Sunday, June 3, 2007

It's Not A Surprise That Ina's Dinner Is Fabulous

Barefoot Contessa - Ina Garten

Jeffrey's Surprise Party

Broccolini and Balsamic Vinaigrette
Butterflied Chicken
Mixed Berry Pavlova
Tomato Kabobs

To get the recipes:
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I love the shot of Jeffrey in the beginning sequence, stealing a cookie over Ina's shoulder. They're such a cute pair, those two. She's plotting a surprise birthday dinner for him on the beach. She says he always gives her extravagant gifts, but he likes simple things. But how could he mind a delicious dinner with friends, sand and surf and his precious Contessa?

Ina takes out a whole chicken, which she explains has been completely deboned and then butterflied by the butcher. Ok, that's a problem right there. Unless, of course, you're Ina. All I can say is to give it a try with your butcher. I asked mine today if he would ever debone a chicken for me and while he didn't exactly laugh at me, he did say they didn't have the staff or time to do that.

Don't worry, because it's kind of fun to debone an entire chicken. The most important thing is that you turn the chicken over (breast side is down) and make the first cut done the back bone. Then it's just a matter of cutting right along the breast bone keeping your knife right up against it, all the way down. Do the same on the other side. Then you're left with the legs and wings. You do the same thing, basically scraping against the bone while the meat is loosened.

This isn't exactly how I do it, but it's close enough and the illustrations are pretty good.

Ina measures a 1/4 cup of rosemary leaves and then chops them finely. To that she adds garlic, lemon zest and juice, olive oil and 2 teaspoons of salt (way too much!) and pepper. She puts this mixture on top of and underneath the skin after loosening up the membranes. She also rubs the marinade on the under side. Then Ina rolls the entire thing up with a sprig of rosemary and lemon slices on the inside. She covers it with plastic wrap and refrigerates it for a few hours. She says overnight is still better.

For the vegetable, Ina blanches 3 or 4 bunches of broccolini in salted water for 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile, she mixes up olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, Dijon salt (too much) and pepper. She puts the broccolini in ice water to stop the cooking and then drains it. It goes into a large bowl and she adds the marinade, plus the juice of one lemon. I wonder why she didn't just add the lemon juice to the marinade. I guess you could. She says you can serve this at room temperature. Now, THIS is a recipe you could make over and over again. You could mix broccoli with the broccolini and a few red pepper shreds would give a nice burst of color. One proviso though - I'm not convinced you need all that salt, especially with fresh RAW garlic being added.

Ina exclaims "It's Jeffrey's birthday and something tells me that a birthday cake just isn't going to do it." Something tells ME that we're going to have a pretty rockin' dessert for Jeffrey. That proves to be the case. She's making a Pavlova, a delightful, delicious meringue concoction topped with lots of fresh fruit.

She beats 4 egg whites until firm. (She doesn't say to use extra large, but the recipe does. That fools with the classic ratio of 1 cup sugar to 4 LARGE egg whites. Just use large eggs.) She's added salt to the whites before beating. Hamptons, we have a problem. I've mentioned this before, salt should not be added to egg whites before beating. It lengthens the beating time and draws out the moisture, which results in a dry meringue. Rose Levy Beranbaum says it also makes them less stable and no one wants a fickle egg white.

Ina sifts in cornstarch and adds a teaspoon of white vinegar and vanilla. I never add those first two, but some recipes do call for them. She folds the ingredients in as she tells us she just loves beach parties.

You can also make a really scrumptious meringue using brown sugar. Add it in exactly the same way as white sugar. It gives a lovely color and almost toasted flavor.

Ina draws a 9 inch circle on parchment. Then laughing, she reminds us to turn over the parchment, so the meringue is not actually touching the pencil line. I prefer foil for meringue. I NEVER have a problem getting the meringue off foil, while I sometimes find that the meringue weeps more on the parchment.

She piles the meringue onto the parchment and spreads it out into a circle. You can also make an oval or do it free-form. She bakes it at 180 degrees for 90 minutes and then lets it sit in a turned-off oven for one hour. Ina doesn't tell us not to try this on a rainy day, but in general you should avoid making meringues when it's wet or humid outside. Why? Because sugar is hygroscopic and absorbs moisture in the atmosphere. You'll get a very sticky, hard-to-deal with meringue, that won't crisp up.

Frank and Susan are at the beach setting up. He's in charge of the coals, she's doing the table.

Back to the Pavlova, Ina is making a raspberry sauce, not a regular one, but a TRIPLE Raspberry Sauce. Leave it to the Contessa to ramp up an already spectacular dessert. She simmers 1/2 pint of raspberries with 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup water for 4 minutes. She places it in the bowl of a food processor with Framboise liqueur (double yum) and raspberry jam (voila! we have our triple yum). That all gets pureed together. (I wish she would strain it). The sauce gets chilled.

Ina readies the blueberries, raspberries and strawberries for the Pavlova. She whips 1 cup heavy cream with 1 tablespoon of sugar (what restraint) and 1 teaspoon vanilla. She places the meringue on top of a cake stand. She adds "a big slather of cream on top of meringue", while reminding us not to assemble this too far in advance. She mixes 1/2 cup sauce with the berries and places them on top of the cream, letting the sauce drizzle down the sides. Just gorgeous. I am sooooo making this Pavlova. It is a SENSATIONAL summer dessert for entertaining.

She packs everything up in a cooler and Susan arrives to pick it up. Ina gives last minute instructions for the chicken - 12 minutes on each side. Quickly, she skewers up cherry tomatoes and tells us they go on the grill for 5 minutes with a bit of olive oil and salt. She hurriedly packs them away just as Jeffrey arrives.

"Hi, sweetie!" He admits he was "afraid she would be planning something really big." With a wink to us, she leads him to the beach. Surprise! Champagne all around. He doesn't look too upset with the wonderful spread in front of him. The Pavlova gets served. It is splendid. Ina does it again. Food, friends and a feast.


panini sandwich said...

boyyy that chicken sounds good..

Anonymous said...

How sad for you that your butcher isn't truly a butcher. Any meatcutter worth his/her salt will do such things with energy to please the customer.

If you are familiar with Wegman's supermarkets (NY/NJ/PA/VA).. run, don't walk.. run there! They will debone and butterfly a chicken at no added cost.. and their roasters are $.79 per lb.