Sunday, April 12, 2009

Ina Makes Dinner And So Do I

Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten

Fast And Fabulous

Mustard-Roasted Fish
Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli
Dill Fingerling Potatoes
Honey Vanilla Fromage Blanc
Raspberry Sauce

After I saw this show, which was on a week or two ago, I ran into the kitchen to try some of the recipes. And THAT’S why I watch the Food Network. I live for that kind of reaction – to be excited by the food and want to try it…immediately. I used to have that feeling a lot more when MC was on the FN’s prime viewing (for me) Saturday schedule.

These dishes of Ina’s were fabulous and really fast, just as advertised. I made the mustard-crème fraiche sauce with chicken, instead of fish; I subbed asparagus for the broccoli; and I skipped the dessert. But here’s how it went down on the show:

Frank is coming for dinner. Ina is making a fast and fabulous dinner. Start the clock, she says. She’s "cooking in the fast lane". I love her black and white, tiger-striped scarf.

Ina runs to the store to pick up a few things. She uses a little basket.

Her two rules for making a fast dinner are:
1) Easy Recipes
2) Ingredients she can find in any grocery store.

She gets all she needs into a little basket. She buys red snapper from Matt. (BTW, the fish was $11.49/lb.)

Ina sticks to her one store rule and picks up flowers from the same grocery store. She gets flowers in all one color.

(Honestly, I almost NEVER buy flowers. If someone brings them, great. If not, I use the food as the centerpiece, plus I have so much other crap on the table - by crap, I mean candles, glasses, runner and what have you - that I don’t miss them.)

Ina tells us almost in a whisper (okay, I'll only tell you guys…) that one of her tricks is a quick dessert with a REALLY quick raspberry sauce. She places half a pint of fresh raspberries with 1/2 cup of sugar and ¼ cup of water into a pan. Thank Goodness! I thought she was just going to melt raspberry jam and call THAT a sauce. She simmers it for 4 minutes.

Hold on! She DOES add 1 cup of seedless raspberry jam into the food processor. Well, at least it’s not the ENTIRE sauce. She adds a tablespoon of framboise and says you can use the clear stuff or not.

She takes the raspberries and sugar off the heat and adds that into the food processor and purées it. I sure hope she’s going to sieve it. She tastes it and loves it. She doesn’t sieve it, but I WOULD and so should you!

Ina stirs together 2 cups of fat-free fromage blanc with 2 tablespoons cream, 1/4 cup honey and 2 teaspoons vanilla.

Oh, THIS was the other place I saw someone else (besides Giada) using honey and not mentioning anything about GOOD honey. Ina adds “good vanilla” and always talks about adding “good” wine, but as far as honey goes…she’s happy with the honey bear. Sorry, but the honey bear is 3rd rate honey (fine for kids and colds) and I’m surprised the Contessa didn’t pick up some fancy honey when she had the chance.

She adds some lemon zest AND the seeds from a vanilla bean to the fromage blanc and stirs until smooth. She tastes it for flavoring and it’s good.

THIS is bad. In a commercial to promote Share our Strength and Reader’s Digest, they actually misspell the word “receive” as in: “To vote for your school or community to recieve a garden log on to reader’s” PLUS there should have been a comma after garden, because I puzzled for a long time over what a garden log was.

Ina cuts up fresh strawberries to go with the fromage blanc. She spoons fromage blanc in a shallow bowl. I’d prefer a clear wine glass or footed dish. She adds strawberries, blueberries and raspberries. She drizzles over the (unsieved) raspberry sauce and serves the rest of the (unsieved) sauce separately.

Ina sets two places at the counter. She puts a bowl of green apples, some white votives (odorless, so as not to compete with the food) and the white, grocery store flowers. It’s just lovely, but couldn’t she have shoved all that onto a table, so they could be a bit more comfortable?

I have the feeling that some producer said why don’t you show how informal this meal is by serving it at the kitchen counter? I don’t think it’s what Ina really would have done on her own.

She makes a bouquet with huge flowers and then adds smaller flowers around them. She has about 3 bunches of flowers.

To accompany the fish, Ina starts her potatoes. She adds 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter into a Dutch oven with a pound of fingerling potatoes and 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. She covers them and shakes the pan a few times while they’re cooking. She cooks them for 20 minutes. She doesn’t say how high the heat should be. I would start them on high until I hear a sizzle and then turn them down to medium low. (The recipe says low. You could go a little higher.)

She cuts off the ends the broccoli, leaving some stem on and cuts them into florets. There are about 2 cups of broccoli. She places them on a baking tray in one layer. Ina slivers garlic and adds that with a drizzle of olive oil “to help the cooking” and lots of salt and pepper. She tosses that together with “clean hands” and roasts the broccoli at 425°F for 25 to 30 minutes.
(You can play with the temperature here. If you have something else in the oven that needs 400°, don’t worry about it. You may just have to cook the broccoli a few minutes more.)

For the very easily put-together entrée, Ina puts two snapper fillets in a baking dish and sprinkles them with salt and pepper. She stirs together crème fraiche (but can you really find that just anywhere?) with 1½ tablespoons Dijon, ½ tablespoon whole grain mustard and 1 tablespoon each of chopped shallots and drained capers.

Half a tablespoon is a weird measurement, especially for mustard. It’s actually 1½ teaspoons. Just make sure you have MORE Dijon than whole grain mustard and you’ll be okay.

She seasons the mixture with salt and pepper and pours it right over the fish. This gets cooked at 425 F° for 10 minutes. You know what? I am really loving these dishes.

She tests the potatoes, they’re firm but tender. She turns them off, leaves them covered and lets them steam in their juices. She chops plenty of dill and adds that with salt.

Commercial with Bobby. He’s looking very trim. Did you know he
started running marathons? I learned that from the second copy of my Food Network Magazine. I’ll get into that another time.

Ina says there WAS a time when she could spend a week making dinner for 2 people, but no more. I really do identify with that. I spend way longer than I need to, or probably should, cooking, but it’s not as much time as it used to be.

Ina makes a topping for the broccoli. Is this the same recipe she uses for Roasted Asparagus? Oh, not quite. She zests a lemon and grates 2 tablespoons of “good” aged Parmesan Reggiano. She mixes together with 6 leaves of julienned basil and 1½ tablespoons toasted pine nuts. (There’s that half a tablespoon measurement again.) The broccoli comes out and looks a bit burned, but Ina is delighted. (Maybe cooking it at a lower temperature wouldn’t be such a bad idea.)

Ina tosses the broccoli with the lemon zest, cheese and nuts and adds more olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. It goes into a serving bowl.

Ina serves the potatoes, just as Frank knocks on the door. Dinner is all ready, she says. He says we JUST talked an hour ago, she must be a magician. She says she’s been cooking all day…NOT!

WHO DOESN’T LOVE INA? Really, she’s just a big dab of joy. I LOVE HER. Easy, breezy Ina.

Frank pours the wine as she serves the food. I’m dying to try those recipes. Well lookie here, I did.

I admit I did a double take when I looked at the calorie content on the crème fraiche container AND noted that Ina calls for using the entire thing. But it was amazingly good AND amazingly simple. (I added some tomatoes for garnish.) This is a great dish on a day when you don’t have a lot of time to cook – Christmas or Christmas Eve maybe or when you just need to get dinner in the oven quickly.

The potatoes were yummy. I used cut up Yukon golds instead of fingerlings. I just couldn’t see paying nearly 4 dollars for a bag of fingerlings. And I parslied them up, instead of using dill. The asparagus was on sale, so I used that instead of broccoli. I skipped the nuts and didn’t miss them.
Frank had a really nice dinner and so did we.


Tom said...

Hi Sue,

Ina must, of course, have a "good" supermarket. I decided to look in my local Safeway (Columbia Rd NW in DC) to see if I could find Ina's ingredients after I read your recap. No snapper or raspberries and no creme fraiche (and no chance of fromage blanc), but lo and behold, a plastic clamshell package of fingerlings I'd never seen there before (only one left, though, and about $6). Then onto the local Harris Teeter on Kalorama Rd NW, which didn't have creme fraiche or fromage blanc either, but had the snapper and the raspberries. Finally to Whole Foods on P St NW and there was the creme fraiche (still no fat-free fromage blanc, but they have the Vermont Butter and Cheese full-fat) and all the other ingredients too, but the dinner (for two) would have been over $40 if the ingredients were purchased there, not counting the pantry items. At least I got a good walk out of it!


Lynn said...

Frank's dinner looked great and I wouldn't have minded sitting at the counter, but what I really envied was the flowers.....she must have spent a small fortune on them! Beautiful!

Sue said...

That's so funny. I love that you did that. SIX DOLLARS for fingerlings? I guess the ones in my store were a bargain!

Well noone could accuse Ina of cooking a budget meal...or a diet meal...or, as you proved, one with easily obtained ingredients. BUT it was quick to make and REALLY, REALLY good. So what if the sauce had ONE THOUSAND calories! You did do all that walking, after all.

Hi Lynn,
The flowers WERE gorgeous. And now that you mention it, Tom must have left out the cost of the flowers in his $40 estimate.

Chris Chellson said...

Good stuff, it's hard to find good articles on how to make stuff like that. You should try posting this on ( ). I find most of my stuff there. It's nice because you can search by ingredients and by the name of the finished product. You can link your page to the website and it helps you keep track of who is using your articles. Great list of drink recipes for parties too!