Monday, December 21, 2009

Ina Cooks With A Blogger - Be Still My Beating Heart

Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten

Chicken with Goat Cheese and Sun Dried Tomato

Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter

Cognac Cream

Plain Pound Cake

Red Berry Trifle

Roasted Parsnips and Carrots

Ooh, this is exciting! Finally we have proof that divine Ina actually reads food blogs. Well, one anyway. Her young friend Phoebe Lapine has a blog called Big Girls Small Kitchen for 20 something’s who cook. Ina is giving her an entertaining menu FOR THE BLOG.

Hellooo Ina!!! I have a blog. I write about recipes…YOUR recipes, in fact. And I have never even posted one of them, because I never post anyone else’s recipes without permission. But I bet if you gave me a recipe for MY blog, I’d rave about every word.

Ina says this menu will satisfy a lot of criteria – it’s a holiday dinner, it won’t break the bank and it has a wow factor.

There’s that jazzy music again…

Ina wants to find a dessert for Phoebe for her blog that is easy and inexpensive, but still fabulous.

I get a shiver down my spine every time Ina uses the word BLOG. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it pass her lips before.

Ina slices a pint of strawberries and mixes them with a pint of raspberries. She heats up 3 cups of milk and mixes together TEN egg yolks and one cup of sugar for a pastry cream with cognac. She beats the eggs and sugar in her super duper (and expensive) mixer for about 5 minutes until the mixture falls back on itself like a ribbon.

I have to admit that nothing about this recipe is reading inexpensive OR easy. It’s not hard exactly, but it takes multiple steps, which I personally love, but if you’re cooking in a tiny kitchen, you may not…Plus does Phoebe have a big mixer?

Ina shows us how beautifully thick the egg yolks are. She sifts ¼ cup cornstarch and adds it directly to the eggs and sugar. With the mixer running, she adds the hot milk VERY slowly, so the eggs don’t curdle.

Ina pours the mixture into a big pot and cooks it over low heat, stirring constantly. She shows us how thick the custard is, before she sieves the mixture into a bowl to make sure there are no lumps.

I always sieve any custardy mixture not just to avoid lumps, but also to get rid of any snotty egg bits. BTW, Ina is using a wooden spoon to stir her custard. That’s because a wooden spoon hits the inside edges of the pot better than anything else. A plastic spatula works well too.

Ina adds a teaspoon of Cognac. Is it possible that for once Ina is low-balling the amount of booze in a recipe? Ina reminds us that Cognac is just brandy from the Cognac region of France and that any “good” brandy will do. She adds 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of cream.

Ina says the pastry cream lasts for days in the fridge. She presses plastic wrap right down on the top to prevent a skin from forming. Wouldn’t this be good flavored with coffee?

Ina shows us how she made the pound cake for the trifle. She beats 2 sticks of room temperature butter with 2 cups of sugar until light and fluffy.

Ina adds 4 extra large eggs at room temperature. Is it time to revisit the quandary of the extra large eggs? Oh, wait, here it is – all your questions answered.

The short answer is that you use the same number of large eggs as extra large eggs when using up to 4 eggs in a recipe. When 5 or more extra large eggs are called for in a recipe, you use one more large egg. It might be easier to see it in graph form.

Back to the pound cake, Ina sifts together 3 cups of flour with ½ teaspoon of baking powder, ½ teaspoon of baking soda and a teaspoon of salt. She separately mixes ¾ cup of buttermilk with 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Then she adds the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.

I think it was Rose Levy Beranbaum who said that she has tested adding the wet and dry ingredients alternately AND adding them all at once. Doing it alternately really does result in a better textured cake. For years, I hadn’t bothered to, but now I always do.

Ina say the batter is enough for 2 pound cakes, one to use for the trifle and one to freeze. She pours the batter into two 8½” x 4½” x 2½” loaf pans. They bake at 350ºF for 45 minutes to an hour until a toothpick comes out clean.

Ina assembles the trifle. She cuts the pound cake into thick slices and spreads raspberry jam onto each piece.

I have a different version of a trifle that I really love. I used to make them constantly and I use poached fruit, mostly beautiful red plums, with their luscious juices to moisten the cake in between a thickly poured rich, rich, rich crème anglaise.

The secret is to poach the plums super slow with just a bit of sugar and only a tiny bit of water. Bring it to a simmer and turn down the heat. If you can leave it for an hour, great. The fruit is so silky and full of flavor…YUM! Instead of spreading jam on the cake, as Ina did, I spoon the fruit over each layer of cake.

Also my custard has no cornstarch and is so pourable and soo luxurious that you could bathe in it. Well, I could anyway. Ina likes using a thick one, so it doesn’t sink to the bottom of the bowl. My runnier one doesn’t bother me.

Ina fits the jam-covered pound cake slices into the trifle bowl. She sprinkles over framboise liqueur and adds a spoonful of fresh red berries, making sure the layers are visible from the sides of the bowl.

Ina adds a big dollop of pastry cream and lets it drizzle down the sides. She layers on more cake, framboise, berries, cognac cream and then another layer of everything. Whipped cream goes on the top. It looks fantastic.

Oh good, a Julia and Julie commercial. That WAS such a good movie - the Julia parts, especially - although people have told me that the Julie parts are less annoying the second time you see the movie.

Ina whips 2 cups of cold heavy cream with 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 teaspoons of “good” vanilla. I would have used brandy. Ina tastes the whipped cream to be sure that it has the right amount of vanilla and sugar.

Sure, Ina, you’ve whipped cream with that amount of sugar 20,000 times and now all of a sudden you need to taste it?!! I would have done EXACTLY the same thing and probably even whipped an extra ½ cup to allow for tasting. ;-?

Ina spreads a layer of cream on top of the trifle and then, with a big star tip, she pipes beautiful swirls around the edges. She is such an artiste. She tops it off with berries. Gorgeous.

Somehow Ina got it to snow, so her property looks so festive and holiday-like, while she shows us her holiday entrée of stuffed chicken breasts.

Ina asked her butcher to give her 2 boneless chicken breasts with the skin still on. The BAD news is that most people don’t have a butcher. The GOOD news is that when you take the breasts off the bone yourself, you can use all the leftovers for stock.

Ina loosens the skin and inserts two pieces of goat cheese with garlic and herbs under the skin, making sure that the skin covers the pieces of cheese. She adds 2 sundried tomatoes in oil along with a basil leaf, again making sure the skin covers it all. Ina says sometimes the chicken breasts are kind of small and sometimes they’re “Dolly Parton” sized. Good one, Ina.

She brushes them with a bit of olive oil and adds lots of salt and pepper. She likes to make chicken breast ON the bone for chicken salad, but OFF the bone for dinner parties. They cook at 400ºF for 25 to 35 minutes.

Ina scrubs 1½ pounds of carrots and peels 1½ pounds of parsnips. She cuts them into pieces and puts them on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt and pepper. Usually they cook at 425 degrees, but she wants to cook them with the chicken, so she says 400 degrees is fine.

Ina decorates the counter by putting lights into a big vase and then filling it with evergreens and twisting some of the lights around the tops of the branches. I LOVE that idea.

Next, Ina adds star anise to the bottom of a glass candle holder. I HATE star anise, but cloves would be a good idea. Then she sets out a plate of clementines.

Ina’s beautiful young blogging friend, Phoebe, arrives to help her cook. (She didn’t bring a hostess gift. Isn’t that bad form?)

Phoebe is just lovely. (Why does she have a bandaid on her arm?) Ina and Phoebe put fancy tagliarelle into boiling water for 3 minutes. She asks Ina if you can use a short pasta as well. Ina says this kind of pasta or fettuccine is better.

Ina tells Phoebe to add ½ cup of heavy cream to a sauté pan and to turn on the heat. They add salt and pepper and 7 dollars worth of 3 ounces of white truffle butter. Ina turns off the pan before adding it.

Ina drains the pasta (Giada would have just lifted it into the sauce) and has Phoebe stir together the pasta and butter with cheese and chives. Ina wonders if this recipe will be good enough to appear on Phoebe’s blog. (Another shiver just went down my back.)

Ina says she broke her entertaining rule of never cooking with guests in the kitchen. Ina plates the chicken with the vegetables and adds a bit of greens. They taste it and Ina says it’s even done, which is always nice. Funny. Phoebe asks how to tell when chicken is cooked. Ina says she touches it and if it springs back, it’s done. It looks really delicious.

Then Ina brings out her glorious bowl of trifle that could serve 20 people. I like the stuff that I put in my trifle, but mine never looked like that!

Ina asks nervously, “Did I make it onto the blog?” (Shiver, shiver.) Phoebe says of course and that she made the perfect holiday meal. The episode ends with a hug.

Phoebe’s co-blogger, Cara, changed the dessert quite a bit, including completely deep-sixing the pastry cream. I thought it would be a bit much for tiny kitchen cooking, but if you have the room, try Ina’s trifle. It would be perfect for a grand holiday meal, even if I do prefer poached fruit to jam.


Sue said...

Hi Lys,
I'm answering your comment here. If you only buy extra large eggs because Ina uses them in her recipes, what do you do with every other recipe in the universe that calls for LARGE eggs?

The reverse equation is also true, I suppose. Up to four extra large eggs, just substitute the same number of large eggs.

DebCarol said...

See Sue . . . Ina IS into blogging and I'll bet you all the snow in my backyard that she reads your blog first! I would not rate any of this menu in the "easy" category but it all sounds amazing. ~ The ex-large vs large eggs, for me this is getting harder and harder because some places I shop, the large eggs look too small to me so I buy ex-large anyway. ~ And ever since I was old enough to hold my Mom's mixer, I was taught to alternate wet and dry ingred., always starting and ending with the dry.

Sue said...

Hi DC,

That's A LOT of snow, but I'm not so sure...I can always hope, I guess.

That's interesting that you buy extra large eggs sometimes. If the large eggs ARE smaller, that has got to be illegal!

I was taught about alternating dry and wet ingredients too, but I admit I was lazy for years. Now I do it the right way.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

Interesting that she would take on a blogger. She dissed Jennifer Garner after all.

I really don't know why if she's inviting bloggers onto her show why she's not using you. Makes no sense whatsoever. Maybe we can get a letter-writing campaing going.

I like her trifle, but I like to make mini ones. I slice the pound cake and then use a cookie cutter to cut it into rounds and serve the trifle in wine glasses. I'll even graduate the side of the cake rounds, getting bigger as the glass gets rounder.

Sue said...

Thank you Rach!

I'm not sure that bit on is fair to Ina. I think she meant she only uses people on her show who she knows from real life. I read every word on Phoebe's blog about Ina. Phoebe's father and Ina are friends who go way back, so I guess that qualifies her as a real person in the Contessa's life. That's reasonable.

I LOVE your idea of graduated cake rounds. That's brilliant. I may have to whip up a trifle sooner than later.

Phoebe and Cara, The Quarter-Life Cooks said...

Thanks for the entertaining recap, and for reading our blog!

As for the bandaid...I had to get a biopsy and two stitches that morning...but more horrifying than the actual procedure--can't believe you can see the evidence on television!!!

Please visit again soon!


Cynthia said...

I would love to see you and Ina cooking together!

Merry Christmas to you and the entire family!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

I saw this episode and I am making the trifle for Christmas eve!!! I may make some modifications, and I am going to cut down the recipe. but it looked amazing! I totally think Ina needs to make you a menu for your blog!!!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...


Sue said...

Hi Phoebe,

Well, now I feel totally churlish to have mentioned the bandaid, but I thought it looked just fine, not the least bit icky. I hope all is well and congratulations on your book deal. That really is fantastic!

Sue said...

Thanks, Cyn!

Have a fantastic holiday! I'm jealous of your WARM Christmas. Maybe we could switch one of these days...

Hi Jenn,
I know THAT is going to be a great dessert!

I love Ina menu or no menu. And, Jenn, I hope your Christmas is wonderful too and all your dreams come true.

Emily said...

A trifle! How fantastic! I think that's the perfect dessert for Christmas. You may have solved my dilemna. I love the trifles! Mmm cake, custard and whipped cream.

I watched this on Saturday. I can't believe she put all of that truffle butter in the pasta!

I agree with Rachel; let's get a campaign going to get you on Ina's show!!

Sue said...

Hi Em,
You couldn't do better than that trifle as a Christmas dessert.

I LOVE you and everyone for your sweet thoughts. I think Ina was pretty clear when she rejected a movie star's plea to be on her show. If only I had been in Gerald Ford's White House back in the day...

Tom said...

Hi Sue,

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas! And you couldn't possibly be old enough to have been in Gerald Ford's White House back in the day!

The egg thing always bothered me with Ina, and I tried using large eggs in her recipes for a while. I must admit that I now buy extra-large eggs when I'm baking an Ina recipe. I can buy them in a carton of six, and then if I have leftovers they just go into the scrambled eggs or omelet. There's about a seven gram difference between a large and extra large egg -- you can always add a little milk or water if it's just an egg or two, but for Ina's six-egg brownies it really does make a difference.

I find that the alternating makes a difference because it blends the flour mixture in properly without overbeating and making the cake tough. A little extra time and effort (unless you get one of those beaters that automatically scrapes the bowl) but really worth it.

Have a wonderful new year!

Sue said...

Hi Tom!
You're too nice! Yeah, I would have been young(ish), but to have known Ina...

EXCELLENT IDEA to buy extra large eggs in a half dozen. Yes, there is a difference of teaspoons with the two sizes, but that's why after 4 eggs, you add an extra large egg, not an extra-large additional large egg.

Yup, alternating wet and dry is the way to go. Sometimes old time methods have been in place forever for a reason.

I hope your holidays are wonderful and you celebrate the new year with a bang...and some great champagne.