‘Barefoot Contessa’ to dish on food, TV, love at Heinz Hall show
Only a celebrity chef the caliber of Ina Garten could pack Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall for an evening devoted to cooking — without the promise of whipping up one of her delicious dishes for sampling.
There’ll be no food demo, but plenty of culinary conversation from the Food Network’s “Barefoot Contessa” during her program at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26, for which a limited number of tickets were still available. Her visit is part of her book tour to promote her latest cookbook — her 11th — that invites her readers to “Cook Like a Pro” (Clarkson Potter/Publishers).
In an onstage interview moderated by writer Jennifer Wallace, Garten plans to answer questions from her fans and talk about her TV show, her love of entertaining and cooking for friends, and of course, her husband Jeffrey.
In a phone call from their home in East Hampton on Long Island, New York, Garten said of all the questions she is asked by her fans, the most popular is, “Where’s Jeffrey?”
“There’s that, and also how to put hydrangeas in a vase without having them wilt (she is an avid gardener) and what is my favorite ‘hangman’s meal’ if I’m ever on death row,” Ina said with a laugh. Whatever that dinner might be, she would request Sauternes Chateau served with every course.
50 years together
She and Jeffrey no doubt toasted their 50th wedding anniversary with the French sweet wine during their two-week trip to Paris during the past Christmas season, a getaway they take together every year, regardless of their busy work schedules.
“We’ve been doing it for 20 years,” she said. “There’s something about how the French live their lives; work isn’t everything. We love sitting at a café with our coffees watching the world go by. It’s much more soulful than working all the time.”
Besides celebrating their milestone anniversary, 2018 was a busy year for the self-trained cook whose honors have included both the Daytime Emmy Award and James Beard Award for Outstanding Culinary Personality/Host.
She has a new apartment in New York City, which she bought to work on new recipes a few days a week in a state-of-the-art kitchen and visit friends.
On her TV show, which begins filming again in March, Ina often makes references to her husband, who sometimes makes on-camera appearances to visit with her and see what she’s cooking.
She said it’s nice to have someone who understands cooking is hard work and he’s always appreciative, adding that “One of the secrets to being Jeffrey is if you say you love everything I make; I’ll continue cooking for you.”
Tips from the pro
Her new cookbook is intended to show people how they can cook with confidence. Each recipe features a Pro Tip, offering good advice from the expert, such as “Always cut cauliflower from the stem end, not the top. You’ll keep the florets intact and avoid getting cauliflower crumbles all over your counter.” and “Shave the Parmesan with a vegetable peeler to get large beautiful curls.”
Food Network announced in December it reached a new multiyear deal with the host of “Barefoot Contessa,” which includes new seasons of the program, along with several hour-long seasonal specials. The series is shot on location at her home in the Hamptons, where she shares cooking tips and recipes.
When asked if she ever regrets leaving her former high-profile position as a nuclear policy analyst in the White House Office of Management and Budget for President Richard Nixon — a job she gave up to open a grocery store in the Hamptons that led to her successful career as a TV personality, author and chef — she quickly replied, “Not for a nanosecond!”
Recipes from “Cook Like a Pro,” by Ina Garten (Clarkson Potter/Publishers)
Red Wine-Braised Short Ribs
This may be my favorite recipe ever. In the winter when it’s really cold, a hearty stew of beef short ribs simmered with a whole bottle of red wine, a bottle of Guinness, and lots of vegetables, then served over Creamy Blue Cheese Grits or Celery Root and Chickpea Puree, is about the most comforting dinner you can possibly imagine.
5 pounds very meaty bone-in beef short ribs, cut into 2-inch chunks (see tip)
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (3 leeks)
3 cups chopped celery (5 to 6 ribs)
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
2 cups chopped unpeeled carrots (6 carrots)
1½ tablespoons minced garlic (5 cloves)
1 (750 ml) bottle Burgundy, Côtes du Rhône, Chianti or other dry red wine
4 cups beef stock, preferably homemade or College Inn
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes, such as San Marzano
1 (11.2-ounce) bottle Guinness draught stout
6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
Creamy Blue Cheese Grits or Celery Root Chickpea Puree (recipes in cookbook), for serving
Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the short ribs on a sheet pan, brush the tops with olive oil and sprinkle with 1½ tablespoons salt and 1½ teaspoons pepper. Roast for 20 minutes and remove from the oven. Reduce the temperature to 325 degrees.
Meanwhile, heat ¼ cup olive oil in a large (12-inch) Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, over medium heat. Add the leeks, celery, onions and carrots and cook over medium to medium-high heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the wine, bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the liquid is reduced. Add the stock, tomatoes, Guinness, thyme, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
Place the ribs in the pot, along with the juices and seasonings from the sheet pan. Bring to a boil, cover and cook in the oven for one hour. Uncover and cook for one more hour, until the meat is very tender.
Remove the short ribs to a plate with a slotted spoon and discard the thyme bundle and any bones that have separated from the meat. Simmer the sauce on the stove for 20 minutes, until reduced. Skim some of the fat off the top and discard. Return the ribs to the pot, heat for 5 minutes and taste for seasonings. Serve hot in shallow bowls spooned over creamy blue cheese grits, with extra sauce on the side.
Pro tip: Short ribs come in many sizes. Be sure you buy 2-inch ribs with lots of meat on them. Browning them on a sheet pan is so much easier — and less messy — than in a pot on top of the stove.
Pro tip: Because garlic burns very easily, I almost never cook it with the onions; instead I add it one minute before adding the liquid.
Chocolate Pecan Meringue Torte
When my late friend Anna Pump came to the United States from Germany, she started a cooking school in New Jersey, where she lived. This is one of the recipes she taught her students. It’s two disks of crisp and soft meringue, layered with a creamy chocolate pecan filling. Your guests will be very impressed that you served such a professional-looking dessert!
7 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
21⁄3 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract, divided
Chocolate Pecan Filling (recipe follows)
1 cup cold heavy cream
Dark chocolate shavings, for decorating (see tip)
Heat the oven to 250 degrees. Draw two 8-inch circles on a sheet of parchment paper and place it on a sheet pan, pencil side down.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt on high speed for one minute, until frothy. With the mixer on high, slowly add the 21⁄3 cups sugar and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla and beat on high for 2 minutes, until it makes firm, glossy peaks.
Divide the meringue between the two circles and spread into two flat 8-inch disks with a rubber spatula. Bake the meringues for one hour, turn the heat off and leave the meringues in the oven for 2 hours. Remove them from the oven and allow to cool completely to room temperature on the sheet pan.
With a large flat spatula, carefully transfer one disk, rounded side up, to a totally flat serving plate. (It’s OK if the top cracks a little.) Spread the chocolate pecan filling evenly on top. Place the second meringue, rounded side up, on top.
Combine the heavy cream, the 2 tablespoons sugar, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat on high speed until it forms firm peaks. Spread the whipped cream on top of the torte. Decorate with the shaved chocolate and refrigerate for 2 hours or for up to a day and serve cold.
Chocolate Pecan Filling
½ cup pecans
4 extra-large eggs
¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon cornstarch
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, such as Lindt, broken in pieces
2 tablespoons brewed espresso
1 teaspoon Kahlua
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the pecans until finely ground. Set aside.
In a medium bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisk the eggs, sugar and cornstarch together, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Whisk the mixture almost constantly, until it is 130 to 140 degrees and thickened like custard. Set aside to cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally.
Set another bowl over the pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Put the chocolate and espresso in the bowl and heat just until the chocolate melts, stirring occasionally. Stir in the Kahlua and vanilla and set aside to cool to room temperature. Whisk the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, then whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, whisking until smooth. Stir in the pecans. The filling can sit at room temperature for up to 4 hours.
Pro tip: Be sure the butter is completely at room temperature or the filling will be lumpy.
Pro tip: To make chocolate curls, place a bar of chocolate in the microwave for 15 seconds before shaving it with a vegetable peeler.
Tuscan Tomato and Bread Salad
Serves 6 to 8
The first time my assistant Barbara and I made panzanella, an Italian bread salad, we ate all the vinaigrette-soaked bread first, laughed, then finally ate the vegetables. This salad is a mash-up of Caprese salad and panzanella. I think it’s the best of both worlds!
1 pound cherry or grape tomatoes, halved through the stem
1 pound fresh mozzarella, ¾-inch diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 teaspoon good Dijon mustard
¼ cup good red wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup plus 1/3 cup good olive oil
½ pound sourdough bread, crusts removed and ¾-inch diced
20 fresh basil leaves, julienned
Place the tomatoes and mozzarella in a large bowl. Put the garlic, mustard, vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a 1-cup glass measuring cup and slowly whisk in the ½ cup of olive oil. Set aside.
Heat the remaining 1/3 cup of olive oil in a large (12-inch) sauté pan until hot but not smoking. Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Sauté over medium to medium-high heat for 5 to 8 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the bread is evenly browned and crisp. Add the warm bread to the tomatoes and mozzarella. Add enough of the vinaigrette to moisten all the ingredients. Add the basil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss carefully adding more vinaigrette, if necessary. Serve at room temperature.
Pro tip: To dice fresh mozzarella neatly, cut it in half with a small serrated knife, place the cut side down on a board and dice it.
Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.