Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics with Ina Garten
Herb-Roasted Turkey Breast
Sausage and Herb Stuffing
Celery Root and Apple Puree
The Food Network is doing a much better job than I am at getting organized for Thanksgiving. There have been slews of Thanksgiving shows with lots of turkey tips. Here are some of the T-Day shows that have been on:
Sunny made a turkey breast.
The Neelys smoked a turkey and served it with barbecue sauce.
Giada is cooking “Los Angeles” style. Does that mean she cooks in her bikini while sipping cucumber infused water and nibbling on some “green” recycled appetizer?
She says has the answers to the toughest turkey questions. She tells the story of her friend who was cooking her first Thanksgiving and set her oven on CLEAN. Yikes!
After showing some Thanksgiving video questions from her viewers, Ina says she starts cooking the day before Thanksgiving, so everything is organized before the company arrives. The day before??!!! How about 2 or 3 WEEKS before?!!
Ina says she doesn’t do that anymore and that everything is done by the night before. BUT she’s doing 2 things that I definitely don’t do…and maybe you don’t either. She’s making a turkey breast, not a whole turkey and she’s cooking her stuffing outside of the turkey.
She unapologetically takes a 6 to 7 pound turkey breast out of the fridge and puts it on a baking rack. She makes an herb rub that starts with 1 tablespoon minced garlic and 2 teaspoons dry mustard. Then she chops 1 tablespoon fresh sage and rosemary and 1 teaspoon fresh thyme all together.
(Leave the thyme out overnight, Ina says, and the leaves dry out enough to crumble nicely.)
She adds the herbs to the garlic and mustard with 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon of and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Ina adds a teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice to give it a bit of an edge. (I was thinking some orange zest would be good too.)
I love that Ina puts the mixture under and over the skin of her turkey breast. She shows us how to loosen the skin without puncturing it. I like to push a wooden spoon under the skin, which helps to separate the skin from that membrane-y thing.
This turkey breast will serve 6 people, she says. She lets it sit in the fridge overnight covered with foil. She will just add a bit of white wine to the pan before cooking.
More questions, this time about vegetables, from viewers. Ina says she likes to serve 2 vegetable dishes, one a “star” dish, the other in a “supporting role”. She’s smart, this Contessa. She quickly shows us 3 recipes – string beans, carrots and butternut squash before moving on to the star - celery root and green apple purée.
Ina cuts up one cup of fennel root. It goes into butter with 3 Golden Delicious apples and half a pound of Yukon gold potatoes, which have been peeled and cut into chunks.
She cuts the peel off the ugly celery root (or celeriac), cuts it in half and into large chunks. That goes into the pan. She adds 1½ teaspoons of salt, ½ teaspoon of pepper, and cooks the mixture for 5 to 7 minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Then Ina adds ½ cup apple cider, covers it and simmers for 30 to 40 minutes.
Ina takes out the shiniest, most luxurious looking food mill I’ve ever seen. It looks like sterling silver, polished for the Queen of England...I have my food mill in the same drawer as my hammer. I have to say that my hammer gets more use, but when you need a food mill, NOTHING else will do, so it is an essential piece of kitchen equipment.
Ina adds a quarter cup of cream to the celery root mixture. Then it goes into the food mill. She says you can also use a blender or a food processer. Hold on! I know this mixture is NOT predominantly potatoes, but I still would NEVER put any purée with potatoes into a food processor. It will come out like glue. And if this is the featured vegetable on Thanksgiving, I don’t want to screw around with the texture.
In a food mill-free household, you could just mash them with a masher, which would give the texture of smashed potatoes. You could also use a mixer, which wouldn’t give you a super smooth purée, but it’s an alternative to the food mill.
Ina is using the coarser blade in her beauteous food mill. She makes this all advance and then heats it up with a little apple cider. She tastes for seasoning and loves it.
Ina fields more questions about stuffing and gravy.
Instead of using the turkey drippings, she uses chicken drippings that she’s saved in the freezer. I don’t know about this. How do you feel?
Yes, gravy is a pain and I always feel triumphant if I can have it made before the bulk of the guests arrive. But isn’t that the test of the cook’s mettle?
Cooking the gravy the day before with counterfeit drippings seems wrong to me. Is EVERYTHING always about how to do stuff the easiest way possible? I’m really not down with this idea.
Undoubtedly it’s easier, but is it better? Now you may say that the Contessa’s CHICKEN gravy is better than 99% of the normal person’s rushed TURKEY gravy, but I still think we all need something to shoot for. Making turkey gravy just may be the bellwether of an accomplished cook.
I’m probably only saying this because my gravy is AWESOME. If the test were something else (I cannot make jello or hamburgers and my angel food cakes are far from celestial) then I’d be out of luck. (I’ll be revealing my turkey and gravy recipe later in the week…You could peek at last year’s Thanksgiving posts to get a preview.)
I have a friend whose husband (the best part is that her husband is in this sentence at all) wants to do his gravy in advance, but he wants it to be authentic. He roasts turkey legs and makes the gravy from THAT a week or two ahead of time and then freezes it. That’s an idea I could live with.
Ina goes over her gravy technique. She does have a sensational recipe (I LOVE the additional of a tablespoon of brandy), but I would make it on the day.
For the stuffing, Ina melts butter in a large frying pan. She adds 2 chopped granny smith apples (peels still on), 2 stalks of celery and 2 onions, both chopped. She cooks them until tender.
Ina tells us that she stopped cooking her stuffing inside the turkey, because the stuffing would take forever to cook and her turkey would be dry. Now she has a moist turkey and a big pan of stuffing that she doesn’t have to worry about. (I will probably be the last person on earth to cook my stuffing inside the turkey…I’m nothing if not stubborn.)
She chops 2 tablespoons fresh parsley and adds that with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. She tosses everything together and continues cooking for another 10 minutes.
Ina toasts 1 inch cubes of a French bread boule in the oven for 7 minutes at 300°F. This will crisp and dry out the bread, so it will absorb all the good flavors of the stuffing. Ina adds the cooked mixture into the bread.
She’s thrown me off several times when she’s referred to the bread as “bread crumbs” and they are clearly these big cubes of bread.
To add to the stuffing, she cooks half sweet and half spicy Italian sausage (3/4 pound total) in the same frying pan that her vegetables were cooking in. She cooks them until done, about 10 minutes. She says “bread crumbs” again. Ina!
She adds one cup of dried cranberries and one cup of “good” chicken stock to the stuffing and lastly the sausage. She tosses it all together. It does look really, really, REALLY good - like a savory bread pudding without the egg part. She puts it in the fridge to await tomorrow’s cooking.
Her plan for dessert “involves the guests”. Hmmm…what could that be? Toasted marshmallows over the firepit? Taking turns churning ice cream? S’mores in the microwave?
Maybe she’s asking them to BRING IT? Nah, I sure hope not. I don’t want some grotty pie that someone bought from the Acme, when I could have a Barefoot Contessa dessert.
OMG, that’s it!!! She’s asked everyone to bring one pie. She thinks it’s more fun that way. Maybe for you! But certainly not for the guests expecting great things…
She hears more questions. People worry too much. She talks about how to get the whole meal out at one time. She pours white wine in the bottom of the turkey pan and cooks it 325°F for 2 hours until an instant read thermometer registers 165°F deg. She covers it with foil and allows it to rest for 15 minutes.
The stuffing goes into the oven at 350°F for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, Ina says, heat up the celery root purée over low heat and reheat the gravy with a tablespoon of cream.
The last 15 minutes you blanch the green beans, carve the turkey and serve.
We see the guests arrive. Adorable Jeffrey and Ina greet them. The couple does look amazingly relaxed. Perhaps her plan IS the way to go. I just know it will never happen in my house, where I would never cook the most important meal of the year IN ADVANCE.
Anyway, is it really Thanksgiving if the cook isn’t flushed with worry and, at least, a bit distraught? I find a few cocktails, opportunely timed, always help.