We’ve had a very exciting week!
My friend Ansley and I went to see Ina Garten last Wednesday. I was so excited to go to see and hear her, but I was also a little apprehensive. What if she was mean? Or worse – boring? She was of course, wonderful. She told some stories that I had heard, and some that I had not, especially about the early days of owning the Barefoot Contessa specialty food store in the Hamptons. People give her flak for talking about her husband, Jeffrey, too much, but I get it. I’m beyond lucky to have my own Jeffrey (named Neil) in my life, and so I understand what she’s saying. She talked about how important he was in her success, by encouraging her, and gently needling her into projects just outside her comfort zone to challenge and engage her. She’s clearly grateful for that, and I think it’s nice. She talked about her transitions from working in Washington DC to owning a specialty food store to writing cookbooks to appearing on television.
Toward the end of the evening, in a packed audience at Jones Hall, she took some questions. Some were about her favorite recipes (she claims not to have any, but the filet of beef with gorgonzola sauce and the french apple tart came up an awful lot), or specific techniques (one woman was obsessed with the paddle attachments on stand mixers). I turned to Ansley at the beginning of the questions and said, “Do I dare?” And she said, “You do! You dare!” So I raced to the microphone and told her that while Julia Child taught her to cook, she taught me to cook, and I’d made over 650 of her recipes (applause from the audience – OMG), and that I love her. Yes, I said that I love her. Then I asked her if she had any advice for someone who might write a cookbook today. She said, “Write the cookbook you’d like to read.” Very nice.
I came home with a signed edition of her newest cookbook (thank you Ansley!!) and new excitement about cooking.
So, we hosted two dinner parties this weekend!
On Friday night, we had eleven people here. Four of them were kids (including our own two), which is kind of easy, and kind of not. For the rest of us, I made Ina’s caesar salad from make it ahead, chicken marbella, butternut squash, apple crisp, and Ina’s English chocolate crisps from make it ahead. I tried to make the roasted baby pumpkins from the original Barefoot Contessa cookbook, and even made the homemade applesauce to go with them, but it was such a complete pain that I gave up after one. There’s a reason that recipe waited so long… it’s just not practical. And who wants to eat a few tablespoons of applesauce out of a hollowed out gourd? I guess we’ll never know, because I gave up.
On Sunday night, we had a much smaller guest list, and I made the caesar salad (and remembered to take a photo this time!). It’s now Neil’s favorite salad.
We also had roasted salmon, asparagus, and I tried Ina’s twice baked sweet potatoes from Make It Ahead. It’s quite possible that I did something wrong, but hollowing out the (once-)baked sweet potatoes proved difficult. So, I separated the flesh from the skin (wow – I sound like a creep), and I made kind of a gratin from the rest of the ingredients. It was rich, but very tasty.
We had brownies for dessert, and all slept well after all that entertaining. Now we’re on the countdown to Thanksgiving!