

3:36 – She’s a master of layered flavors and this time it’s orange zest, liqueur, and juice to give the bread a strong note of citrus.

4:51 – Random Thought: when I squeeze oranges by hand the fresh juice always seems a bit thin and watery, I wonder if I should invest in a juicer to get more pulp involved…

5:07 – Dry ingredients are sifted together and then Pro Tip #1: add them alternately to the batter with the juice to keep the cake nice and light.

6:18 – Now that the batter is done it’s time to add the pecans and dates. I used to love dates, but now they’re a little too sweet for me. I have a feeling I’ll never make this bread unless I run across a devoted date lover someday.

7:29 – Okay, bread is in the oven. Pro Tip #2: a professional grade metal loaf pan will help get really crisp sides on the bread.

10:34 – The evening of prep continues with a batch of Anna’s Orange Marmalade. Ina finally pried the recipe out of her friend Anna Pump after years of buying jars at Loaves and Fishes.

11:42 – As you might have guessed, making orange marmalade requires a lot of thinly sliced oranges. Ina recommends just doing it with a sharp chef’s knife, the mandoline and food processor options don’t work as well.

12:19 – The oranges and lemons are in the pot with some water and later sugar. The process seems fairly straightforward but does involved heating and cooling the mixture at different intervals while the fruit cooks down.

13:27 – Marmalade is done and looking very New England pioneer in its canning jars and now it’s time to assemble the basket and Ina has some tips on how to make them look good.

14:54 –Step 1: Use a high quality basket, here she’s using a picnic hamper. Step 2: put some thing soft like raffia in as a base layer, then place a solid element, here it’s the Date Nut Spice Bread, in the center.

15:13 – Step 3: Fill in on either side with smaller items like the jars of Anna’s Orange Marmalade. Step 4: Soften the presentation by placing a bit more raffia in between the jars and add a few colorful items like lemon leaves and fresh fruit.

19:35 – Part 2 of the spice bread is orange scented cream cheese. The original idea was a cream cheese swirled bread, but after testing it “about 10 times” with little success Ina just decided to serve it on the side. Glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks of recipes that don’t work in practice!

20:58 – Cream cheese is done and packed in a ramekin for the basket, so now we switch over to Cassandra who’s making her way over to Ina’s house to pick up the basket.

21:20 – Last item for the basket: Homemade Museli with Red Berries which Ina describes as “a Swiss breakfast that’s really good for you, but usually tastes like the cardboard box it came in.” Oh snap. Also, super true, sorry muesli.

22:46 – Presumably, Ina is going to rescue muesli from it’s sad, bland state and make it worth eating. Mostly this seems to be taking place with the addition of honey and toasted hazelnuts, not a bad place to start.

26:29 – Now we’re getting both macerated berries and greek yogurt in the mix, which sounds pretty awesome to me.

27:02 – Ina layers the museli and greek yogurt in more canning jars and that’s the final touch on the basket of treats.

28:43 – The last step, wrap the entire basket in cellophane and tie it with a bright orange bow and wait for Cassandra to arrive.

29:55 – Cassandra initially claims responsibility for the basket, but the jig is up. Barbara could recognize a Barefoot Contessa production blindfolded. Meanwhile, Ina enjoying some toast with marmalade over the New York Times looking like the cat that ate the canary.

Final Thoughts:
Ina makes everything look so easy I could almost see trying to make a gift basket – coming soon to a special occasion near you!

Sadly, when I looked up this recipe I learned that Anna Pump passed away last fall, so it seems appropriate that her orange marmalade is bittersweet.

Cassandra is pretty ballsy to pretend she made that basket…

  Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
One of the pitfalls of being citrus mad all through January is that eventually your fruit bowl is overflowing with lemons or blood oranges and come February you’ve worn out your welcome and no one can bear to eat another grapefruit segment. What’s a thrifty person to do? Cue: (Blood) Orange Marmalade!

I have never canned or preserved anything in my life (unless quick pickles count?) so frankly I was a little concerned and I learned a ton along the way.

Blood Oranges vs Navel – Since I had lots of blood oranges in the aforementioned fruit bowl and I like their sharper flavor I subbed them in, while simultaneously halving the recipe. They’re a bit smaller than a navel orange, so I went with a 2:1 ratio looking for about 4 generous cups of orange slices, plus the lemon. I like my marmalade pretty tangy and not overly sweet, so I left the sugar as is and I was pleased with the results.

Slicing Fruit – Contrary to Ina’s recommendation I did try to use a mandoline at first and found that either the blade on mine is really dull, or that citrus was just meant to be sliced by hand. I have since relegated that piece of kitchen equipment to the good-will since every time I’ve tried to use it the produce gets totally mangled. Just rock this out old school with a chef’s knife and a cutting board while you listen to a podcast or a beachy Spotify playlist.

Candy Thermometer – Most instant read thermometers won’t reach 220 degrees F and they’re tricky to use for this purpose since the stem isn’t very long. Boiling sugar is not to be trifled with, so this is an occasion when a $20 investment could save you a nasty burn. If you have trouble seeing the hashmarks on an analog model, then digital is the way to go.

Timing – Other than the slicing and jarring there really isn’t too much hands-on time, but it is the sort of recipe that requires several hours over the course of about a day to prepare. On the other hand, it will fill your kitchen and probably most of your home with a gorgeous orangy scent.

Canning Jars – Many people, including Ina recommend disinfecting the jars by running them through the dishwasher (no soap!) just before filling them. It’s definitely simpler than dealing with the pot of boiling water, tongs, etc.

  Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Actually, yes. I used a large pot, a chef’s knife, medium cutting board, 2 canning jars, a spatula, liquid and dry measuring cups, a large spoon, and a candy thermometer.

The Verdict:
As my tastes have changed I’ve really come around on marmalade’s bitter and sweet flavor, so this version of (Blood) Orange Marmalade was perfect for me. If you’re giving this as a gift your friends will definitely be impressed and if you’re looking for ways to use this fantastic concoction, may I suggest as a topping for a not-too sweet, might even please egg-lovers French Toast…?

  Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast | Image: Laura Messersmith

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast (serves 4-6)

Ingredients:
1 medium loaf crusty, French-style sourdough bread
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons whole milk
1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

For Serving:
1 1/2 cups vanilla Greek yogurt (I like Chobani)
1/2 cup Blood Orange Marmalade
1/4 cup orange blossom honey

Instructions:
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut the bread into 12 (1-inch) slices and set aside. It’s okay and actually preferable if the bread is on the dry side, all the better to soak up the egg without getting soggy.

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, cloves, vanilla, and salt until well combined.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large non-stick sauté pan over medium heat.

Working one piece at a time, place the slices of bread in the egg, turning to coat both sides, and then into the hot pan.

Cook the French toast in batches over medium heat, don’t crowd the pan, for 3-4 minutes per side until the egg-coated bread turns golden brown and the edges begin to crisp.

Remove to a rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

Add the remaining tablespoons of butter one at a time, as needed, to the pan before repeating the process with the remaining slices of bread.

Serve warm, and invite your guests to top with vanilla Greek yogurt, a spoonful of blood orange marmalade, and a drizzle of honey.

Small Kitchen Friendly?
You know it. You’ll need a large non-stick sauté pan, a rimmed baking sheet, shallow bowl, serrated knife, cutting board, and tongs (I find them easier than a spatula). Measuring spoons are helpful or you can eyeball it!

  Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Blood Orange Marmalade French Toast | Image: Laura Messersmith

Valencia Orange Pound Cake

  Valencia Orange Pound Cake  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Valencia Orange Pound Cake | Image: Laura Messersmith

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 this week I’m making Orange Pound Cake for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and “challenges” along the way along with suggestions on how to adapt Ina’s recipe to a small kitchen.

Episode: “Jeffrey’s Birthday Pop-up”

The Set-up: It’s Jeffrey’s birthday and Ina is cooking him a surprise Greek themed lunch at an historic home in East Hampton

The Menu: Hummus, Spinach Pie, Raspberry Orange Trifle (featuring: Orange Pound Cake and Orange Cream)

0:42 – Jeffrey doesn’t want a birthday cake and Ina is of the opinion that no one over the age of 25 needs one anyway (did not get this memo) so she’s making individual Raspberry Orange Trifles for dessert.

1:25 – The base of the trifle is homemade Orange Pound Cake, so we’re starting with that step.

2:03 – Pro Tip #1: A light cake starts with butter (and eggs) softened to room temperature – preferably at least over night; this helps the butter cream together with the sugar and combine evenly with the eggs.

3:19 – Pro Tip #2: The second step to light cakes is alternating the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients so that both are incorporated without over mixing.

4:36 – Ina has a ton of good baking recommendations today! Here’s Pro Tip #3: Use a kitchen scale (don’t forget to tare off the weight of the pan) to make sure the batter is evenly distributed.

5:17 – I remember hearing an interview where Ina said that buttering and flouring the insides of cake pans was one of her least favorite kitchen tasks. Word. But why is it so annoying?

6:48 – We get the inside scoop on the rest of Jeffrey’s celebration – the lunch will be at the historic “Home Sweet Home” residence with flowers and period tablesetting by Ina’s friend Lilee Fell

7:11 – The pound cakes are out of the oven and receiving an additional dose of flavor via an orange simple syrup. Yum.

10:23 – Time to assemble the individual Raspberry Orange Trifles. Each piece of cake is spread with raspberry jam and then layered with fresh raspberries and Orange Cream.

11:10 – I originally assumed that the orange cream would just be whipped cream scented with orange zest, but it actually seems to be a traditional Crème Patisserie. (You can thank the Great British Bake Off for teaching me the difference.)

12:59 – Over to “Home Sweet Home” to see what Lilee is up to and we learn that non-skid pads and a second interior vase allow her to use historic vessels for flowers without fear of damaging them.

13:36 - The trifles are complete, now it’s time for a trip to Cavaniola’s in Sag Harbor for some stuffed grape leaves, olives and feta to complete the Greek Platter.

14:47 – The Greek theme comes from Jeffrey’s request to go to Greece, but I guess that wasn’t in the travel budget for the year.

18:08 – Time to work on the rest of the main course: Spinach Pie which Ina plans to serve along side the other items she bought.

19:15 – The filling of the pie is spinach, pine nuts, feta, and parmesan held together with beaten eggs, which if I remember correctly is similar to the recipe for Spanakopita.

20:37 – Instead of a traditional butter/flour based crust, the spinach pie has a few layers of phyllo dough.

21:53 – How interesting, the phyllo crust is placed in a sauté pan and then the edges are pulled together over the top to form a little purse. Ina calls it a “top knot”.

22:29 – I wonder why she used a metal sauté pan instead of a glass pie plate? I assume she has a reason…

26:34 – The Spinach Pie is out of the oven and Ina is portioning it onto the platter. It looks like this is the sort of dish that’s just as good room temperature as it is piping hot.

27:00 – Last element: homemade lemon and garlic Hummus which forms the center of the platter. A quick drizzle of olive oil here, a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts there, some rubbed dried oregano.

28:41 – Pro Tip #4: Grouping each item on the platter in big blocks of color prevents it from looking like the “proverbial dog’s breakfast.” Lilee is in charge of bringing the food to “Home Sweet Home” while Ina collects Jeffrey.

29:52 – The surprise is revealed and the two sit down to their Greek lunch. Jeffrey seems tickled by the thoughtfulness (as he should be) and true to form says this is the best lunch and dessert ever. He will live to see another year.

Final Thoughts:
Still wishing Ina had explained the sauté pan vs. pie plate choice.
Like Jeffrey, I too wonder what the original homeowners would make of the Greek menu.
I will never tire of Ina’s “dog’s breakfast” comparison.

  Valencia Orange Pound Cake   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Valencia Orange Pound Cake | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
As has probably become obvious, I am in a citrusy mood lately so naturally the Orange Pound Cake caught my attention. It’s been awhile since I made pound cake and since this one has a slightly unusual step I figured it was a good one to refresh my memory and learn a trick or two. Here are my take aways.

Room Temperature Ingredients – If you do nothing else, but do allow your butter, eggs, and buttermilk to come to room temperature then I will consider this blog post a success. But here’s the thing, to be truly effective you really need all three at the same temperature. Consider: you’ve got soft butter all beautifully creamed together with the sugar, but then add cold eggs. The butter is going to firm up and the eggs won’t incorporate the way they should. Same deal at the buttermilk stage.

Orange Zest – I halved Ina’s recipe to make just one loaf of pound cake, but intentionally left the amount of orange zest the same (1/3 cup) as in the original recipe. I wanted the orange flavor to come through loud and clear and I think oranges (unlike lemons) can sometimes be a little wimpy. Essentially doubling the zest per cake ratio made sure that wasn’t a problem.

Orange Drizzle – Again, I am all about getting the most orange flavor I can and here I’d recommend allowing the orange juice/sugar mixture to reduce a bit so the juice is slightly more concentrated. Also, to make sure the cake soaked up as much of the syrup as possible I used a toothpick to gently poke small holes across the top of the bread. The better to absorb the drizzle.

Orange Segments – Lastly, this is more of a home-ec, waste not want not tip, but once you have the zest and juice you need there will still likely be an orange or two that can be supremed and the segments served as a topping for the pound cake. The cake is lovely on its own, but a little fresh fruit makes it just that much more special.

  Valencia Orange Pound Cake   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Valencia Orange Pound Cake | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Totally. I used two medium mixing bowls, an 8x3 glass loaf pan, a hand mixer, a small sauce pan, measuring cups (liquid and dry), measuring spoons, a microplane grater, and a rubber spatula. A wire rack and rimmed sheet pan will be helpful if you don’t want the drizzle or glaze to pool around the bottom of the pound cake.

The Verdict:
This Orange Pound Cake is really flipping good. The interior crumb manages to be both moist and light simultaneously, and thanks to my extra zest the orange flavor is lively and bright. I’m sure this is fabulous in a trifle, but on it’s own or with a spoonful of fresh orange segments it caps off the meal with a fresh note. I can see making this for a summer dessert just as easily as in winter.

  Valencia Orange Pound Cake   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Valencia Orange Pound Cake | Image: Laura Messersmith

Panko Crusted Salmon

  Panko Crusted Salmon   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Panko Crusted Salmon | Image: Laura Messersmith

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 today I’m making Panko Crusted Salmon 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: “Miguel While You Were Out”

The Set-up: Miguel is visiting from New York to take pictures of Ina’s garden, so she’s treating him to a home-cooked dinner.

The Menu: Panko Crusted Salmon, Warm French Lentils, Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken Stock, All-American Cheese Board

0:52 – We’re starting today with Miguel’s favorite Chicken Noodle Soup which Ina is planning to send with him in a thermos when he leaves. How sweet!

1:20 – Naturally this starts with homemade Chicken Stock. We get a quick overview on the process, which is involves a 20 quart stock pot. That’s not a typo – twenty quarts.

2:56 – A brief check-in with Miguel as he snaps some shots in the garden. I bet it’s heaven out there on a late spring day.

3:23 – Ina has declared that egg noodles are really the only appropriate noodle for chicken noodle soup. True. It honestly wouldn’t be the same with bowties or linguini.

4:34 – Ina has roasted two chicken breasts to help the meat retain its flavor in a way that it doesn’t when you boil it. Boiled chicken frankly sounds incredibly unappetizing.

5:51 – It’s so freezing today and I am officially now craving chicken noodle soup. Do you think Ina would send an extra thermos for me…?

6:47 – I love that Ina actually tastes her food and adjusts the seasonings if they need it. Pro Tip #1: Salt is the key to making chicken soup taste really delicious.

9:32 – Moving on to Panko Crusted Salmon. Ina says she assembles it ahead so it’s ready to cook when company arrives. My one qualm is that salmon is so ‘fragrant’ that I hesitate to cook it for company.

10:14 – Interesting technique, the mustard is used for flavor but also to help adhere the panko and seasonings to the fish.

11:29 – Out to Miguel raiding the garden. He’s taking clippings for some project of his own mysterious devising. What is he up to?

12:06 – All will be revealed I suppose. In the meantime: Warm French Lentils. I’ve make Ina’s other recipe a ton (and it’s incredible) but this is a different version.

13:45 – She says the two secret and fairly random ingredients are an onion stuck with whole cloves and a turnip, which season the water the lentils cook in. Presumably both will be removed before the dish is served.

14:38 – Ah yes, the vegetables have been removed and now the drained lentils go in with sautéed carrots and leeks. Again, this recipe diverges from the other with the addition of a mustard vinaigrette.

19:17 – Ina has arrived at a little cheese shop called Lucy’s Whey at the Amagansett Farmer’s Market (awesome name) to select some options for her All-American Cheese Board.

20:30 Ina often suggests that one creamy/soft, one hard, and one blue option give a nice variety for a small cheese board. Lucy recommends Moses Sleeper, Vermont Shepherd, Bailey Hazen Blue all from Vermont.

21:41 – Now that the cheeses are settled, it’s time to pick up a few jams, crackers, and dried fruit to round out the board. PS: Ina has an account at the shop, such a charming small-town!

22:55 – Now for a little cheese board-arranging lesson. Step 1: layer the cutting board with a flat green leaf (fig, hydrangea, etc.), Step 2: give the board some height with a nice pile of green grapes.

23:02 – Step 3: place the wedges of cheese; Step 4: fill in with big blocks of crackers, dried fruit, and a small dish of jam.

27:19 – It’s time to cook the prepped Panko Crusted Salmon first by searing the skin side in a hot pan on the stove-top then finishing the cooking in the oven.

28:54 – Ahh, as promised the surprise has been revealed: Miguel set the table on the porch and arranged it with flowers from the garden. Perfect timing because dinner is ready!

29:43 – It turns out that great minds think alike – the center piece and the All-American Cheese Board both feature a fig leaf back drop. Hilarity ensues when Ina shows Miguel his to-go thermos of Chicken Noodle Soup.

Final Thoughts:
Just when I think Ina has developed the perfect recipe, she transforms it into something else entirely.

Ina’s seafood cooking techniques are so spot on.

I suppose a gift of Chicken Noodle Soup is sort of odd, but how endearing!

  Panko Crusted Salmon   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Panko Crusted Salmon | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I’ve made versions of salmon in the past, but never anything ‘crusted’ so Panko Crusted Salmon was a new adventure and one I’m happy to say is practically fool proof.

Panko Topping – this really is the place for either plain or whole wheat panko crumbs, as opposed to traditional bread crumbs. Their rougher texture provides more little nooks and crannies to catch hold of the lemon zest and other seasonings, as well as places for toasting and crisping to take place.

Mustard – One to two teaspoons of Dijon mustard might seem like a lot for one piece of fish, but I urge you not to skip it. The flavor is excellent with the salmon, which can totally stand up to it’s robust spice, and it serves a dual purpose by also giving the panko a place to adhere. No point in putting a crispy coating on something if it’s just going to fall off the minute you move the food.

Cooking Time & Resting – I found the cooking + resting time to be spot on for a perfectly cooked piece of salmon. One recommendation though: loosely cover the cooked fish with foil so that some of the heat can escape. Formerly crunchy bread crumbs gone soggy with steam is not a good look.

  Panko Crusted Salmon   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Panko Crusted Salmon | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, 100%. I needed a 10 inch oven-proof sauté pan, a small mixing bowl, small cutting board, chef’s knife, measuring cups, measuring spoons, a microplane zester, and a fish spatula. That’s all!

The Verdict:
Ina is an absolute wizard with cooking fish and her Panko Crusted Salmon is no different. The fish emerges from the oven perfectly cooked, tender and moist with the crispy, crunchy panko for contrast. As always, the flavors are spot on and elevate anything you’d like to serve along side. I recommend a base of crisp, leafy spinach or baby kale, preferably topped with the Avocado and Grapefruit Salad from last week. A fresh and light dinner that’s still grounded by the salmon.

  Panko Crusted Salmon  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Panko Crusted Salmon | Image: Laura Messersmith