Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten
Pot Luck Dinner
Scott's Short Ribs
Cheddar Dill Cornbread
Stewed Fresh Berries
I’m not entirely sure what is going on. The Food Network was running promos saying this episode of the Barefoot Contessa was the premiere of the new Barefoot Contessa series. I thought that meant they were done with “Back To Basics” and were now just calling it Barefoot Contessa. But, no, the screen says Back to Basics. Whatever! I guess the promos make as much sense as their website. Anyway, I’m just happy to see Ina…I don’t care WHAT they call her show.
Ina tells us that she likes pot luck dinners. All the guests get “their assignments” and they meet at one person’s house. She says the “proof is in the party” and how fun they are.
Today, Ina is bringing the main course of short ribs and cheddar dill cornbread to...Oh Goodie!...TR’s house and he is making dessert. Friend Kirk is bringing the wine. I don’t know who he is, but if the Barefoot Contessa likes him, then so do I.
Ina meets up with the boys for coffee, and TR comes up with the pot luck idea, even though she’s already told us about it. She assigns TR the dessert.
Ina’s three pot luck rules:
Make it ahead.
Make things that travel well.
Make it SO delicious.
Back in the kitchen, Ina takes out 9 gorgeous trimmed short ribs. She sprinkles them with LOTS of salt and roasts them at 400°F. for 15 minutes, which will caramelize the outside. LOTS of pepper goes on. She says doing them on top of the stove is annoying. I know what she means about the greasy clean-up.
TR swaggers into a bakery. He resists all these beautiful desserts and buys only heavy cream, because he’s making Ina’s Meringues Chantilly himself.
Ina chops up leeks, carrots, onions and sweats them in a large pot with ¼ cup olive oil. She chops up fennel, too, after coring it and adds it. She doesn’t love raw fennel, but adores it cooked with its anise flavor. Because the short ribs are so rich, she likes to add lots of fresh vegetables. (They won't be particularly fresh after cooking for hours, but okay...) She gives it the pot “big stir” and cooks the vegetables for 15 to 20 minutes.
Ina is such a pro. She is 100 percent comfortable in front of the camera. She never performs. She’s just THERE, cooking and showing us as she goes. I imagine that if there were no cameras and we were standing right next to her, her demeanor would be exactly the same. She is pretty much flawless. I just love her!
Ina likes that everyone feels involved in a potluck party. That is so opposite to MY way of entertaining, where if someone brings something, I stash it in the laundry room, and hope no one notices. I don’t want anyone taking the glory away from me! Ina is so generous in her entertaining.
She adds 3 cloves of garlic to the vegetables. She cooks that for a minute and then adds 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and 1 bottle of burgundy. Ina says if you cook with cheap wine, your dinner will taste cheap.
I’ve mentioned this article before about how cooking with cheap wine makes no difference. I still tend to side with Ina, but it is interesting to think that cheaper wines ARE fine for cooking. Normally, I use decent wine in cooking, maybe not the finest, but ones that I can stand to drink, certainly.
Ina cooks the wine and vegetable mixture, uncovered, for 10 minutes to reduce the wine by half. She takes out the short ribs and turns down the oven to 300°F. She seasons the sauce with 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. (Didn't the meat already have an ENORMOUS amount of salt?)
Then Ina makes an herb bouquet with rosemary and fresh thyme by tying them together. That makes it easy to remove. She puts the ribs on top of the sauce. She says TR’s dessert better be good to go with her great ribs. A tablespoon of brown sugar goes in with 6 cups of beef stock (she’s using homemade). The pot gets brought to a simmer and put in the oven, covered, for 2 hours.
TR used to work for the Barefoot Contessa shop, when he was 15 years old, Ina says, and that she taught him a lot. Interesting. She says tonight he’s on his own with dessert. That sounds like a challenge.
TR buys the fruits for the sauce – raspberries and blueberries. He’s going to make dessert all by himself with no help from her and next time, he says, he should make the whole meal by himself.
Ina takes the heavy pot out of the oven. She removes the short ribs and reduces the sauce to intensify the flavor, remarking that the bones have flavored and thickened the sauce.
Perhaps to justify cooking 3 (huge) short ribs per person, she says it’s amazing how they reduce in size. She removes the bundle of herbs, which is nothing but stems. She skims some fat and reduces it for 20 minutes.
She says there’s nothing like a pot luck party for stress-free entertaining, where each person only has to do one thing. I have one better, Ina, GO TO A RESTAURANT! ;-)
She stirs the reduced sauce. She tastes and loves it. She adds back in the short ribs to heat up together.
Back to TR, who is planning to make Ina’s Meringues Chantilly in a beautiful blue KitchenAid. He makes the fruit sauce with blueberries, raspberries, water and sugar and a bit of orange zest.
TR is reading from the recipe and he’s laid the recipe on top of the stove. I'm sure it's about to burst into flames...Be careful! He’s cooked the mixture for 8 minutes. He turns it off and add 2 teaspoons of Framboise liqueuer and stirs in the fresh fruit.
Then he turns his attention to the meringue recipe, where it says to bake them for 2 hours and then to let them sit in the oven for 4 hours or overnight. He says WHAT?!! He runs off camera. Meanwhile, we see Ina working on her last recipe.
Why do I think he’ll be revisiting that bakery for a few meringue shells? He broke the first rule of cooking – READ THE ENTIRE RECIPE THROUGH BEFORE YOU START COOKING.
For Ina’s cornbread, she measures 3 cups of flour, which she sort of moves around to lighten before measuring, with 1 cup of cornmeal, ¼ cup sugar, 2 tablespoons baking powder and 2 teaspoons of salt.
She melts 2 sticks of butter and cracks 3 eggs in a bowl. (This is one time she strays from her rule of cracking eggs in a separate bowl before adding them.) She mixes 2 cups of milk into the eggs and whisks in the melted butter. She pours the wet ingredients into the dry ones, telling us not to over mix. She grates 2 cups of extra sharp cheddar by hand and stirs that in.
She runs her knife along the stems of the dill and chops one cup and adds it to the mixture. She lets the batter it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before baking, which allows the cornmeal to absorb the milk and eggs. I don’t do that. Maybe I should, but would that make the finished product less moist?
Ina grates more cheese for the topping. She puts the mixture into a 9 by 13 pan and adds more cheddar on top. She bakes it at 350°F. for 35 minutes. Her part is done.
TR is rushing around. He goes back to the pastry shop and gets the last 3 meringues and runs out the door…without paying the 12 dollars they cost. Wow, that’s pricey! He’s lucky there are only three of them eating tonight.
Ina is packing up the car. TR hopes to get home before Ina arrives. He does. Ina serves dinner. Kirk comes in with one (only?) bottle of wine. They tuck into the short ribs and cornbread. Kirk says it’s unbelievable. TR says Ina never disappoints.
TR brings out dessert and admits he didn’t make the meringues. Gosh, she got that out of him quickly. I guess Ina’s time in the government makes her a super adept interrogator. Ina wants to know how that happened. He says he’s sticking with the Barefoot motto of buying something and making something. Ina says next time HE'S making dinner and SHE’S buying dessert. Oh, and Kirk is definitely bringing the wine.