I have a little time since J is out of town and I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while (which will be paired with the best Barefoot Contessa episode ever). This is the Make It Fast Episode where Ina makes salmon and herbs, chicken with a shallot sauce and sugar snap peas and roasted tomatoes. On top of that she has a few of her friends give the shittiest advice ever on entertaining.
So we start in the kitchen of the barn. Ina takes out a huge fillet of salmon from the fridge to make roasted salmon with green herbs. She does her regular stroke inducing portion of salt on the salmon with a little bit of pepper.And then she makes a sauce/marinade for the salmon with a 1/4 cup of olive oil and two tablespoons of lemon jice. Holy cow is that a lot of olive oil. The salmon will be swimming in olive oil. And then she chops half a cup of scallions, dill, and parsley. I’d like to note that there’s a new score to the episode and in kind of sounds like an instrumental version of Cee Lo’s Fuck You but that’s neither here nor there. She does point out that the salmon cooks quickly enough that the herbs don’t get overcooked. The salmon is completely covered in all the herbs as kind of a crust. On top of all of that Ina pours 1/4 cup of white wine. Apart from the huge amount of olive oil, it’s not a bad recipe. And then her friend from London comes on to talk about table settings.
And this is where your friendly blogger loses his shit. First of all William the friend is from the ill-fated London episode where Ina abandons Jeffrey on a double decker bus and spends they whole day tasting with her friends. William is the most annoyingly affected. Sadly he doesn’t improve. The conceit of this episode is that he does a table setting in five minutes. And the show blows that conceit totally. You see they save time by buying a ton of crap. First he puts pots of rosemary and lavender as centerpieces (and really do oyu need such strong scents at your table while eating?). And then he puts a big goblet with breadsticks for any “snack attacks.” Ok if your guests are getting snack attacks at your dinner party, you suck as a host. But then he takes out his “magic bag” where everyone gets a canvas bag with their place setting. IN WHAT UNIVERSE IS THAT SAVING TIME? It will take 15 minutes alone to stuff the damn bags. And then do you want your guests to set the table? That advice is so stupid. But on top of that you are spending some mad cash on a bag. You’re also going to have to explain to your guests how you want the table set.
Ok. Breathe. End scene and cut to Ina taking out the salmon from the oven. She says she’s happy that William can give advice and admits sometimes she spends more time on the table setting than dinner. Well if you are stuffing bags with cutlery, napkins and glasses, you definitely would. Ina cuts open the salmon to check for doneness and lets the salmon rest under foil. After the salmon rests she sticks it on a white square platter with a big bunch of dill and lemon halves as garnish. As she cuts the salmon though, she’s making a mess of it trying to cut it into 6 pieces. Ina is a real lemonhead because on top of the lemon in the marinade, she squirts more lemon on at the last minute. My lips are puckering just watching.
In the next segment, Ina is making chicken with shallots. Once again, Ina completely encrusts a piece of meat with salt. This time it’s chicken breasts. She then pan fries the chicken in a cast iron skillet skin side down. While the chicken is cooking, her florist friend Michael demonstrates a 5-minute floral arrangement that is complete and utter bullshit. His recommendation is to make a flower ball. So he takes a ball made out of florists foam that’s been soaking in water and puts it on a plate. He then just sticks cut peonies into the ball. Except here’s the flaw in the plan – Who the hell has foam florist ball lying around AND he doesn’t take into account all the time it will take to cut the stems of the peonies short. AND peonies are expensive. That’s a centerpiece that takes some mad cash. He then recommends to stick the stupid flower ball in the fridge until you are ready to put it on the table.
Luckily that segment lasted like two minutes. Cut to Ina sticking the chicken in the cast iron into an oven to finish cooking. She then reduces white wine and lemon juice (again with the lemon!) in a saute pan and adds chopped shallot. She likens the sauce to a beurre blanc where you reduce something acidic and then take it off the heat and whisk in butter. I’ve made this before and it’s delicious. But Ina can’t leave well enough alone and adds cream to the mixture. As if the half a stick of butter in the sauce wasn’t enough. You’d probably get a better flavor if you omit the lemon and don’t add the cream. The other flaw in the recipe is that it doesn’t use the pan juice from the chicken which is delicious. But she pours the shallot sauce in all it’s fat-laden glory on the chicken and it’s her simple dinner.
Finally her vegetables to go with the entree are roasted cherry tomatoes and sauteed green vegetables. She points out – what’s the use of having a simply main course if the vegetable is complicated. For the tomatoes she just puts them in a sheet pan and tosses them in olive oil, salt and pepper. She then puts them in an 350 oven for 15 minutes. The other vegetable is just sugar snap peas sauteed in olive oil, salt and pepper. And the other green vegetable is blanched haricot verts with herb butter. It seems a bit time consuming to cut up the parsley and scallion and then have to mix it with butter. I’d just saute the green beans in butter and add herbs. She closes the segment by spoon the tomatoes in a white bowl and adding basil that’s been chiffonaded. And she adds more salt on top of the tomatoes.
Oh dear god. Here comes the ask Ina part. It’s amazing what crap answers she comes up with for basic questions. Gird yourself. First question is via email asking how Ina stays so calm when she entertains. Ina pooh poohs and laughs that she just gives the appearance of calm. She then says she’s really organized when doing a dinner party. Ina does give a good piece of advice which is to plan one thing to cook on the stove, one thing to cook in the oven and one thing ready to go and good at room temperature. She also says that all her friends know not to talk to her in the 15 minutes before a dinner party because she’s cray-cray. She should has also said “skip out to make food by saying ‘don’t have fun without me.'”
The other question is about appetizers – how many to pick so that guests aren’t too full before the main course. In recommends doing two no-cook appetizers like proscuitto-wrapp melon and nuts (including pistachios which I think are a horrible thing to serve since they always come with the shell on.) The last question is about desserts that are easy and travel well and appeal to a wide variety to tastes. Her answer is strawberries in balsamic vinegar served over vanilla ice cream. I’m not sure that’s particularly easy since you can’t really travel with ice cream. That wasn’t the worst Ask Ina but the rest of the episode REALLY bugged.
What’s your worst Barefoot Contessa episode?