Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ina Cooks, People Rave

Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten

Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Shrimp Bisque
Strawberry Scones
Portobello Mushroom Lasagna

To get the recipes:
Click here

Ina is going to have a fun day of testing recipes. She says she's always trying to improve on classic Barefoot recipes. The first one she’s tackling is the Barefoot Contessa scone recipe.

She combines flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the mixer. Ina tells us the key to light flaky scones is cold butter. She mixes that in until she gets pea-sized pieces. Then she beats 4 extra large (Ina, Ina, Ina…I‘m going with large) eggs into 1 cup of cold heavy cream. She adds that to the flour mixture. The dough is really wet, “wetter dough - moister scones”. She mixes dried strawberries with a tablespoon of flour and adds that to the dough. I know people do that, but I have never floured anything to prevent sinking. I don’t seem to have a sinking problem.

Ina roots around in her pantry for something else to add. Funny…when I do that, stuff lands on my head and I always drops cans on my feet. She decides on walnuts and orange peel. I swear, I was silently thinking orange peel would be an obvious choice.

She mixes the additions into half the dough. She leaves the other half plain, and pats out the dough on the countertop using A LOT of flour. She cuts out the scones using a really nifty SQUARE fluted cutter and cuts them in half diagonally. She brushes an egg wash (with milk) on top and they go into a 400 deg. Fahrenheit oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

We see Ina driving to her office to do a scone taste test. Everyone liked the orange and walnuts ones. I KNEW IT! I voted for the orange ones before she even baked them.

Next, she goes to a farm to get some wild mushrooms. Gosh, they look amazing. The recipe calls for portobellos, but Ina’s going more exotic. She chooses blue oyster and king mushrooms - both absolutely gorgeous looking.

For the lasagna, Ina adds oil to boiling water. (I don’t do that, do you? Someone once said that all that does is to give you greasy water.) She adds salt and then the noodles. They get cooked for 8 to 10 minutes.

The Contessa moves on to a béchamel sauce. She melts one stick of butter (wow!) and stirs in ½ cup of flour. She cooks it for one minute, stirring all the time. She adds 1 quart of heated milk, salt, pepper and some ground nutmeg. (She didn’t grind it FRESH?!) She stirs it until it simmers and thickens.

The mushrooms are sliced and Ina cooks them in butter and oil in 2 batches (each batch for 5 minutes), so that they sauté and not steam. Ina drains the pasta. She pours some of the white sauce on the bottom of an 8” by 12” dish. (Aren’t most dishes 9” by 13“?) Some lasagna noodles go on top of that. You can cut them to fit, if you need to. More sauce on top of that followed is by one third of the mushrooms. Then she sprinkles over a quarter cup of Parmesan cheese. The layers gets repeated: noodles, white sauce, mushrooms, parm, noodles, sauce, cheese, DONE.

Wait, we’re missing a layer of mushrooms. I consult the recipe. Ina just forgot to mention one layer of mushrooms. Thank goodness I was paying attention, or there would be have been some wild mushrooms hanging out uselessly.

Here come the gals again. Is this all they do all day? Wait for Ina to make luscious things and pretend to be taste-testing them. You know, they never find fault with anything. She’d probably whack them with a cast iron pan. Come to think of it, have you EVER seen a cooking show where the people being fed actually say, “this tastes really nasty“? Goodness knows it happens enough in real life…I guess we don’t need to see it on television.

Surprise, surprise, everyone loves Ina’s lasagna. “It‘s so creamy.” “Delicious.” Ina says, “Not bad.” She types the recipe into the computer. “The mushrooms are so meaty, who needs meat?” Of course, the half gallon of white sauce didn’t hurt.

Ina has acquired fish stock from somewhere and adds shrimp shells to flavor it up. She softens 2 cups of carefully cleaned leeks in olive oil. (I don’t think a bit of butter would be out of place here.) She stirs in garlic and cayenne and then the shrimp and cooks them for 3 minutes.

Next, Ina adds not only sherry, but cognac, to the shrimp. Yum! (I like to serve a glass of sherry with my bisque and then folks can either drink it or pour it into the soup…or both.) “THAT smells like shrimp bisque, shrimp and sherry…so classic”, so says the Contessa. She purees the soup until chunky. (Personally, I like it on the smooth side).

Ina explains that a white sauce will be the base of the soup. She melts half a stick of butter, stirs in a quarter cup of flour and cooks it on low heat for a minute to cook the flour. She adds 2 cups of half and half (of course, she does). She cooks it until thick. She adds the shrimp purée and 3 ¾ cups of fish stock and 1/3 cup tomato paste and A LOT of salt and pepper. She heats it gently until hot.

Ina pours a nice glass of white wine for herself. She makes up a pretty wicker tray (I would NEVER trust myself to carry a full wine glass on a wicker tray.) Soup goes in a rustic white bowl. HALF A BAGUETTE goes on a lovely orange napkin. (I’m not saying I wouldn’t eat half a baguette, but I sure as heck wouldn’t advertise it on my cooking show. I would put a sliver on the tray and hide the rest between my knees.)

Ina sits down at her computer and tastes the soup. It’s wonderful. I am SOOO making that, but the two cups of half and half will become one and a half cups of stock and half a cup of cream. After all, I have to save calories somewhere, if I’m eating all that bread.


Anonymous said...

About 10 years ago, when I was in college, I was watching Jacques Pepin Cooking with Claudine, or whatever it was called. Claudine tasted something, said "I do not like this," but then said that although she personally didn't like, she knew enough to know that it was well made, and would probably taste good to somebody who enjoyed whatever foods and flavors Jacques had mixed together. That's the closest I've come to seeing somebody say nasty.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I'm with you on the oil in the water thing. No one in my family has ever used oil in the water and I was shocked when I saw people do that. A few years ago I had the good fortune to be able to watch Lidia on a regular basis and she said that oil was unnecessary. If you use "abundant water" and have it at a rolling boil, the pasta won't stick together if you give it a good stir. Lidia said that oil will keep the sauce from sticking to the pasta.

Alton Brown did his own version of "Mythbusters" where he said the oil was pretty useless because none of it actually gets on the pasta anyway.

Anonymous said...

I graduated with my degree in culinary arts about 4 years ago. I had an instructor who was talking about that very thing.

He said (I'm paraphrasing, obviously) "Here is a pot of water, boiling. I could put salt in it and that would be fine. I could put oil in it. That would not be fine...let me make this clear. Salt in the ocean, the water, is good. Oil tanker disaasters are bad. Be good, don't be a tanker".

The "be good, don't be a tanker" line has stuck with me.

Simply put, oil and water do not mix so it is just pointless to do that. It isn't like putting chocolate syrup into milk!

If I want oil, I'll put it on the meat, pasta, etc, before or after cooking depending on what I'm doing.

Bake your cake and eat it too said...

Good waste of oil I'd say. I do like the looks of Inas dishes but unfortunately I can never bring myself to adding so much butter and half and half to anything

Sue said...

Did you mean Julia instead of Claudine? Yes, I can see HER saying she didn't love something. But she was entitled to!!

Now that I think about it, I wonder what Martha says about the stuff other people make on her show. (I don't watch it.) Although she controls everything so much, presumably she wouldn't allow anything to be made that she didn't like.

Great points. You have to have A LOT of water and you'll be fine. Lidia is so good, isn't she?

Well said. I don't understand why Ina thinks it's necessary. Yes, of course, it's great to add it AFTER. Ina, are you listening?

Hi Val,
Don't give up on Ina's recipes. They are superb. Just cut down on the fat. Often you can use stock in place of some of the cream and switch out the butter with olive oil, depending on the recipe.

Maeve said...

I watched that show and have made the strawberry scones on many occasions and they are great. I freeze them and they defrost just as flaky.
I am going to make her turkey sausage lasagna this week, the kids would never eat the mushroom.
Love your blog Sue!

Sue said...

I love YOU!

That's good to know about the scones.

Anonymous said...

Nope, it was Claudine. Aside from the fact that I'd never heard anybody say it before, I think Jacques got a bit upset with her.

Colleen said...

Love this episode, I've seen it a couple times! About Martha: I watch her show occasionally and she really does nothing but compliment the guest & his/her food the entire time. If you've ever seen it, you know she usually makes the item with the guest, but separately (they have two sets of ingredients/equipment out)'s actually kind of hilarious to watch, since Martha's versions always look so much neater and prettier than her guest's. Such the perfectionist, and it's like you can hear her saying in her head "well, I do like your food but you could use a lesson in rolling out your puff pastry."

Emilie said...

What's with her and those freaking eggs?

I've found that berries don't sink. When I've sliced fruit, for a cake, they sunk. Is sunk a word?

THE NUTMEG! I noticed this in her book- she doesn't grate it fresh! That is so important. It makes a world of difference.

Oh, and the baguette. Ha!

Doris Lechler said...

I too like Ina's show. However, I want fewer giggles and some NEW shows. They try to fool us by combining segements from various shows, but as many times as these shows have been shown, that slight of hand is not successful.

Sue said...

I did a little recon. It turns out Claudine is his daughter and they actually wrote a couple of books together! I guess it’s allowed for his daughter to gripe about his food.

Hi Colleen,
That’s interesting about Martha. That reminds me of the situation when she had Julia on her Christmas special. They were each making a croquembouche. Julia’s was lopsided and messy and not terribly tall, but, boy, did she have fun making it. Martha’s was built with architect-like precision and was half a foot taller than Julia’s. It was hilarious.

The eggs are a pain. I almost always just use the same number of large eggs, except if it’s a recipe that calls for many eggs.

My fruit never sinks. If anything, it rises. Is rises a word?

The nutmeg is inexplicable. The only thing I can think of is that she goes through boatloads every week and so it’s always quite fresh. But NOTHING beats freshly ground nutmeg and I’ve NEVER used anything else.

Oh, the baguette…now you know where the extra bread went.

Hi Doris,
It is definitely time for new shows. I want to see the new barn. Maybe it’s not ready.

Yeah, it is pretty lame when they do Ina Remixed. Maybe they should do what they do on My Sweet Sixteen - include behind-the-scene THAT would be good tv. Like what was Jeffrey REALLY thinking as he ate his 7000th roast chicken? Or does TR really know how to start a fire? We know he can’t fish.