Country French Omelet

Country French Omelet  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Country French Omelet | 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 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.

The Menu: Country French Omelet, Double Hot Chocolate, Veal Chops with Roquefort Butter, Potato Basil Puree

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!

Final Thoughts:
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….?

Country French Omelet   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Country French Omelet | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
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.

Country French Omelet   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Country French Omelet | Image: Laura Messersmith

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.

The Verdict:
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!

Country French Omelet   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Country French Omelet | Image: Laura Messersmith

Brussels Sprout, Bacon & Gruyère Frittata

Brussels Sprout, Bacon & Gruyère Frittata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Brussels Sprout, Bacon & Gruyère Frittata | Image: Laura Messersmith

When I first spotted this frittata from Food + Wine magazine on Pinterest I knew immediately that I had to make it for Mike. Its combination of Brussels sprouts, bacon, and Gruyère cheese is nearly all of his favorite foods in one convenient (and easy!) recipe.

If you’re like me and never seem to have an oven-safe skillet quiiite large enough to hold the veggies and the eggs, then my adaptation which requires no skillet at all will hopefully be a Godsend. The outcome is the same and possibly even better due to the magic of the roasted sprouts and the lack of spattering stovetop bacon grease, always a win in my book.

This recipe is just begging to be made some hairy weeknight when dinner requires a dish both comforting and sustaining. Or, for Sunday brunch when something slightly more elegant than classic scrambled is called for, and you’re looking to incorporate some leafy greens under a welcoming blanket of egg and cheese.

Brussels Sprout, Bacon & Gruyère Frittata   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Brussels Sprout, Bacon & Gruyère Frittata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Brussels Sprout, Bacon & Gruyère Frittata (serves 4-6) 

Ingredients:
1/2 pound (5 strips) thick-cut bacon
3/4 pound brussels sprouts, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 shallots, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup (1/4 pound) shredded Gruyère cheese
8 large eggs
2 tablespoons whole milk
1/4 cup snipped chives
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

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

Prep the Brussels sprouts by trimming the ends and slicing them vertically in 1/4 pieces. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the Brussels sprouts in a single layer. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes, then turn with a spatula and add in the thinly sliced shallots. Continue to roast for another 7-10 minutes until the sprouts are crisp-tender and just beginning to brown and the shallots are softened.

Meanwhile, line a second rimmed baking sheet with foil and lay the strips of bacon in a single layer. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes turning halfway through until the bacon is crisp. Drain and cool on a paper towel-lined plate, then roughly chop into 1/4 inch strips.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the milk, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Stir in the shredded gruyere and snipped chives.

Lightly coat an 8” pie plate with non stick spray. Layer the Brussels sprouts and bacon, then pour the egg mixture over the top. Bake the frittata for 25-30 minutes, until the center is just set. Run a rubber spatula around the edge of the frittata and slide it onto a serving plate, then cut it into 6 pieces and serve.

Re-written and adapted from Food + Wine’s Brussels Sprout, Bacon and Gruyère Frittata by Justin Chapple.

Brussels Sprout, Bacon & Gruyère Frittata   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Brussels Sprout, Bacon & Gruyère Frittata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
100%. All you need is two rimmed baking sheets (you can get away with one if necessary by lining it with parchment and re-using it  for the bacon), a medium cutting board, chef’s knife, 8” pie plate, medium mixing bowl, dinner plate, rubber spatula, liquid measuring cup, and measuring spoons. Aluminum foil, parchment paper, and paper towels will make clean up much simpler.

The Verdict:
The number one way I can tell if Mike likes something is when he’s willing to eat it more than one day in a row. The other mark of success is when I wish I had thought of it first, hat tip to you Mr. Chapple. In that case Brussels Sprout, Bacon and Gruyère Frittata is a total winner. The sprouts are perfectly complimented by the creaminess of the egg and cheese mixture, and the crunchy salty bacon. Definitely keeping this one in mind as winter approaches and sprouts become a go-to menu item.

Brussels Sprout, Bacon & Gruyère Frittata   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Brussels Sprout, Bacon & Gruyère Frittata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll | 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 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: “Supper in a Box”

The Set-up: Ina trades a boxed dinner with her friend Edwina for a new herb garden.

The Menu: Lobster Cobb Salad Roll, Brown Rice with Tomato & Basil, Mini Orange Chocolate Chunk Cakes

0:59 – Ina reveals that she takes old favorite recipes, like a classic pound cake, and reworks them to incorporate new flavors.

1:15 – First up, the Mini Orange Chocolate Chunk Cakes which are inspired by Grand Marnier.

2:29 – I’ve noticed that Ina uses her Kitchen Aid stand mixer for nearly every baking project, I wonder if that’s for TV efficiency or if she’d really haul it out anyway?

3:41 – But now she mentions that if she has a lot of citrus to juice she uses an electric juicer, so maybe she’s more of a gadget person than I thought…

4:23 – I love chocolate with berries, but for some reason chocolate + orange has never had quite the same appeal.

5:34 – You probably never thought you’d hear me say this, but I think I’d rather have these cakes without the chocolate chunks!

6:42 – Oooh, fun! Ina is making individual sized bundt cakes in neat little silicone molds. Why does something miniature automatically seem more special?

7:06 – Over to Edwina’s where she’s painting two rough wood window boxes bright blue (for Ina) and lime green (for herself.)

8:49 – Back to Ina’s where the Mini Orange Chocolate Chunk Cakes are slightly cooled and ready for to be soaked with an orange syrup. Yum!

11:18 – Ganache time – chocolate chips, instant coffee powder, cream – to drizzle over the top of the cakes. Reminds me a little of those chocolate oranges that pop up around holiday time.

12:03 – Pro Tip #1: If the ganache is too thick, just add a touch more cream until it’s thin enough to drizzle.

13:32 – Onward to the Brown Rice with Tomato & Basil. Ina describes Edwina as a “grown-up hippie” and you know hippies can’t resist brown rice. They just go crazy for it!

14:27 – Ina is making a vinaigrette for the rice salad and I’m a little surprised that she’s going for a white wine based dressing instead of balsamic. Maybe that would be too heavy?

15:20 – Pro Tip #2: Pouring the vinaigrette over warm, cooked rice will allow it to absorb into the grains and add more flavor.

16:56 – I’m also wondering why Ina didn’t go full caprese salad and put in some fresh mozzarella? Obviously, the peanut gallery has aaaalll sorts of ideas about improvements.

19:41 – Ina has moved on to the Lobster Cobb Salad Roll, which she says is a recipe she’s made year after year.

20:04 – Pro Tip #3: Haas avocados are ripe when skin is a deep brown and the fruit is firm. Squeezing fresh lemon juice over the cut pieces keeps the flesh bright green.

21:44 – I’m relieved to see that Ina is not going to boil a lobster on TV, but has wisely opted to buy lobster meat from the seafood shop.

22:15 – We check in with Edwina as she puts the finishing touches on the herb boxes and confirms that Ina is more of a blue person than a chartreuse person.

23:38 – The Lobster Cobb Salad Roll differs pretty significantly from a traditional lobster roll in the dressing department – Ina is using a Dijon mustard based vinaigrette rather than mayonnaise.

27:29 – The fact that bacon and blue cheese are involved completely demolishes my nascent theory that the lack of mozz in the rice salad is because Edwina is vegetarian.

28:40 – Pro Tip #4: This is a “mother-in-law salad” make it for your mother-in-law and she’ll love it and love you!

29:55 – All the treats are packed up in a sweet little take out box as Edwina arrives right on cue with her herb box for Ina. Hugs and exclamations of gratitude all around!

Final Thoughts:
I’m not sure what time of year this episode was filmed, but I can’t think of anything more summery than a Lobster Cobb Salad.

I need to develop more barter-based friendships where I can be the Ina. Any takers?

How many times do you think Ina made Lobster Cobb Salad for Jeffrey’s mother?

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I’ve had Lobster Cobb Salad Roll on the brain ever since I first saw this episode, but I wanted to wait until the summer months when light, simple recipes that involve very little cooking are just what the dinner table calls for.

Lobster: I have a confession to make – I’ve never cooked a live lobster and even after making this recipe that track record hasn’t changed. I decided that Ina had the right idea and was thankful to discover that my grocery store stocks cooked lobster meat in the seafood department. So, I’ll save that adventure for next time. Maybe.

Bacon: Definitely cook this in the oven (20-25 minutes total at 350 degrees, flip halfway through, drain on paper towels) especially if you’re roasting shrimp, or toasting the hotdog buns. So much less stressful, zero splattering from the stove top, beautifully crisp bacon.

Ingredients: As I noted, this entrée type salad requires very little effort from the cook and mainly a little chopping and mixing. It is, however; a recipe that highlights every component (no where to hide here), which makes choosing the best possible ingredients important. Luckily, at this time of year great tomatoes and avocados are plentiful. I looked for fruit that was ripe enough to taste delicious and firm enough to hold it’s shape in the salad. This is also the time, in my opinion, to get the thick-cut bacon and buy a small wedge of proper blue cheese (not the crumbles in the plastic container.) If you need to it’s easy to stretch the salad with more lettuce or a handful more tomatoes, and since a little of each of these items goes a long way it doesn’t have to be a huge investment of $$$.

Substitutions: If lobster, cooked, live, or otherwise, isn’t available or budget constraints don’t allow, I’d suggest using shrimp instead. Either precooked from the seafood counter or defrosted and roasted like in the Shrimp and Orzo Salad. The effect will be the same and it’s nearly as easy.

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, presuming that you’re not boiling your own lobsters! I needed a medium mixing bowl, a baking sheet, liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons, mixing spoon, a medium cutting board and a chef’s knife. Aluminum foil will make repurposing and cleaning up the baking sheet much easier.

The Verdict:
We're not regularly eating lobster, but from time to time it makes a really special treat. I made this for us over a hot hot summer weekend, served in a Martin's Potato Roll (natch) for a little extra something. First things first – the Lobster Cobb Salad Roll is not a Lobster Roll in the beach shack sense. Lobster stands in for chicken, but the other ingredients definitely take their cue from the Cobb Salad. Mike remarked on the variety of flavors at play – from the sweeter, mild pieces of lobster and creamy avocado to the bite of the mustard vinaigrette and blue cheese – and in some sense this dish is almost too much a of a good thing. We liked this salad - seriously, what's not to like? - but I’d also love to strip this salad back a little and let the lobster be the star.

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lobster Cobb Salad Roll | Image: Laura Messersmith

Spinach Salad Frittata

Spinach Salad Frittata   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Spinach Salad Frittata | Image: Laura Messersmith

I’m always on the look out for delicious ways to eat more leafy greens and this frittata channels the Classic Spinach Salad while transforming it into a meal. Crispy, salty bacon; rich caramelized onions, and a little tang from a generous dose of whole grain mustard and a dash of red wine vinegar.

Frittatas are one of my all time favorite dishes to cook – as evidence may I present: Exhibit A, Exhibit B and Exhibit C. They’re simple, healthful, and easy; they don’t require extra fussing with a crust (sorry quiche), make great leftovers, and can serve one or two just as easily as a crowd.

This particular edition also has one additional selling point: I’m betting that 99% of the ingredients are already in your fridge, freezer, or pantry right now. Which means you could be eating Spinach Salad Frittata for dinner tonight or breakfast tomorrow without making a trip to the grocery store!

Spinach Salad Frittata   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Spinach Salad Frittata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Spinach Salad Frittata (yield: 6 servings)

Ingredients:
3 pieces thick cut bacon
1 1/2 cups (2 medium) thinly sliced onions
10 ounces frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
8 eggs
1/4 cup skim or 2% milk
1 tablespoon whole grain mustard (I like Maille)
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Kosher salt
Black Pepper
Non-stick spray

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

Dice the bacon into 1/4 inch strips and cook in a large sauté pan over medium heat until crisp stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. While the bacon is cooking, slice the onions into 1/8 inch rounds or half moons.

Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off the bacon drippings, reserving approximately 2 teaspoons in the pan.

Reduce the heat to low. Add the sliced onions to the pan and sauté with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper for 10-12 minutes until caramelized and softened.

Meanwhile, drain the defrosted spinach pressing out as much of the water as possible. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, whole grain mustard and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt.

When the onions are caramelized add the drained spinach and red wine vinegar to the pan. Fluff the spinach with a fork to combine with the onions.

Prepare a 9 inch pie plate or baking dish with a light coating of non-stick spray. Evenly spread the spinach mixture in the bottom and sprinkle the crisped bacon pieces over the top. Pour the beaten eggs into the dish and bake at 350 degrees F for 30-35 minutes or until the eggs are set.

Cool for a few minutes before serving.

Spinach Salad Frittata   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Spinach Salad Frittata | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a large sauté pan, 9 inch pie plate, medium cutting board, and a medium mixing bowl. I also used a dinner plate, chef’s knife, slotted spoon, wire whisk, and rubber spatula in addition to measuring cups and spoons. That’s it!

The Verdict:
I made Spinach Salad Frittata when Mike and I were hosting a guest for a late morning breakfast and we all agreed that the flavor combination worked. The spinach is the star with supporting, but essential appearances from the caramelized onions and bacon (how bad could that be?) The mustard adds a little spice and turns a brunch dish with really simple ingredients into a recipe that could easily transition to dinner.

Spinach Salad Frittata  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Spinach Salad Frittata | Image: Laura Messersmith