Friday, August 16, 2013

Easy Going Ina Meets Easy Italian Giada PLUS The Extra Egg Question Again AND Did Giada Diss The Contessa??!

Barefoot Contessa with Ina Garten

Cooking with Giada DeLaurentiis
Lobster & Potato Salad
Chocolate Cassis Cake
 Mascarpone And Lemon Gnocchi With Butter Thyme Sauce 

This will be fun. Ina has invited Giada for an afternoon of cooking. And before Giada gets there, Ina gets a nice lunch ready of lobster and potato salad. By the way, Ina calls this episode, “Cooking With Friends” and we see preview scenes of her in the kitchen with Tyler Florence and Michael Symons. (Did I miss them and they’ve already visited?)

Ina starts by cooking 1½ lbs. of Yukon gold potatoes in COLD, salted water. I do not agree with that. If I’m cooking unpeeled potatoes, I cook them in BOILING water. It’s much easier to measure the cooking time. Otherwise, you have to stand around waiting for them to come to the boil and start timing from that point, which is much more inexact. Plus, this may be my imagination, but I think they get less mushy that way. 

But I DO love Ina’s method for finishing their cooking. She drains the potatoes and covers the colander with a kitchen towel to steam them an extra five minutes, which ensures that they’re cooked all the way through…without being overcooked. I usually just use the pot turned upside down on the colander.  

Giada is excited as we see her driving to Ina’s manse. Oh, it looks like it’s raining, but Giada has a snazzy black leather trench coat which just happens to match her car’s black leather interior. I’m just really hoping that Giada isn’t going to mix thyme with chocolate, like she did on her big debut AND last appearance (I believe) on Oprah.

Meanwhile, Ina is making the dressing to go on the potatoes. She mixes champagne vinegar (or use “good” white wine vinegar) with Dijon, garlic (I’d prefer shallots), a room temperature EXTRA LARGE egg yolk, TWO teaspoons of Kosher salt (no way!), pepper, olive oil AND more good stuff like dry white wine (interesting!) and capers. AND THAT’S NOT ALL! Also added to the salad are scallions, red onion, celery AND 1½ lbs. diced lobster meat, which Ina strongly recommends buying already prepared, so you don’t have to deal with “screaming lobsters”. I’m with her. 

Now about that extra large egg yolk…just ignore that and use 1 large yolk. Remember?

Ina says the last time she and Giada had lunch together, they had lobster rolls in Montauk, so she was trying to commemorate that lunch in this dish. Sweet.

Ina mixes everything together and, frankly, the potato to lobster ratio looks a bit high. In other words, the amount of lobster looks chintzy. I might have used fewer potatoes or, even better, just gone for a full 2 pounds of lobster. Ina also says you can make this JUST as a potato salad and serve it with salmon or tuna. That’s a good idea. Another problem is that the halved potatoes are so much bigger than the chunks of lobster that the lobster looks like a garnish instead of a main ingredient. Lastly, Ina adds the zest and juice of a lemon with some tarragon and a bit more dressing. She likes it to sit for an hour.

Giada pulls up to Cavaniola’s  to get some cheese for the dish she’s going to cook with Ina. She tells the guy three times that she’s making gnocchi with Ina. That’s okay, I would tell everyone from the butcher to the plumber to the toll collector that I was cooking with Ina!

Ina’s in the garden, setting the table. I guess the rain has passed. Giada comes strolling in and greets Ina at the table. Ina’s friend Frank Newbold is also there to join them for lunch. They sit down – with coats and capes and vests on – and Ina serves the salad. Giada remarks that she always seems to be eating lobster when she’s with Ina. Was that a little rude or, at the least, unartful? It’s as if she’s saying that Ina can’t think of anything else to serve. Giada recovers (a little) by saying she thinks of lobster as a way of saying how happy she is to see someone.  

Ina tells Giada that they’re going to make a Cassis Chocolate Cake. Giada is thrilled because she says she’s been making Ina’s Espresso Chocolate Cake FOREVER and she’s happy to have a new twist. HOLD ON! Is that another subtle dig? Is Giada saying she’s really bored of the SAME OLD chocolate cake and finally Ina came up with something different?!! Ina is her same gracious self and moves right on and asks Giada what HER dish will be. 

Ina is excited about the gnocchi and says she’s never made it before. How is that possible? One Thanksgiving, I made Giada’s amazing Sweet Potato Gnocchi. It was excellent, but the damage to the kitchen in the way of flour and bits of dough EVERYWHERE was a bit much just before lots of company was coming. 


After lunch, they head to Ina’s pantry where Ina grabs the cocoa and cassis.

For the cake, Ina has melted 12 tablespoons of butter with 10 oz. of dark chocolate. Giada adds the following things – cocoa powder, vanilla and cr√®me de cassis. Giada asks (obviously scripted), “So the cassis is just blackcurrant liqueur?” YES! And I’m sure she already knew that. Ina says she likes cassis with raspberries.

Ina whisks eggs and sugar in the mixer until they’re pale yellow. She asks Giada if she considers herself a baker OR a cook. Giada says she initially wanted to be a baker, but now she considers herself a cook. Ina generously grants her that she’s both.

The egg mixture is now light and airy because there is no flour or leavening. They carefully add the chocolate and cassis. The batter goes in a buttered and lined springform pan. Ina asks Giada if she always lines her cake pans with parchment, because what’s the point of making a great cake if you can’t get it out?!! Giada says she SHOULD, but she doesn’t. (That really isn’t smart. I use wax paper. If you find it a pain, just cut out 4 or so circles at a time and then have them ready for next time. I just store them in the other cake pans that I’m not using.)

The cake bakes at 350°F. for 35 to 40 minutes. While it;s in the oven, Ina invites Giada into the garden for a tour. Won’t that take a few hours? Giada says she’s not much of a gardener. She loves herbs, but she says she doesn’t do flowers…as they walk through a bevy of blooms. Then they visit “The Orchard” filled with crab apple trees. Ina says though they usually have pink flowers, HERS have white flowers for one week in May. Giada oohs and ahs.

Next they move to the walled garden. Ina says after the tulips are finished, they plant tomatoes and basil. (Wouldn’t you LOVE to see Ina and Martha together? Would Martha turn up her nose at Ina’s diminutive setup, which, for the rest of us, would be as close to Versailles as we would ever get?!!)

Giada is thrilled to see some thyme and says she needs some for her dish. Ina produces some clippers from under her wrap. Of course, she does. Giada clips away.

Back inside, Ina takes the cake out of the oven and Giada chops the chocolate, admitting to Ina that there may be a few pieces missing. Harhar. Giada adds 6 ounces of chocolate to a bowl over boiling water with ¼ cup of heavy cream. Ina says she’s doing a VERY good job. She says she likes ordering Giada around, which she adds takes a lot of nerve. Giada stirs in the cassis and vanilla and Ina says to be careful not to over-melt it. They agree that you can’t save overheated chocolate. (I like to always add vanilla off the heat.)

Ina takes the cake out of the cake pan and demonstrates how easily the cake comes out with parchment. Listen to Ina, Giada! Giada rolls her eyes but says she’ll start using it from now on. Giada stirs the ganache until it’s shiny and Ina pours it over the cake. Ina again says she’s done a very good job. Ina spreads it around the top allowing it to dribble over the edge.

Onto the gnocchi, Giada is grating cheese (by hand) and Ina is zesting lemons. Giada mixes up Parmesan cheese, the lemon zest and mascarpone. Giada says this is her own version of gnocchi with no potatoes and just a little flour. They add 1 egg and 1 yolk to the mascarpone mixture with a little nutmeg (NOT freshly ground) and salt. They beat it with a little hand mixer and then add the flour.

Giada sprinkles more flour on a big sheet pan and they drop oval spoonfuls of the dough onto the pan. Then Giada shows Ina how to gently roll it in the palm of her hand and then push the sides in. Giada adds a few at a time to boiling water. She says they initially sink to the bottom and when they rise to the top they’re done – about 4 minutes.

That was good idea about corralling everything onto a giant sheet pan and NOT shaping them on the counter. It’s A LOT LESS mess.

Ina chops up thyme and adds it to melted butter. It starts to brown. As Giada asks Ina to grate the cheese, she gets in another little dig. Giada says she bought SARDINIAN pecorino (from Ina’s local cheese store) and that it isn’t AS SHARP a cheese as she usually uses, “BUT I think it’ll be great”.

If it’ll be great, then why even make that comment?  Why is she putting down the cheese she got from Ina’s cheese shop? I thought that was a bit ungracious.

But GRACIOUS is the Contessa’s middle name, so she hasn’t reacted to these unmitigated slurs from Giada. All right, maybe Giada’s digs are part of my own personal delusions, but I’m just looking out for Ina.

Giada pours the butter sauce over the top of the plated gnocchi as Ina grates (the inferior) cheese over it. They taste it. Ina loves it and says it tastes “like a light pillow with butter sauce.  Who wouldn’t want to eat that?” Giada is thrilled she likes it. Okay, that’s better.

In the meantime, we see a Giada commercial where she says “Tri-Ply Clad” several times, trying desperately not to trip over the words. You try it, it’s not easy.

Giada and Ina are sitting at the table in the (barn’s) kitchen and Ina says what an unbelievably delicious dinner the gnocchi is. Thank goodness Giada doesn’t say, “Just think how good it could have been if I had had the right cheese!” Giada just wants to get to the cake. “Enough with the gnocchi!” Ina exclaims, laughing, although I kind of think Ina really wanted to finish her gnocchi.

They slice up a pint of strawberries, add a pint of raspberries and toss that with 1/3 cup of sugar. Is that more sugar than is necessary? Probably, plus there will be the sweetness from the cassis. I always thought the general rule of thumb was 2 tablespoons of sugar (an eighth of a cup)  to 1 pound of strawberries, so that would be ¼ cup of sugar for those 2 pints of berries, instead of Ina's 1/3 cup. 

Ina adds the cassis and Giada stirs it into the fruit. I know what to do! Measure out a third of a cup of the sugar and the cassis and add about 2/3’s of each to the fruit. Taste it and add the rest…or not. If not, put the rest of sugar back in the sugar bowl and have a shot of cassis and you’re all set.

They don’t leave the fruit to macerate for long. Ina gets out two plates and says those are for her, how many does Giada need? Funny! Giada says she’ll take the rest of the cake. Ina cuts them each a slice and spoons the fruit alongside. Giada takes a bite and is enthralled. She says it tastes like a cross between a brownie and a truffle. She adds that she’s hooked on cassis and that the next time Ina comes to LA she (Giada) will do all the dishes.

Good recipes and Ina has chemistry with everyone. Giada…by the end, anyway…was fine. She just needs to quit the foreign cheese dissing and making snide comments about ubiquitous lobster and chocolate.


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

This is an epic post! It crashed my browser twice. Perhaps my computer is telling me it doesn't want to be bothered before 7AM on a Saturday.

Years ago when I first started my blog (when Shipwrecked & Comatose was on MySpace) I made a post about everything I liked and disliked about FN hosts. I made the typical jokes about the size of Giada's head and did my usual spiel about my prejudice against Ina for being caterer to the snobby Hamptons crowd. One of my friends took offense saying I had insulted her favorite FN hosts and then jokingly referred to them as "Snobby and Big Head," which in typical fashion, I found hilarious. So years later I find myself wanting to call this show, "In The Kitchen with Snobby and Big Head." :-D

I had a layer of fluffy cassis buttercream sitting on top of a layer of chocolate ganache on my wedding cake. This recipe brings back some memories.

Lobsters scream? As if they don't scare me enough as it is! I hope I never hear a lobster scream or I'll have nightmares for a week.

Tracy said...

I recorded this episode because I saw your tweet about this episode. I thought the oddest point was them eating in the garden in their coats. It looked like a gray, chilly day. Her garden is phenomenal though.

Sue said...

Why did your computer crash? Did your browser think I was being mean to Giada?

That's funny about Ina's and Giada's nicknames, except that INA WASN'T BEING SNOBBY! Every time there was a slight from Giada (which I completely admit was in my own mind), Ina just glossed over it and went on to the next thing. She could have said, “Well! MOST people LOVE when I serve them lobster. I’m sorry you’re bored by it. Next time, I’ll make mac and cheese (with 3 pounds of cheese) and that will show you!”

Your wedding cake sounds amazing! See? Ina brought back happy memories. Only nice down to earth people do that. (Am I being delusional again?)

And not only do lobsters NOT scream, better minds than mine say that they also feel no pain. I suppose if we’re willing to eat lobsters (or anything else), we should be willing to boil them, but I think I’ll leave that to the professionals.

Hi Tracy!
How are things?

I agree that several things were odd. It was strange when Giada just came strolling into the garden. Who answered the door? Where was her purse? Shouldn’t Ina have greeted her before she had to trek the 2 miles out into the back garden? AND, you’re right, it was way too cold to be eating SALAD outside in the wind. Why didn’t they eat under the covered porch? And didn’t she have a fire pit table thingie put in when she expanded the barn? That would have been much more season appropriate. It didn’t make a lot of sense.

Anonymous said...

Giada has made some thoughtless public comments in the past, like how she finds Lydia Bastianich boring and blaming catering staff for not being able to execute her inappropriate-for-a-crowd-of-400-people food choices at an event. It makes it tougher to give her the benefit of the doubt on intent, although I am sure that if Ina felt dissed, Giada's comments wouldn't have made the final cut.

Sue said...

So, Tom, that means I'm not crazy, right? And I'm sure you're right on the money that if Ina had been displeased, they would have edited around things.

It's interesting how people treat "the help" and HOW could anyone find Lidia boring? I just want to eat her up! AND her food, of course...

I do think Giada is basically a nice person. It was prob'ly a long drive to East Hampton and she got chilly eating a salad outside.