Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Part Two - A Veal Throwdown – Will Ina Take It?

Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten
In Part One, we saw Anne preparing veal schnitzel. Now we’re going to watch Ina grill veal chops and determine whose dish reigns supreme.
Before Ina came on, I saw the last minute or two of RR. Rach looked like she was in a sauna. She was leaning over a pan that had a full head of steam billowing from it and she had a giant red bath towel over her arm. (Oh wait, that was one of her hugely hazardous dish towels that must start fires every single day in kitchens all over America.)
Guess what she was making? A burger. Surprise, surprise and it not only had meat on the inside, it was topped with baked salami just for good measure. (Don’t ask me what the steam was from. For all I know, she was boiling the burger…or the bun.)
Oh, good, the Contessa is on and I love the premise of this episode. Since she and Jeffrey love Paris so much, they decide they’re taking the day off and pretending they’re in Paris. Sounds great, but doesn’t that really mean that Ina is in the kitchen all day slaving away to give the tastes of Paree to her darling Jeffrey? Actually, let’s think about that. Have we EVER seen Ina SLAVING away? She makes it all seem so easy.
Anyway, our task is to see if her veal dish can stand up to Anne’s. It might be hard to compete with that luscious combination of textures and flavors. What does Ina have in store for us? She’s making “flame-grilled veal chops” with a Roquefort butter. Sorry, Anne, THIS WILL BE CLOSE. Jeffrey’s in charge of the wine.
Ina tells us about the country omelet from Café Varenne. She says when they arrive at their apartment in Paris they drop their bags, have breakfast and then go right out to lunch. A woman after my own heart.
Here is the omelet recipe. Now, THIS is interesting. Ina says she likes this recipe, because it’s one big omelet made for two and that she dislikes cooking separate things for people, like pancakes on Sunday morning. She prefers making one big thing. Really?!! She’s always talking about how she likes individual servings of things like cupcakes or anything served in ramekins. And, she loves making up individual lunch bags too. Oh well, consistency is probably an overrated trait.
Jeffrey wanders in just in time to have half the omelet, while Ina tells him what they’re having for dinner. He’s happy to participate in the Paris-eating day.
Like Anne, Ina is serving her veal with a potato dish. She’s doing a potato basil purée. She blanches the basil to set the green color before puréeing it and adding it to the potatoes.
Ina shows us a video from Le Bistrot de Paris, where she got the inspiration for this dish. This potato purée certainly is competition for Anne’s German Potato Salad.
Jeffrey heads over to the wine store. The wine guy suggests a Côtes du Rhône, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape or a Gigondas. He goes with the last choice, because it’s from Raspail and Ina likes the Raspail market in Paris. What does that have to do with the price of eggs? Anyway.
Jeffrey stops somewhere secret to pick up a surprise for Ina. We have to wait too to find out what it is. Maybe he’s bringing her a bottle of Chanel No. 5 or he's found an outpost for Bulgari in the Hamptons and he’s bringing her a 50 carat diamond necklace. If it’s a box of brownies, I WILL be disappointed, if only because that’s so been there/done that .
Ina tells us about the butcher on the Rue du Bac which inspired this dish. The veal chops there are probably the same price as a small house.
Ina SALTS and peppers both sides of two 1 inch thick veal chops and leaves them at room temperature for 15 to 20 minutes, so they cook “better”. (You should do that with all meat.)
Ina takes a stroll around Versailles, sorry, her Hampton’s house, to get to the grill. (We’re talking REAL grill, no gas for her and she must have had the serfs prepare the fire.) Ina oils the grate and puts the chops right in the middle of the grill and cooks them for 6 to 8 minutes on each side. She turns them. Gosh, do they look awesome...
We see Jeffrey turning into Loaves and Fishes. PLEASE, no brownies. He greets Stefan and picks up a Tarte Tatin. How sweet! How appropriate! He says it looks like it came from Café Flore, another of their favorite Parisian haunts. Awww, that is dear.
Ina says when you don’t have time to make a sauce, just make a flavored butter. She whips one up easily by beating room temperature butter with Roquefort until completely smooth. She beats in a bit of chopped scallions and rolls the mixture into a log about an inch in diameter. You can keep it frozen and ready to use.
Ina serves up one veal chop for each of them and the potatoes. She drizzles the veal with the juices that collected on the plate and tops them with TWO pats of butter. No veg?
Darling Ina and Jeffrey eat outside as they remember Café Flore. Then Jeffrey leaves the table (with their plates still in front of them). He returns seconds later (to a completely cleared table) and carries over the Tarte Tatin. Ina is pleased as punch. Surprised, though, might be an overstatement, but it’s nice to know that after 43(!!!) years together, he still TRIES to surprise her. Cute.
Even after all that warmth and fuzziness, I have to include one of her “Ask Ina” questions (from a real ninny). Andy wants to know how to avoid his chicken turning purple when he makes coq au vin. Really??? Ina gets up from her computer and moves effortlessly a few steps over and, voila, a big pot of coq au vin is bubbling away on the stovetop. She shows us its purple color and says he really has no problem, but he could always use a white burgundy if he really wanted to.
I have to get back to the veal, but she answers another question, this one about how to make Angelina’s hot chocolate. OMG, I LOVE Angelina’s!
Ina’s hot chocolate recipe is wonderful, but I’m not sure it will be quite as sweet or thick as the real stuff.

Ina pours 2½ cups of whole milk in a saucepan over medium heat and adds two cups of half and half. She heats that just below the boil and adds chopped bittersweet and milk chocolates, a tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon each of vanilla and instant espresso.
Ina LOVES adding coffee to chocolate. I’m not sure that’s in the original, but you’ll hear no complaints from me.
Okay, so who won the veal cook-off? This is tough. I feel as if Anne gave us a better LESSON with the breading and all; plus the fork tip for testing potatoes was particularly valuable.
BUT it’s pretty hard not to judge Ina as the top chef when you see how happy her cooking has kept Jeffrey for FORTY THREE years.
I’m going with the romantic choice here and say Anne’s schnitzel rocked, but Ina’s veal chop kept her and Jeffrey rolling towards many more meals together. Ina takes it.


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I never got to sample the chocolate at Angelina's, so I'm glad to see some sort of recipe approximation. Espresso Macchiato bar in the city makes an exceptionally thick and delicious hot chocolate, but since I had to give up my part-time seat in the NYC office, I can't go there regularly anymore (which I suppose is a good thing for waistline).

I see your point about the fish sauce, but I swear you turned a switch in my head. I have started disliking it. I noticed it a month or so ago when I made some kind of Thai salad and I kept wondering why I really wasn't enjoying the flavor. I realized you were right. Fish sauce is kind of gross. I may not notice it as much in cooked foods, but I won't ever use it in salad dressings again. It's gluten-free soy sauce all the way! At this pace, I'm likely to go off Worcestershire now too ;-)

Sue said...

OMG, Rach!
I can't believe I did that. I didn't want you to STOP using fish sauce, I wanted you to START eating anchovies! What have I done?!!

Having said that, I feel better about hating to cook with fish sauce (I'm sure I eat it all the time in Thai food...that other people cook), BUT I swear anchovies aren't gross, they're just salty.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for comparing the two veal shows, Sue. The posts were a lot of fun to read!

What impressed me most about this is that Jeffrey was able to remember the name of something Ina liked -- and find it in a wine, too. Good for him. After all, what do you get for the woman who has everything?

I've never tried Angelina's hot chocolate. But I used to work in a chocolate shop and found that the way to get good thick hot chocolate like the kind you get in Spain is to whisk a little potato starch into the cold milk -- we would combine cold milk with chocolate chunks and use the steamer wand on the espresso machine to heat it all up. About 1/3 teaspoon of potato starch per cup of milk does it. No starchy taste, either.

Sue said...

Thanks, Tom,
Much as I adore Jeffrey, I think you’re giving him far too much credit. He just picked the only wine that had a familiar ring to it and it was lucky that it was a good choice. Anyway, I don’t think Ina would have told him if she had poured it down the sink.

I LOVE Spanish hot chocolate and I had tons when I lived in Madrid. Do you think THEY used potato starch? That would make sense, since it was thick enough to apply directly to any and all body parts that needed bulking up.

That 1/3 teaspoon is an unusual measurement. I would have to make 3 cups of the gorgeous stuff so I could use ONE teaspoon.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I'm telling you Sue. I really think anchovies have flavor beyond salt and I know it. From the pasta grandma made me east on Xmas Eve to the nastiness of Caeser salad (which shouldn't have anchovies in it to begin with) I really do taste their flavor. The older I get the more sensitive to fishiness I get (which is weird because your taste buds are supposed to get weaker as you get older).