Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ina Makes Herself At Home

Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten

Home Comforts
Creamy Vinaigrette
Grown Up Mac and Cheese
Mussels in White Wine
Lemon Curd Tart

Jeffrey's coming back from a long trip. Ina wants to get the cooking out of the way, so that they can spend the entire weekend...... WHAT is she about to say?......oh, relaxing.

For the macaroni and cheese, Ina gets the milk bottle out of her new panel-covered refrigerator. She cooks bacon on a rack at 400°F. for 15 to 20 minutes until crisp and browned. There's definitely more of an echo in this new kitchen. I guess the sound is bouncing off the much higher ceiling.

Ina cooks the pasta for 10 to 11 minutes and starts the white sauce. She heats 1 1/2 cups of milk in a saucepan. In a separate pan, she melts 2 tablespoons of butter and whisks in 2 tablespoons of flour. She cooks the roux over low heat for 2 minutes. (I cook a roux over the lowest heat possible for THREE minutes.) She pours in the hot milk all at once, whisking all the time, and continues to cook it over low heat until thick.

Ina readies 1/2 cup grated Gruyere (she likes the nutty flavor), 1/3 cup grated cheddar cheese and 2 oz. of crumbled Roquefort. She cooks the white sauce until it just coats a spoon. Off the heat, Ina stirs in the cheeses.

She drains the pasta and adds it to the sauce. She pours it into 2 individual eared dishes. She takes the crust off 2 pieces of white bread (does ANYONE really have white bread around anymore?) and processes it with some fresh basil to make a crumb topping. That goes on top of the macaroni and cheese and it goes into the fridge until the next night.

For the lemon tart crust, she mixes 12 tablespoons of “absolutely, positively” room temperature butter with ½ cup sugar and ½ teaspoon of vanilla, which Ina tells us is basically a shortbread recipe. Isn’t that highly unusual that the butter is at room temperature? I have NEVER made pastry, even pâte sucrée, with anything other than cold butter. But, of course, if I were making shortbread or sugar cookies, THEN the butter WOULD be at room temperature. HMMM, very interesting, Contessa.

She mixes in 1¾ cups of sifted flour and a pinch of salt. She PATS it into the bottom of a removable-bottomed tart pan and presses a metal 1 cup measuring cup against the inside edges to make it all nice. She refrigerates it until firm.

Ina puts the lined tart pan on a baking sheet. She greases a piece of foil and puts it greased side down, on top of the pastry. I just use wax paper and don’t bother with greasing anything. She fills it with beans that she uses just for baking. (Some of us are fancy and use metal pie weights.) She bakes it at 350°F for 20 minutes.

Now we’re out in the garden. (How did she get to Versailles so quickly? Oh, that’s HER garden). She picks beautiful pinkie-purple and white dahlias. They go in a vase on the table.

Ina takes the tart out of the oven and removes the beans. She pricks holes all over the bottom of the shell and puts it back in the oven for another 20 minutes until nicely browned.

For the lemon curd filling, Ina strips off the peel of 4 lemons, using a vegetable peeler. That goes into a food processor with 1½ cups sugar and is processed until the lemon is finely chopped. Ina adds one stick of butter to her mixer bowl and creams it with the lemoned sugar. She adds 4 eggs, one at a time, and reminds us to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

She adds a pinch of salt and ½ cup of fresh lemon juice. ”Don’t even think about using the stuff in the bottle.” The mixture goes into a saucepan and she cooks it until thickened, being careful to cook it slowly so it doesn’t curdle. The recipe helpfully says to cook it to 175°F. It’s not a bad idea to use a sugar thermometer, because the mixture can curdle in a second.

The pastry shell comes out of the oven and she leaves it out overnight to completely cool. Are you allowed to cover it, I wonder? I guess that would make it soggy. Just don’t dust the room or start vacuuming, while it’s hanging out in the kitchen. She pours the cooled lemon curd into a container and into the fridge it goes. “It should be just the right amount for the tart shell, but I won’t be disappointed if there’s any left over.”

“No chicken tonight” for Jeffrey. Instead, Ina is making one of their French favorites – Moules Marinière. She rinses 3 lbs of mussels for the two of them. She fills the bowl of mussels with water and puts a little flour in. It “gets the mussels to give up any sand that’s in them.”

For the wine broth that the mussels cook in, Ina heats 2 tablespoons of oil with 2 tablespoons of butter. She chops up a lot of shallots, one cup, and stirs those in with 5 or 6 cloves of chopped garlic. She cooks them for a few minutes until the shallots are translucent and then adds ½ teaspoon of saffron with ½ cup of canned whole tomatoes, which she chops IN the measuring cup. The Contessa adds some chopped fresh herbs – 1/3 cup parsley, and 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme (just the leaves). Lastly, 1 cup white wine goes in.

Ina checks the mussels to make sure they’re closed. She tosses them into the broth. 8 to 10 minutes and “dinner’s ready.” Jeffrey arrives at the new barn with his bag (as if it’s their main house).

Ina spoons out the mussels and breaks off big pieces of French bread. Jeffrey loves it. They make plans for the next day, but Jeffrey is worried that if they’re out all day, how will she be able to cook dinner? UH, have you ever heard of restaurants, Jeffrey? Doesn’t your Contessa deserve a night off? But not to worry, she (and we) know she has it all covered.

J and I are in Sag Harbor, walking around, laughing, having fun. But there’s something on Jeffrey’s mind. “I just don’t understand how you’re going to make dinner.” Ina reassures him, “That’s my purpose in life, making you a good dinner.” “I like that purpose,” he says.

Back home, she puts the macaroni and cheese in a 400° F. oven for 35 to 40 minutes. She heats up the lemon curd just a bit to make it easier to spread in the pastry shell. It’s all ready in minutes.

She makes a quick salad dressing with ½ cup (!!!) olive oil, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon mustard and a “drop” of honey. Ina adds some shallots and whisks well. She adds just enough dressing to moisten the mesclun mix. Thank goodness. I honestly thought she was going to add it all.

“Honey, dinner’s ready.” Jeffrey wonders how Ina pulled it off. Has he learned nothing from all his years with the Contessa?

She serves the lemon tart and they pronounce it a perfect end to a perfect day. AND I pronounce it a perfect show.


Tracy said...

She has some garden doesn't she?
I didn't notice the new kitchen like you did.

The lemon tart looked awesome. I make shortbread with soft butter and she said it was a shortbread crust so that didn't strike me funny.

Emiline said...

1/2 cup oil to 1 tablespoon vinegar! That seems a little off. I like more acid than that.

Did her mac and cheese look good? Guess what? I made that tonight. Not her version. I didn't measure anything out. Just threw it together.

I want to go to Versailles, now.

Sue said...

Hi Tracy,
Her garden really looked particularly lush and lavish this week.

Yeah, I would always use room temperature butter for any cookie or cake, but never for a pastry, no matter how sugar cookie like. That's what I found really interesting.

You're so right. I think that dressing would be better as a hair conditioner than a salad dressing.

I bet your mac and cheese was great. Ina's looked really good. And if you hate blue cheese, just substitute another soft cheese. Bel Paese, perhaps?

Cynthia said...

I am yet to see a show with the barn kitchen!

Sue said...

Hi Cyn,
Tomorrow Ina's having a barn warming, so hopefully we'll get a better look.