The Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten
Of course, we all associate the Barefoot Contessa with
Ina got some help from, Joe Realmuto, the chef of one of the
She’s excited and positively glowing as she looks UP (he’s tall!) at the hunky chef. (Homely guy alert – put on a chef’s jacket and see how that improves your love life. Some knife skills wouldn’t hurt either.)
Ina tells us the sauce of the dish has onions and roasted tomatoes. Joe continues (Ina’s calling him Joe, so I will too) that the sauce has some great herbs and spices and is baked in the oven for a long time.
Then Ina reminds him that they’re missing one MAJOR ingredient – vodka, lots of vodka. I won’t be surprised if Ina whips out a few martinis for them to enjoy as they cook.
They add half a chopped Spanish onion (or use 1 medium onion) and 3 chopped cloves of garlic to ¼ cup olive oil in a sauté pan. It cooks until translucent, about 5 minutes, (I’d double that time).
While that’s cooking, we get to watch a behind the scenes video that Joe brought. Oh, it’s a tour of the 22 year old restaurant.
Do they even need this exposure? If you tried now, you probably wouldn’t even be able to get in until August. (Actually, that’s not true, I JUST tried and I could have a table for 2 at 6:45 or 8:45 this Saturday.)
In the video, we see the wood burning pizza oven and some awesome fish and pizzas coming out of it. Joe introduces us to the Chef de Cuisine, John Baron and we see the rest of the kitchen staff. That kitchen looks spotless.
Ina and Joe continue with the sauce. He adds the oregano and red pepper flakes. I love that Joe says the key, when using dried herbs, is to “sweat them out in the olive oil” so they release their flavors. That’s MY rule of thumb for WARM SPICES to get rid of their rawness and deepen their flavor. ALWAYS let them see you sweat (your spices anyway).
As Joe adds the vodka, Ina says, “We’ll make martinis later.” I KNEW IT! He lets the sauce reduce down. He adds San Marzano tomatoes, squeezing them as they go in.
Joe tells us that the genesis of this dish is that the owners (sad) went to
Luckily, Joe happens to have another batch ready so they can proceed with the recipe. Ina adds a boatload of salt to boiling water and adds the pasta.
Joe purées the sauce in a blender until it’s smooth.
(A food processor would never get it as smooth and neither would an immersion blender. There are times when certain machines are best for certain things.)
Joe pours the sauce back into the sauté pan, adds some fresh oregano and a cup of heavy cream, which Ina says improves everything. He seasons it and cooks it for another 10 minutes. He asks Ina to grate the cheese, while he drains the pasta. Ina loves the cheese. Joe says he likes to buy a chunk of Parm for the house, because it longer than grated cheese, which loses its flavor so quickly.
Joe stirs the pasta into the sauce and cooks it just a bit longer, because he cooked his pasta al dente. Okay, this is great but a bit elementary. Joe stirs in some Parm and serves them each a bowl. He finishes the dish with some more Parm on top and some fresh oregano. They eat a bowl each, while she kisses him thank you.
Ina’s making another version of tiramisu - a rum raisin one. She breaks 6 eggs into the bowl of a KitchenAid with ½ cup of sugar. She says to make sure the eggs are at room temperature so “they beat up nice and light”. She beats that for 5 minutes until it falls back on itself in a ribbon. She adds 16-18 oz of mascarpone. (DON’T look at the calorie content of those containers. It’s out in the stratosphere.)
Then Ina adds “a LOT” of “good” dark rum, ½ cup, and ¼ cup fresh orange juice, which she says take the hard edge of the rum. (If the rum is so good in the first place, why does it have a hard edge?) She also adds 1½ teaspoons of vanilla AND the seeds from one vanilla bean. (She really can’t help herself.)
Next, Ina gets ready “a dip” for the lady fingers. She mixes together ½ cup rum and ½ cup of freshly squeezed OJ. She dips them quickly so they don’t become soggy and places them into a rectangular baking dish.
Oh! Barefoot Contessa New Book Alert! Ina says she’s working on a book of “easy” recipes and she’s including this one. I don’t care that that could be ALL of her cookbooks; I just want her to keep on, keeping on.
For her rum raisins, Ina mixes 2 tablespoons dark rum with ¾ cup raisins. She covers the bowl with plastic wrap and microwaves it on high for one minute.
I NEVER use plastic wrap in the microwave, EXCEPT in one case. When I melt gelatin, I cover the soaked gelatin tightly with plastic wrap and zap it on high for 30 seconds. (Although that was my OLD microwave, I might halve the time now.) I don’t mind the plastic in Ina’s recipe, because it’s not touching the food and leeching out onto it.
The raisins plump up and absorb the rum. Ina cools them. She adds half the raisins over the lady fingers and pours over half the mascarpone egg mixture. She does that all again “once more with feeling”. She’s so cute. She smooths the top, covers it with plastic and refrigerates it for at least 6 hours or preferably over night.
It’s now out on the counter next to a block of chocolate the size of a gold bullion bar. I’m not kidding. Ina warmed the huge bar for 30 seconds in a microwave, so it curls easier.
Is Ina mentioning a microwave more than usual? I have no problem with that. I use mine many times a day in little cooking tasks.
Ina adds lots of the curls to the top and says it looks good enough to eat. Then she sinks her spoon in and has a nice (rather huge) taste. She says, “Why would you go to a restaurant, if you can make this at home?” Joe better not hear her talk that way.
The next thing Ina prepares is an antipasti platter. All her food looks good, of course, but prosciutto wrapped around melon? Is this something we really need to see? How about a little bit of sumptin’ sumptin’? Maybe a smear of harissa on the prosciutto before it goes around the melon?
I like what Ina says about Julia. She quotes Julia as having said she likes French food better, because she doesn’t consider making Italian food COOKING. Ina says, but that’s also the GOOD NEWS!
Ina does slices of tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella. (Make them the same size). I’m not saying this isn’t good, but…oh good, she’s adding pesto over the top instead of fresh basil.
Next is bread sticks wrapped in salami. I have no problem with simple or easy, I just think something that’s been made 400 gazillion times could be given a little twist. A bit of fig spread on the salami before it gets wrapped around the bread stick, perhaps? THIS recipe looks more exciting or THIS one looks pretty awesome too, but I would use plain chili powder, not a “seasoning mix”, whatever that is.
Ina pulls together the platter “visually” by adding a bunch of basil to the middle. She salts and peppers the whole thing.
Next Ina answers questions from Ask Ina.
Carol wants to know if she should rinse the cooked pasta under cold water to get rid of some of the starch.
Carol!!! What exactly do you THINK the Barefoot Contessa is going to say?!! She would probably find a way of adding MORE STARCH into the pasta. Really!
Naturally, Ina says that’s what you DON’T want to do. She’s very calm as she explains that it would bring down the temperature and it’s the starch in the pasta that brings the dish together when added to the sauce. She tells Carol that she even reserves some of the pasta water to add later, if she needs more liquid. (I will NOT be eating pasta, or probably anything else, at Carol’s house.)
Oh gosh, listen to the next question. Is there a difference in salting the pasta water before you cook the pasta or can you just salt the pasta after cooking?
Yes, MARY, you can salt just the pasta…if you want your dish to suck! Okay, that‘s not exactly how Ina put it. She says salting the water allows the salt to get INTO the pasta and flavors it better than any salting afterwards can.
Who are these ninnies?
Patty’s question is okay, though. She just wants a recipe for garlic bread. Ina uses ciabatta and tells us her recipe. She slices the bread in half through the middle. She processes 6 cloves of peeled garlic with ¼ cup parsley, 1/8 cup oregano, 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. She adds that to hot oil and cooks it for 30 second and spoons the mixture over half the bread. She spreads softened butter over the other half and then wraps it in foil and bakes it at 350°F for 5 minutes. She opens the foil and puts it back in the oven until crisp.
One more question for Ina. Michele (with a cute baby) needs a quick marinara. Oh, thank goodness! Ina can help. She sautés a chopped yellow onion in olive oil for ten minutes until it’s lightly browned. Then she adds garlic and cooks it for a minute and adds 1 teaspoon of dried oregano. She adds a jar of really ”good” marinara sauce. She says the house will smell like garlic and herbs and no one will know you didn’t make the sauce yourself.
She’s wily, this Contessa. And if things were a bit too easy this week, I can’t deny that they were delicious.