Posts Tagged ‘barefoot contessa’

Cookbook Review: Barefoot Contessa At Home (Plus, Blue Cheese Coleslaw)

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Sometimes I wish that I could grow up to be the Barefoot Contessa. No, really. She has a gorgeous house, as far as I can tell, she spends her life having people over for brunch, lunch, or dinner, grows all of her own herbs, buys the best possible ingredients, and everything she makes is somehow beautiful and elegant. So naturally, I love her cookbooks.

I got a new one for Christmas, Barefoot Contessa At Home. Just like Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, (see my review here) this book is full of fabulous recipes and gorgeous glossy photographs. I find myself wanting to try something new every time I turn the page.

After an extensive introduction, the book is divided into sections for Soup & Sandwiches, Salads, Dinner, Veggies, Desserts, Breakfast, and followed other other resources about visiting the Hamptons and planning out party menus. Here’s a list of the recipes in each section:

  1. Soup & Sandwich: California BLT’s, Summer Borscht, Caesar Club Sandwich, Mexican Chicken Soup, Chicken Salad Sandwiches, Ribollita, Smoked Salmon & Egg Salad Tartines, Fresh Pea Soup, Garlic Croutons, Roasted Pepper & Goat Cheese Sandwiches, Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup, Tomato Mozzarella & Pesto Panini, Shrimp Bisque, and Honey White Bread.
  2. Salads: Heirloom Tomatoes with Blue Cheese Dressing, Chicken Salad Veronique, Grilled Tuna Salad, Bibb Salad with Basil Green Goddess Dressing, Jon Snow’s Fish Salad, Roasted Shrimp & Orzo, Pesto Pea Salad, Warm Duck Salad, Tomato Feta Salad, Blue Cheese Coleslaw (recipe below), Guacamole Salad, and Old-Fashioned Potato Salad.
  3. Dinner: Blue Cheese Burgers, Cornish Hens with Cornbread Stuffing; Chicken Piccata; Lamb Kebabs with Couscous; Roast Capon; Loin of Pork with Fennel, Stuffed Cabbage, Rib-Eye Steaks with Cornmeal-Fried Onion Rings, Portobello Mushroom Lasagna, Chicken with Goat Cheese & Basil, Seafood Gratin, Eli’s Asian Salmon, Lmon Fusilli with Arugula, Summer Garden Pasta, Seared Tuna with Mango Chutney, Easy Lobster Paella.
  4. Vegetables: Garlic & Herb Tomatoes, Orange-Honey Glazed Carrots, Broccolini & Balsamic Vinaigrette, Zucchini Pancakes, Herbed Basmati Rice, Green Green Spring Vegetables, Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes, Stewed Lentils & Tomatoes, Parmesan-Roasted Cauliflower, Creamy Rosemary Polenta, Broccoli Rabe with Garlic, Maple Baked Beans, Mustard-Roasted Potatoes, Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread, Herb Roasted Onions
  5. Desserts: Frozen Berries with Hot White Chocolate, Beatty’s Chocolate Cake, Lemon Yogurt Cake, Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars, Mixed Berry Pavlova, Coconut Cake, Pumpkin Mousse Parfait, Chocolate Sorbet, Black & White Angel Food Cake, Chocolate Cupcakes & Peanut Butter Icing, Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries, Ultimate Ginger Cookie, Fruitcake Cookies, Peach  & Blueberry Crumbles, Pear Apple & Cranberry Crisp, Summer Fruit Crostata, Caramel Pecan Sundaes.
  6. Tri-Berry Muffins, Cranberry Orange Scones, Chunky Banana Bran Muffins, Easy Cheese Danish, Omelet for Two, Scrambled Eggs & Salmon, Maple-Roasted Bacon, Breakfast Fruit Crunch, Sunday Morning Oatmeal, Blueberry Crumb Cake, Anna’s Orange Marmalade, Irish Soda Bread, Fresh Peach Bellinis, Spicy Bloody Marys.

Doesn’t that sound fantastic? All of it, I mean? If I was going to have my own Julie & Julia challenge, I think I’d work my way through Ina Garten’s recipes. At the very least, there’d be more lobster in my life.

Finally, as a sneak peak, here’s my adaptation of Ina’s Blue Cheese Coleslaw.

Blue Cheese Coleslaw
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa At Home

  • 2 cups shredded cole slaw mix
  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, two mustards, vinegar, celery salt, kosher salt, and pepper. Place the shredded cole slaw mix in a large bowl. Pour enough of the mayonnaise dressing over the vegetables to moisten, and toss well. Add the cheese and parsley and toss together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours to allow the flavors to meld.

Very, very tasty. If you’re a fan of blue cheese dressing, you should give this one a try.

French Bistro Steaks with Provencal Butter

Monday, June 8th, 2009

I’ve had my eye on this recipe since I first got the Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics cookbook for Christmas. I think I even pointed it out to David while I was skimming through it around the Christmas tree at Grandma’s house.

Looking for something to make on a lazy Saturday, I flipped through Back to Basics and noticed this recipe right away. I was surprised I’d never gotten around to making it, because really, it was one of the first recipes I earmarked in this book.

When it came time, though, I ended up skipping the whole steak part. We had some good quality New York Strip steaks on hand, so I didn’t feel justified going out and buying the hanger steaks that the original recipe calls for. Plus, we don’t have a grill at our apartment (yet, anyway). So basically, I borrowed Ina Garten’s recipe for Provencal Butter to melt over the steaks, and stuck with our usual method for cooking steaks: Alton Brown’s, shown in this post.

Even so, I have to say that I was impressed. Dave and I were both unsure about the butter on steak thing. I know it’s traditional, I know it’s common, and I know people like it, but it just never sounded that great to me. I’ve been converted. This herb butter brought such great flavor to the steak. When you sliced into the meat, the butter just melted down into every piece. It was really fantastic.

I also got to use my herbes de Provence from The Spice House!


Barefoot Contessa’s French Bistro Steaks with Provencal Butter
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics cookbook

For the butter:

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon capers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons minced chives
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) salted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence

For the steaks:

  • 4 teaspoons herbes de Provence
  • kosher salt and coarsely cracked black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 hanger steaks, 8 to 10 ounces each

For the butter, put the garlic, capers, chives, thyme, zest, and pepper in the small bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and process until completely mixed. Transfer butter mixture to a piece of parchment and roll it into a log, twisting the ends (like an old-timey piece of candy). Store in the refrigerator.

Heat a gas or charcoal grill.

Drizzle the steaks with olive oil and sprinkle each one with herbes de Provence and salt and pepper. Let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes to take the chill off of the meat.

When the grill is hot, grill the steaks for 4 to 5 minutes on each side (for medium rare). Place the steaks on a platter, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes. Slice the meat crosswise diagonally and serve hot with one or two pats of the prepared butter on top.

Note: I’m sure this was not the last time that I’ll make an herb butter like this. We used the leftover butter on baked potatoes, crackers, and slices of bread–it was very versatile. I can imagine 100 different flavor combinations, too!

Baked Potatoes with Yogurt & Sour Cream

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

I made these baked potatoes from the Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook, and for the first time, I was slightly disappointed.

Disappointed probably isn’t the word, because the potatoes were…good. They just weren’t as good as the other recipes I’ve tried from the book. The sauce was fine, but nothing spectacular, and I know that oven-baked potatoes are supposed to be better than the microwave kind, but since this recipe didn’t do anything to the skins, there really wasn’t much of a difference in the actual texture of the potato.

In short, there’s nothing wrong with the recipe below, but I probably won’t make it again. It wasn’t special enough to be worth the trouble. On the plus side, the sour cream/yogurt sauce is lower in fat and calories than the traditional butter & sour cream mixture, and doesn’t really sacrifice any flavor.

Baked Potatoes with Yogurt & Sour Cream
Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook

  • 4 Idaho russet baking potatoes
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, plus extra for garnish
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Wash the potatoes and place them directly on the oven baking rack. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until very tender when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, combine the yogurt, sour cream, chives, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and place in a serving bowl. Garnish with extra chives. Chill.

When potatoes are done, cut them down the middle and squeeze both ends. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve the hot baked potatoes with the cold chive dressing.

Chive Risotto Cakes

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

A long time ago, David and I tried a delicious arancini at this little Italian restaurant by his old apartment. It inspired me to try my own version of the fried balls of rice. The restaurant version had tomato sauce and italian sausage at the center. I actually tried two takes on the same dish one with traditional Italian flavors and one with mexican flavors (this later grew into Mexican Risotto).

The results were delicious, but a lot of trouble since I had to make risotto in the first place before I could form it into balls, toss them with bread crumbs, and fry them. Ina Garten has found a better way.

Her Chive Risotto Cakes recipe, from the Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook, avoids the whole issue of needing leftover risotto by creating a substitute recipe that is much simpler, with none of the constant stirring and careful attention required by a traditional risotto.

The risotto cakes are creamy and cheesy on the inside, and crunchy on the outside. They were  very good. This recipe made about 20 3-inch cakes. Think of them as the best hashbrowns you’ve ever had.

Sure, these Risotto Cakes were delicious as is, but I’m more excited to try my hand at arancini again–with this little shortcut tucked in my back pocket, I know they’ll be worth the trouble.

Chive Risotto Cakes
Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook

  • kosher salt
  • 1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh chives
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Italian Fontina cheese (about 5 ounces)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • good quality extra virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to boil and add a half tablespoon salt and the rice. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. The grains of rice will be quite soft. Drain the rice and run under cold water until cool. Drain well.

Meanwhile, whisk together the yogurt, eggs, chives, Fontina, 1¼ teaspoons salt and the pepper in a medium bowl. Add the cooled rice and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, until firm.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Spread the panko in a shallow dish. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Form balls of the rice mixture using a standard ice cream scoop or large spoon. Pat the balls into patties 3 inches in diameter and ¾ inches thick.

Place 4 to 6 patties in the panko, turning once to coat. Place the patties in the hot oil and cook, turning once, for about 3 minutes on each side until the risotto cakes are crisp and nicely browned. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment and keep warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes.

Note: Don’t miss the step where you have to chill the rice mixture for at least 2 hours, and up to overnight. This isn’t a last-minute kind of dish!

Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

This biscuit recipe was one of the first things to catch my eye in the Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook. In fact, it’s been mentioned and planned a few times around here, but for some reason, it kept getting pushed to the back burner. Finally, we tried it last week.

First of all, I loved how easy the recipe was. I threw everything together and baked them all for a weeknight dinner. The recipe was super simple, but the biscuits were beyond delicious. The texture was perfect–moist and flaky, with a great crumb, and the slightest crunch of cheese on top. I also used my new fancy Maldon  sea salts to finish the biscuits, which added an extra level of tasty crunch.

Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits
Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook

  • 2 cups of flour, plus more for kneading the dough
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup cold buttermilk, shaken
  • 1 cold extra-large egg
  • 1 cup grated extra-sharp Cheddar (I used Tillamook Special Reserve Extra Sharp Cheddar), plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water or milk
  • 1 teaspoon Maldon Sea Salt, for finishing

1. Preaheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Place 2 cups of flour, the baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. WIth the mixer on low, add the butter and mix until the butter is the size of peas.

3. Combine the buttermilk and egg in a small glass measuring cup and beat lightly wth a fork. With the mixer still on low, quickly add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture and mix only until moistened. In a small bowl, mix the Cheddar with a small handful of flour and with the mixer still on low add the cheese to the dough. Mix only until roughly combined.

4. Dumb out onto a well-floured board and kneed lightly about six times. Roll the dough out to a rectangle 5×10 inches. With a sharp, floured knife, cut the dough lengthwise in half and then across in quarters, making 8 rough rectangles. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the tops with the egg wash, sprinkle with sea salt and extra cheese, and bake for 20-25 minutes until tops are browned and the biscuits are cooked through. Serve hot or warm.

Note: I’m sure I’ll make these again. The Back to Basics cookbook has these in the breakfast section, and I understand that completely. They were very tasty as a bread alongside dinner, but they did bring to mind images of ultimate bacon, egg, & cheese biscuits or even some amazing biscuits and gravy. Maybe next time.

Company Pot Roast

Monday, February 16th, 2009

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, we had a big family dinner at our place a couple of weekends ago. The centerpiece of that meal was Ina Garten’s Company Pot Roast from the Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook. I am obsessed with this cookbook. I want to make everything I see–it just can’t be helped. The pictures are literally mouth-watering, and everything I’ve made so far has turned out picture perfect and delicious. (Well, except the fish, but that was our fault. We don’t like fish. The fish eater among us liked it a lot).

This pot roast recipe was more of the same. A tasty, elegant spin on a classic dish, with simple instructions and awesome results. The only change I made was that I used my slow-cooker, instead of hogging my oven all day. What can I say? I had cakes to bake, and rolls to make, and I needed my oven. The slow cooker worked well, and I don’t think it took anything away from the dish.

Company Pot Roast
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics cookbook.

  • 1 (4- to 5-pound) boneless beef chuck roast, tied
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • All-purpose flour
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 2 cups chopped celery (4 stalks)
  • 2 cups chopped leeks (2 to 4 leeks)
  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 cups good red wine, such as Burgundy (I used 1 1/2 cups of Cotes de Rhone and 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar)
  • 2 T. Cognac or brandy
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole plum tomatoes in puree
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 3 branches fresh thyme
  • 2 branches fresh rosemary
  • 1 T. butter, room temp.

Pat beef dry and season all over with 1 T. salt and 1 1/2 tsp. pepper. Dredge entire roast in flour, including ends. In large, deep skillet (or dutch oven), heat 2 T. olive oil over medium heat. Add roast and sear for 4-5 minutes, until nicely browned. Turn and sear other side and then sear the ends. This should take 4-5 minutes for each side. Remove roast to large plate.

Add 2 T. olive oil to the skillet. Add carrots, onions, celery, leeks, garlic, 1 T. salt and 1 1/2 tsp. pepper and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender but not browned. Add the wine and Cognac and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, bouillon cube, 2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. pepper. Tie thyme and rosemary together with kitchen string and add to pot. Put roast back into pot, bring to boil and cover. Transfer to slow cooker on high for 4-6 hours until meat is fork tender or about 160 degrees internally.

Remove roast to cutting board. Remove the herb bundle and discard. Skim off as much fat as possible from the sauce. Transfer half the sauce and vegetables to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. (I used my immersion blender). Pour the puree back into the pot, place on stove top over low heat, and return to a simmer. Place 2 T. flour and the butter in a small bowl and mash them together with a fork. Stir into sauce and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring until thickened. Taste for seasonings. Remove strings from roast and slice meat. Serve warm with the sauce spooned over it.

Note: One of the best things about doing this in the slow cooker (aside from freeing up my oven for other ventures) was that I was also able to make the sauce ahead of time. We made the sauce as listed above, and then put the roast and the sauce back into the crockpot until it was time for dinner. Gravy/Sauce making is always a little bit stressful, and at Thanksgiving, was the part that everyone ended up waiting for, so I was glad to have that task done and out of the way. I served this pot roast with mashed potatoes, using the tasty sauce as gravy. It would probably be just as good served over noodles–just comes down to personal preference, I think.

Cookbook Review: Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics by Ina Garten

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009


Ina Garten’s latest cookbook is titled Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics: Fabulous Flavor from Simple Ingredients, and that subtitle really says it all. I recently read a comment that Ina Garten’s recipes are incredibly simple to follow–anyone can do it–but you end up with extraordinary food, and that’s been my experience. These recipes are elegant, but foolproof.

The book opens with reflections on The Barefoot Contessa philosophy, basically that food can be simple and fabulous, that entertaining should be easy, elegant, and fun. Each chapter begins with a list of tips from Ina, such as “10 no-cook things to serve with drinks” or “cook like a pro.” These lists inspire a home cook to aspire to be the perfect host or hostess, all while making it sound  and look effortless.

There are seven sections of recipes in Back to Basics:

  1. Cocktail Hour (Parmesan & Thyme Crackers, Campari Orange Spritzer, Gravlax with Mustard Sauce, Juice of a Few Flowers, Roasted Shrimp Cocktail, Pomegranate Cosmopolitans, Savory Palmiers, Mango Banana Daiquiris, Bruschetta with Peppers and Gorgonzola)
  2. Soup (Lobster Corn Chowder, Cream of Fresh Tomato Soup, Homemade Chicken Stock, Roasted Potato Leek Soup, Chilled Cucumber Soup, Pappa al Pomodoro, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Italian Wedding Soup)
  3. Lunch (Cape Cod Chopped Salad, Old-Fashioned Carrot Salad, White Pizzas with Arugula, Creamy Cucumber Salad, Warm Goat Cheese in Phyllo, Roasted Butternut Squash Salad, Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad, Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts, Truffled Filet of Beef Sandwiches, Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese, Mache with Warm Brie)
  4. Dinner (Tuscan Lemon Chicken, Roasted Turkey Roulade, Chicken Bouillabaisse, Coq au Vin, Company Pot Roast, Niman Ranch Burgers, French Bistro Steaks, Parker’s Beef Stew, Herb-Marinated Loin of Pork, Baked Shrimp Scampi, Easy Sole Meuniere, Bay Scallop Gratins, Indonesian Grilled Swordfish, Mustard-Roasted Fish, Soft-Shell Crab Sandwiches, Proscuitto Roasted Bass, Pasta with Pecorino & Pepper, Wild Mushroom Risotto, Spring Green Risotto, Dinner Spanakopitas, Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter)
  5. Vegetables (Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash, Confetti Corn, Creamy Cheddar Grits, Orange Pecan Wild Rice, Baked Potatoes with Yogurt, Celery Root & Apple Puree, Oven-Roasted Vegetables, Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli, Chive Risotto Cakes, Pan-Roasted Root Vegetables, Roasted Parsnips & Carrots, Baked Sweet Potato “Fries,” Roasted Tomatoes with Basil, Garlic Ciabatta Bread)
  6. Dessert (French Apple Tart, Fresh Lemon Mousse, Apple Dried Cherry Turnovers, Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries, French Chocolate Bark, Old-Fashioned Gingerbread, Plum Crunch, Honey Vanilla Fromage Blanc, Honey Vanilla Pound Cake, Fresh Raspberry Gratins, Pumpkin Roulade, Raisin-Pecan Oatmeal Cookies, Affogato Sundaes, Brownie Pudding)
  7. Breakfast (Sunrise Smoothies, Country French Omelet, Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits, Baked Blintzes, Homemade Muesli, Tri-Berry Oven Pancakes, Whitefish Salad, Easy Sticky Buns, Homemade Granola Bars, Blueberry Streusel Muffins, Date Nut Spice Bread, Fruit Salad with Limoncello, Easy Strawberry Jam)

The book concludes with sections for FAQ’s, sources, credits, and menu suggestions for throwing your own brunch or dinner party.

I love this cookbook. In addition to the amazing recipes, and fun tips, the pages of the book are glossy and the recipes are each illustrated beautifully. Everytime I flip through the pages of this cookbook, I find something else I want to make.  This was my first Barefoot Contessa cookbook, but I am anxious to collect each of her others.

Mustard Roasted Fish

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

David and I are not normally fish eaters. Sometimes we think we’d like to be–and we’ll both enjoy restaurant Fish & Chips from time to time, but fish is not normally something I make at home.

The success of the previous Barefoot Contessa recipe, Coq au Vin, and the desire to be people who actually eat fish led to me making Ina Garten’s Mustard Roasted Fish for dinner this week. I served it with Skillet Smashed Potatoes from 101 cookbooks.

The fish was easy enough to cook, and the sauce was creamy and tangy. The first couple of bites were impressive, but somehow, David and I both lost interest in the dish pretty quickly. It was a nice recipe, and maybe people who enjoy fish more than we do would enjoy it more. One of these times, I’ll remember that we don’t really like fish!


Mustard Roasted Fish
From the Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics cookbook. Serves 4

  • 4 (8 ounce) fish fillets such as red snapper (tilapia was what we used)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces creme fraiche
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons drained capers

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

2. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Place the fish fillets skin side down on the sheet pan. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

3. Combine the creme fraiche, two mustards, shallots, capers, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl. Spoon the sauce evenly over the fish, making sure the fish is completely covered. Bake for 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish, until it’s barely done. Be sure not to overcook it! Serve hot or at room temperature with the sauce form the pan spooned over the top.

Note: Even though David and I were not huge fans of this recipe, our friend Leah liked it a lot, even though she is not a big fan of mustard. She likes fish a lot, an was impressed with this preparation. Because she doesn’t like mustard, I baked her a “safer” fish with olive oil, lemon pepper, and garlic, and she liked that, but she loved the mustard roasted fish.

I probably won’t make this again, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth making if you do like fish.

Skillet Smashed Potatoes

  • one small bag of small potatoes (I used Russian fingerling potatoes, but baby yukon golds or baby reds could work here )
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons olive oil

Start by placing the potatoes in a large saucepan. Add a teaspoon of salt and cover with water. Don’t peel the potatoes, because the skin helps keep the potatoes together. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and cook at a low boil until they are tender enough to slide a knife in easily. It is important not to over-boil them, for golf ball size potatoes about 10 minutes or a little less. Drain the potatoes.

Heat the olive in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Keep in mind it needs to be big enough to hold the potatoes, which double in size when they are smashed. Smash each potato with a masher or the bottom of a heavy glass. Season with salt and pepper and cook until crisp, and them turn and cook the other side. Sprinkle with chives, fresh herbs, or any seasonings you like and serve.

Note: These were good, but not great. They turned out mostly like fried potatoes, which are good, but a lot less work than par-boiling and smashing them and all that, so I’d probably just fry the potatoes the next time.

Coq Au Vin

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Yesterday was a pretty great day, all in all. David and I spent the afternoon at Bed, Bath & Beyond and The Chopping Block, picking up all sorts of odds and ends that I’m very excited about, and then I made dinner. After receiving all of the cookbooks at Christmas, I knew I wanted to try something new. After a lot of debate, I settled on coq au vin. Even then, I had a choice to make, because I had two competing recipes for coq au vin, Ina Garten’s from the Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics cookbook, and Casey’s coq au vin from the Top Chef Cookbook.

I’ve never had coq au vin, though it’s been on my list of things to try for quite some time now (in part, I think I was waiting and hoping for a dutch oven, but I’m glad I went forward without it). I decided to make the Barefoot Contessa version, since it seemed to be more true to the original dish. It was a good decision.

Dinner last night was, quite honestly, one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in a very long time.

Coq Au Vin
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics by Ina Garten

  • 2 tablespoons good quality olive oil
  • 4 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced
  • 3 1/2 lbs skin on, bone in chicken thighs
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy
  • 1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy
  • 1 cup good chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 pound frozen small whole onions (frozen onions weren’t available at our sore, so I used ones from a jar)
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced (I skipped the mushrooms)

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon. Set aside.

Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

Add the Cognac and carefully light with a match to burn off the alcohol. Carefully.

Add the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate back into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.

Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.

Note: I served this dish with herbed mashed potatoes (my own recipe, below) and a crusty loaf of italian bread, to soak up all of the sauce. The only Burgandy available at our local wine shop was $41 a bottle, so we went with a different dry french red that the shop recommended, a Cotes du Rhone. It was dry, and flavorful, but without a fruit taste, which was exactly what this dish needed. I don’t have a good dutch oven, as I mentioned, but because the recipe you see above was cut in half from the original, I was able to put it all together in a deep, oven-safe skillet with a lid.

I will absolutely make this dish again. It was unbeliveably good, and a perfect end to a rainy day. The chicken was perfectly cooked, the vegetables had great flavor and the sauce was rich and smooth. A glamorous, gourmet sort of comfort food.

Herbed Mashed Potatoes
My own recipe

  • 4-5 large yukon gold potatoes, washed, peeled, and cubed
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped and finely chopped.
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream

Place the cubed potatoes in a pot of cold, salted water and bring to a boil. Boil until fork tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Drain, and return to the hot pot, to remove any excess water. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Add half the butter and half the cream and mix at medium speed with a hand mixer, until lumps are gone. Add additional butter and cream until desired consistency is reached.

Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in sour cream and fresh thyme.