Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten
Halloween for Grownups
Chocolate Buttercream Cake
Loin of Pork with Fennel and Garlic
String Beans with Garlic
To get the recipes:
Ina has friends coming over for a trick or treat dinner and Miguel is doing the table.
She's making a fabulous Halloween cake, which will be a chocolate cake with an orange buttercream. For the cake, Ina creams together 1/2 lb. butter with 1/2 cup each of white and brown sugar until light and fluffy. She sifts together 2 1/2 cups flour (with a nifty 2 cup measure), 1 1/2 cups cocoa and baking soda. She readies 3 eggs, breaking them into a separate bowl, so if there is a problem, she doesn't ruin the whole cake. Smart move.
She mixes buttermilk, sour cream and vanilla with 3 tablespoons of brewed coffee. She mixes the dry and wet ingredients into the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the dry. That looks like an amazing cake.
Ina greases and flours a half sheet pan. The batter goes in and gets baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 30 minutes "until a toothpick JUST comes out clean."
Meanwhile Miguel is creating a "Gothic" look with witches' hats, orange flowers and votive candles.
Ina gets a spooky cocktail ready. She's making an espresso martini, which may not be my first choice, but it's better (by far) than Giada's strange espresso drink with Prosecco.
Ina mixes 2 cups of cooled DECAF espresso (see how thoughtful she is, she doesn't want to keep up her revelers), 2 cups of orange vodka and 1 cup of Kahlua. She pours it into a pitcher. She also gives the recipe for individual servings - 2 oz. espresso, 2 oz. of orange vodka and 1 oz. of Kahlua.
Next Ina is making an interesting BAKED apple sauce. Hmmmm. I like that idea. She starts with SIX pounds of apples, half Granny Smith and half Macintosh. 6 POUNDS! Why go small when you have to turn on the oven anyway, I guess? Never mind that it'll be cherry season before you peel all those apples.
She peels, quarters and cores them and puts them in a Le Creuset Dutch oven. "This recipe really exemplifies how I feel about cooking - making the apples taste more apple-like." She then proceeds to put in ORANGE JUICE and zest. Huh? How is OJ going to make the apples taste more apple-y? Actually, I don't mind that and when she adds lemon juice and rind, I just think c'mon join the party!
She also adds sugar, butter, cinnamon and allspice. Then she takes some of the red peels from the Macintosh's and puts them right on the top. She covers it and into the oven it goes for one hour at 400 degrees.
You have to look at the recipe for this applesauce, which for some reason they call Homemade Applesauce. It should be called Baked Applesauce, which highlights its unusual cooking method. Anyway, the picture is positively vomitrocious. It looks like...well, I just said it.
We spy Miguel really going to town on the decorations and then we go on to the main course. Ina takes out a glorious "frenched" loin of pork. No, that doesn't mean that someone has been doing rude things to the pig, it means that the bones have scraped down.
Ina mixes a rub together - 6 garlic cloves, 1/3 cup rosemary, 2 tablespoons lemon zest, 2 teaspoons fennel seeds, mustard and a small amount of olive oil plus salt and pepper in the food processor until well blended. She rubs it on the pork and lets it sit out for 30 minutes before baking it at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 1/2 hours or until it reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees.
Remember meat should be taken out of the refrigerator 15 to 30 minutes before cooking. AND if you're roasting it, make sure you preheat the oven. There is a big difference between cooking a cold piece of meat in a cold oven and cooking a room temperature one in toasty preheated one. It's hard to get the timing right, if you have to allow for the oven AND the meat to come up to the proper temperature.
We go on to the buttercream. (Ina's making A LOT this week.) She makes a sugar syrup with 2/3 cup water and 2 cups of sugar. She brings it to 240 degrees Fahrenheit. She uses a candy thermometer. That IS the easiest way to go.
Stir to bring the sugar and water to the boil, but after that no stirring allowed. Just brush down the sides (the INsides) of the pan with a brush dipped in cold water.
While that's going on, Ina beats room temperature egg whites. (Guess what size she's using. You could throw in an extra white, if you're using large eggs. Remember that chart I posted a long time ago?)
She beats the whites with 1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar. Oy, here we go again. (Use 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar for every 4 egg whites.) Beat until soft peaks form.
WAIT! Stop the presses! Do we want to add cream of tartar at all, since this recipe is not being cooked? A quick trip to the Bible Belt, confirms that yes, of course, we do, because the hot syrup is accomplishing the task of cooking the egg whites and ridding them of that terrible tartaric taste.
Ina takes the sugar syrup off the heat at the correct temperature and immediately pours it into a Pyrex pitcher to stop the cooking. She pours the syrup into the egg whites gradually and keep beating it for ten to fifteen minutes. That sounds like a long time, but the mixture must be cool, before you can proceed, or you'll have a soupy mess. If you don't have a mixer on a stand, rent some neighborhood kids to help you and pay them with a piece of cake. This cake will feed all of East Hampton.
Now, get ready with the nitroglycerin. Have FIVE sticks of butter at room temperature. She ain't kidding about the room temperature part, either. She puts them out at night, ALL NIGHT.
Ina beats the butter in gradually on medium speed. She add vanilla, orange liqueur and 1 tablespoon of orange food coloring. It looks so fluffy, so rich, so cloud like, so ambrosial. Seriously, I could DIVE into that and never come up for air. She ices the cake with a palette knife, and then makes the top smooth by going over it with the knife dipped in hot water. She writes a secret message. Oh, please let us see...please. Oh, cute. I don't want to be accused of giving everything away, but what does a ghost say?
The guests have arrived. Ina shakes martinis for the crowd. The pork has been resting for 20 minutes. She slices between each bone and plates it. (Does that look a bit too pink? Well, I guess, if she doesn't think so, then what do I know? Forget I said anything.) She covers it with foil.
Ina removes the red apple skins from the applesauce and whisks it to break up the apples. WHY? I like it chunky. Don't most people?
Ina blanches green beans, then cooks them in butter and olive oil and 3 cloves of garlic. She likes to put the vegetables on the same platter as the meat. "It makes the meat look so much better." And if it covers a bit of the pinkness, so much the better...They all dig in.
We leave as Ina, donning a witch's hat, is doing a magic trick. I think the trick is that Ina continues to make fabulous food week after week and still leaves us wanting more, even as she single-handedly is doing her part to keep the butter makers in business.