Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten
French Chocolate Bark
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Ina begins by telling us she has two reasons to celebrate. The first is that her friends are coming to a party and the second is that the party will be in the new barn! Hallelujah! Finally! We get to see it!!!!!!! I can’t wait.
It looks like she’s still cooking in her old kitchen. She’s doing Pumpkin Mousse. She pours one cup of half and half into a bowl set over hot water (don’t let the bowl touch the water) and adds a 29 ounce can of pumpkin purée. Ina adds salt (I wouldn't), a teaspoon of cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons of nutmeg, already ground from a jar (GRRR!) and 2 cups of brown sugar. She stirs it over the heat for 4 to 5 minutes.
She separates 6 eggs and tells us she doesn‘t like traditional pumpkin pie, because it’s so eggy, but this mousse is much lighter. She’s using just the yolks and she tries to convince us that the egg whites will go into an omelet for her lunch. I'm not buying it.
Ina beats the yolks in a separate bowl and adds just a bit of the hot pumpkin mixture (to temper it). Then she stirs it back into the rest of the mixture, sitting in the top of the double boiler. She dissolves 2 packets of gelatin into 1/2 cup water and mashes 2 bananas.
Bananas? HEY!!! She just did this recipe on her Thanksgiving show!!!! WHAT is going on?!! She halved it and put it into a crust, but it's the same recipe. Now, she's doubling it and serving it as a mousse.
The truth is I don't actually mind. In fact, I could do without the crust 9 times out of 10 (except for mine, of course). However, it might have been nice to, at least, mention that she'd done it before...seeing as these shows were aired closely together (2 weeks apart). It would have been a good teaching point, in fact, that a mousse-like mixture can be prepared without the crust.
Ina adds the mashed bananas to the pumpkin mixture with 1 teaspoon of grated orange zest. She points out that the egg yolks have thickened the pumpkin mixture nicely. She whisks in the softened gelatin and takes it off the heat to let it cool.
Ina whips 1/2 cup sugar with 2 cups heavy cream and vanilla. Half goes into the mousse and half gets piped on top later. She folds in the cream with the classic technique of cut and fold, cut and fold, using a big spatula. I like to use a big stainless steel slotted spoon. It cuts in well and you get a bit of air incorporated through the slots.
She pours the mixture into a soufflé dish. I'd like to be there to lick all that good stuff she left in the bowl. She pipes a luxuriously thick border around the dish and adds a little orange zest. That's a good idea to use huge piping nozzle. It goes into the fridge.
Ina goes off to shop for table decorations and seafood. She greets Michael in his floral shop. She chooses a gigantic container of evergreens. In the fish store, after cordial greetings, she buys 1 pound of halibut, 1 pound of lobster (already cooked) 1 pound of cleaned shrimp and a quart of fish stock.
Back at home, she wants to make a main dish that’s festive and easy - a seafood gratin. She stirs together 2 cups of fish stock, 2 cups of cream. 1/3 cup tomato purée (not paste, purée!), some wine and saffron.
She prepares the shrimp by cutting them in half lengthwise, so the shrimp still look like shrimp, but they're not as thick. That's smart. The Contessa really knows what she's doing. She adds the shrimp to the stock and cooks them JUST until they're done - about 3 minutes.
Ina skins the halibut. (Couldn't she have asked her buddy to do that?) She cuts it into 1 inch cubes. She fishes out the shrimp - they're firm and just turning pink - and adds the halibut, also for about 3 minutes.
Ina cuts up the cooked lobster. She tells us we can substitute scallops, or just use shrimp and halibut. The halibut is done and she combines it in a bowl with the shrimp and lobster. The stock gets reduced by half for about 10 minutes.
Ina moves on to cut the leeks, JUST THE WAY I DO. She cuts the green ends, as if she were sharpening a pencil. Then she cuts them in half lengthwise and runs them under plenty of water to get rid of the sand. She cuts them in long thin strips and then cuts carrots in the same way. They get cooked together in 4 tablespoons of butter until tender, about 5 minutes.
Ina makes a beurre manié with 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons flour. That is a wonderful way to thicken a sauce, without going through the palaver of starting with a roux. She adds it to the reduced stock and cooks it until it thickens. To the softened carrots and leeks, she adds ½ cup wine.
Next on the agenda is a topping for the gratin. Ina loves panko for this. She mixes 2 cups of panko, 2/3 cup Parmesan, fresh parsley, some tarragon (yuck!) and garlic with 6 tablespoons of melted butter. Ina explains that the butter not only gives it flavor, but also ensures it browns and gets crunchy in the oven.
All the seafood goes in a gratin dish. Ina covers it with the vegetables and tops the whole thing with the sauce. She sprinkles over the crumbs and puts it in the fridge until she's ready to bake it at 375°F. for 20 minutes, just before the party.
As an after-dinner surprise for her friends, Ina decides to make chocolate bark. She begins by roasting cashews. She chops up chocolate, mixing 7 or 8 ounces each of semisweet and bittersweet. She says she can't be bothered to temper it, which would prevent it from turning grayish the next day. Her solution is just to make it the same day. Good thinking, BC. She stirs the chocolate over simmering water until just melted.
She chops up dried apricots and readies dried cranberries. She tells us you can even put in trail mix if you want to.
Ina says she prefers the French version of chocolate bark, where the individual ingredients are sprinkled OVER the melted chocolate, instead of being mixed in. I like that idea too. It seems more elegant...as elegant as a big slab of chocolate with a bunch of stuff sticking out of it can be. Just kidding, it'll look grand.
She draws a 9 inch by 10 inch rectangle on a piece of parchment and then turns it over (to avoid the pencil marks touching the chocolate). Remember that when lining cake pans too. She pours the chocolate in the rectangle and spreads it into the corners. She's not too fussy about it and says it doesn't matter if one part is thicker than another.
She puts the cashews on top, then the chopped apricots and finally the dried cranberries. Ina lets it rest for 2 hours at room temperature.
She tells us that setting the table is one of her favorite things to do. Ooh, she's setting the table in the barn. I can see a big fireplace and mantel, but I still can't get a good look. And she's deviating from her usual white dishes, by using silver and taupe ones. She puts a vase filled with clementines on the table. (Of course, the clementines still have their beautiful green leaves on.) She puts the other greenery around.
This is annoying. I can't really see anything. Is it possible that she showed it last week, while I was in the middle of my Thanksgiving festivities?
I think Ina might be in the new kitchen...making mulled wine. (She’s wearing a very long white scarf. I sure hope she's not flaming any brandy.) She mixes together 4 cups of apple cider with one bottle of Cabernet in a pot. She says this is enough for 6 to 8 people. Then she adds ¼ cup honey, 4 cloves (I'd add more), 3 star anise (no thank you), and 2 stick of cinnamon. She heats it up while adding the juice of one orange. It simmers for 10 minutes and Ina is planning to serve it after dinner, while making S'mores.
The guests are at the table. She serves the seafood gratin. They love it. She serves pumpkin mousse...gosh, that looks good. She meets her guests outside.
She pours the mulled wine and cuts the bark for the very high class S'mores. They melt the marshmallows and put them on top of graham crackers with the chocolate bark. That bark is gorgeous.
It was a lovely meal and I know that the barn has a fine firepit outside, but, frankly, that's not I want to see. I want a tour of the new digs. C'mon, Ina, throw us a bone...and if it has a cooking demonstration attached, so much the better.
PS On a few message boards, some people are thinking that WAS the new kitchen. I have to examine my tape more closely...but if it was the new kitchen, it looked just like the old one and what fun is that? Plus, we weren't properly introduced.