Thursday, January 3, 2008

Ina's Party Is Pure Gold

Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten

Black and White Party
Basil Chicken Hash
Pain Perdu
White Truffles

Ina threw a little dinner party for the author of a book about Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball. It was considered the party of the century at the time, and all the guests dressed in elaborate ball gowns. Ina is using that as a theme for her meal.

Ina begins by preparing white (chocolate) truffles. She heats ¼ cup of heavy cream in a bain marie and adds 7 oz. of chopped white chocolate. She reminds us to keep the water simmering and not boiling. Ina takes the bowl off the heat, before the chocolate is completely melted. She continues to stir it until it is smooth and shiny. She stirs in 2 tablespoons Irish cream liqueur and ½ teaspoon of vanilla. The mixture gets chilled for one hour.

She sets the table with a broad black and white striped tablecloth that we’re supposed to believe she made herself. More power to her if she did, but if she didn’t, don’t pretend!!! She has a black and white feathered mask for her guest to commemorate her book.

After the white chocolate is nicely chilled, Ina uses a tiny ice cream scoop to make roughly shaped rounds and places them on a parchment lined baking sheet. She says they should look like the truffles that pigs find. (Is she speaking badly about her viewers?) They go into the fridge for a bit, but they should always be served a room temperature.

To finish off some the truffles, Ina chops and toasts hazelnuts, and then melts 6 oz bittersweet chocolate in a bain marie. I wouldn’t bother, I‘d use the microwave. She takes out the truffles and readies her nuts and melted chocolate. She drizzles half the truffles with melted chocolate and rolls the other half in the hazelnuts. She refrigerates them for now, but will take them out before serving.

Next, the Contessa stems beautiful strawberries and slices them. She adds sugar and 1 tablespoon of orange liqueur, which becomes kind of a syrup for them.

For her chicken hash (which Truman served at his ball), she picks up chicken from Iacono Farms, remarking that East Hampton isn’t just about parties and socialites. The area is also about “farmers and fishermen.” Yeah!

She buys 2 quartered chickens, but not before we see some fluffy cocks (hens?) playing outside. At home, Ina puts the chicken legs in the freezer for another day and prepares the breasts by loosening the skin. She places basil leaves underneath the skin of each breast.

It’s funny. I’m always jamming things under poultry skin: orange slices; flavored butters; bread stuffing; ricotta and Parm filling; garlic…but I’ve NEVER put just plain basil there. That’s a pretty great idea.

She rubs the chicken breasts with olive oil and seasons them with salt and pepper and cooks them in a 350° oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

Ina tells us about Truman Capote living in the Hamptons and how he “was quite the local character”, as she peels 1½ to 2 lbs. of red boiling potatoes. She cuts them into a ½ inch dice. Then she chops 2 red onions and sautés them with the potatoes in butter until they are brown and crusty. In a separate pan, she cooks 2 red peppers cut into strips. The peppers AND the potatoes are both going into the hash, but she wants to cook them separately. She doesn’t want the moisture from the peppers to stop the potatoes from browning properly.

The peppers get jazzed up with plenty of garlic, tomato paste and paprika. The Barefoot One also makes sure to season each pan well with salt and pepper. She says if you season at the beginning, it really gets into the food. If you wait until the end, it just tastes salty.

She takes the roasted chicken breasts from the oven and cuts off the wings (for Jeffrey). She cuts the chicken into 1 inch pieces WITH the skin still on. I guess that will give the hash loads of extra flavor. She tests the potatoes. “DONE, but firm.” She adds the chicken to the potatoes, then adds the peppers and stirs it all together. She adds scallions and lots of fresh parsley. She tells us, “It may not be Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but it’s definitely dinner at Ina’s”. Cute line. She pours the luscious mixture into a big serving bowl.

BTW, that is NOT how the recipe on the website tells you how to proceed. The recipe says to boil the quartered potatoes for ten minutes and then to dice them and fry them all by their lonesomes. AND THEN, keep them in a warm oven. WHY would you apply 3 kinds of heat to them, when you could just sauté them once??? Just do what she does, not what the recipe says.

She serves her guests. Deborah holds the mask up. She proclaims the meal a perfect tribute to TC, whom she says was a great host, just like Ina.

Ina breaks her own rules and goes into the kitchen to cook the final dish. She’s making Pain Perdu. (I made a simple variation of it on New Year’s day.) She mixes 6 eggs with 1½ cups milk, Grand Marnier, honey, vanilla, orange zest and salt. (The recipe says 2 TEASPOONS! No way would I add that much. Actually, I wouldn’t add it at all, but, if you must, add just a big pinch.) She pours the mixture in to a baking dish and soaks thick slices of challah in it, turning once. She dips one side in toasted almonds and puts it in the pan with butter, almond side down. She cooks it for 2 to 3 minutes on each side. She spoons lots of fresh strawberries on top and dusts the Pain Perdu with confectioner’s sugar. “Truman would be so jealous.”

Finally the truffles are served. “To Truman” as they clink the white wonders. Well done, Contessa. Truman would probably have been most happy at your table, as most of us would be.

Although, I had neither a black OR white gown, nor many of the ingredients called for. I forged ahead with the chicken hash recipe anyway. I didn't let little things like lack of finery or peppers stop me.

This is what I did: I softened an onion and 2 carrots in olive oil, then added 1 big diced potato and browned the whole thing up. I never brown onions without softening them first. I added salt and pepper and plenty of paprika.

I cooked a chicken breast on the bone à la Ina, 350° F with a little salt, pepper and olive oil for 35 minutes. I cut it into boneless chunks and added it to the potatoes with some scallions and voila.


Emiline said...

Mmm, your hash looks good. It makes me hungry. Especially for some crispy golden brown potatoes.

Ina does another smashing job.
Except for the salt in the pain perdu. 2 teaspoons is crazy. I don't think it needs any, because there's salt in the bread.

Sue said...

Thanks Em,

Why DOES she add so much salt? I love Ina's recipes, but they do need some editing...

Tracy said...

That's funny that you say she leaves her guest to prepare the pain perdu. It seems to me that she often leaves her guests to cook something. It's one of the things that my husband and I joke about when we watch her!

All that being said, I'd still do just about anything to get an invitation to a meal at her house! She could leave me as much as she liked!

Sue said...

Hi Tracy,
She says her rule is not to leave her guests to actually PREPARE something. Plating it or heating it up is fine. Having said that, you're right, her signature line is always "Don't have any fun without me," as she goes into the kitchen.

If she were making dinner for me, I'd get up and follow her right into the kitchen and take notes.

Emiline said...

You know what your hash needs?
Some Nutrisoda.

Sue said...

Only if you put Yoo-Hoo in your brownies...

Tracy said...

Oh yeah, I love Ina's "Don't have any fun without me!" And I loooove her laugh. I would pay money to have her devilish chortle ... every time I hear myself cackle on video tape I want to die.

Sue said...

Yup, Tracy, she is the greatest...

Kathy said...

I love Ina! She has the best recipes. It's funny how she melts when Jeffrey is around. Hasn't she being married for like ever? It's just too cute. I love my husband but I sure don't melt like that in his presence. I love her!
Sue, what did Alton Brown do to get on your list nasty people. I have never sat thru one of his shows and never followed anything he has done. I know you can learn a lot from his shows but the way the show is done annoys me and makes me tired.... I only see him once in a while on Iron Chef.

Sue said...

Hi Kath,
Jeffrey and Ina are so sweet together that I just love them to pieces.

I hate repeating the same gossip about Alton, but, let's see, oh, I will anyway. I wish I could remember the origin of it. After a fan event, he was answering questions from some of his heavier fans. When they left, he was overheard saying something like, they should be less interested in food and more in exercising... Not nice!!!

Even before that, though, I found his show a yawn...He seemed a bit know-it-all. (That's pretty funny coming from ME.)

Kathy said...

What an $ss! Thank you for the recap!