I love winter! There, I said it.
I know there are many of you who want to throw a huge snowball right in my face – especially on a snowy day like today – and I understand that winter isn’t for everyone. But for me, I’ll take this weather over 90 degrees and humid ANY DAY!
But I haven’t lost my mind enough to actually go barefoot in the snow. When I say [or rather, write], “I <3 Going Barefoot in February,” I am referring to the class I taught on Saturday night at The Kitchen Shoppe & Cooking School.
We had a wonderful time. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of attendees (both newbies and experienced), nor could I have asked for better “backup singers.” I know I write about the “backup singers” a lot, but I am always so grateful for all the help and support they give me. They make my job a breeze!
The concept of the class was to put my spin on several recipes written by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. Little did I know, I’d have so many Barefoot aficionados (and a few Barefoot stalkers) in class! The group was very knowledgeable about Ina and very familiar with her recipes, which made for a fun evening. We shared our experiences with her recipes, our love of all-things-Ina, our admiration for her house in the Hamptons and even a bit of jealousy for her Hamptons-Manhattan-Paris lifestyle!!!!
The food turned out wonderfully and all the dishes complemented one another well. Here’s what we had:
- Herbal Iced Tea – this is a wonderful concoction I learned to make from Ina’s book, Barefoot Contessa Family Style. I’ve made this when I’ve catered events and I’ve served it at home. People always enjoy it and at least one person asks for the recipe each time I make it. My twist Saturday night was to add some Amaretto liqueur to make it “non-virgin.” I’ve also made it with Gran Marnier, Calvados and Tuaca – all with yummy results.
- Rosemary Roasted Cashews – I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this recipe. I’ve served them at home and made them to give as gifts. They are addictive. To complement the hint of orange in the herbal iced tea, I added some orange zest to the spice mixture. It was a great addition!
- French Mussel Bisque – the recipe is fantastic “as is,” but it’s even better when you add some bacon and Aleppo pepper. Mmm mmm mmm! I haven’t tried this yet, but I’ve also considered smoking the mussels for this soup.
- Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken – all Barefoot Contessa lovers know that Ina often makes roasted chicken for her husband, Jeffrey. And a whole roasted chicken is one of my favorite meals – in fact, I usually get three meals out of a roasted chicken – the first night usually I serve the chicken as is, the next day I make chicken salad and then, so as not to waste anything, I make chicken soup from the bones and remaining meat. But, it was impractical to make whole roasters for class. So I adapted the recipe for bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts and made them in Le Creuset French ovens. They were so moist and flavorful!
- Potato & Fennel Gratin – This is the recipe I altered the most, but I think the essence of the dish remained. I added more fennel and more onions. I also took away some of the heavy cream – I like cream as much as the next French guy, but I found it to be too rich and little too soggy with all the recipe called for. Finally, I added some breadcrumbs to the top along with the Gruyere cheese. I loved the result – the potatoes and veggies were soft and creamy and the topping had a bit of a crunch.
- Oven Roasted Carrots – I combined a few different Barefoot recipes and one of my own to get the end result I enjoyed. The final product had carrots, shallots, currants, olive oil and spices. I followed the advice of the “backup singers” and served them a little on the al dente side; although when I make them at home I typically serve them a little softer. They were yummy.
- Chocolate Ganache Cupcakes – OK, these are delicious in their own right, but I can’t leave well enough alone so I made them Almond Joy Style. I made the cupcakes mini-sized and I added coconut oil and flaked coconut to the cupcakes, iced them with coconut icing, topped them with a whole almond, and then dipped the icing in the chocolate ganache. Holy Moly…..rich, but fantastic!
I hope those who attended had half as much fun as I did. They were a great group of people. They asked wonderful questions, shared their own Ina experiences and heartily ate what was served – a cook’s ideal company and a cooking instructor’s dream!
To tease you, I’m working on recipes for my next class, which is entitled Pasta Perfection. This pic is of Lemon Goat Cheese Tortellini Salad with Roasted Vegetables. I made the tortellini last night and boiled them as soon as I finished forming them. It just doesn’t get any fresher than that!!!!
What’s your favorite Barefoot Contessa recipe?