When it comes to most of what’s on the Food Network, I can take it or leave it. If I’m bored and there happens to be an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on, I’ll watch it – but I don’t have my TiVo set up on Season Pass mode so I’m sure to never miss an episode or anything like that.
Usually, the Food Network background noise if I’m doing something else – responding to emails, updating my blog or working in the kitchen. Sometimes the background noise is so annoying I have to turn it off. (Cough, Sandra Lee, cough, cough.) There’s only one Food Network personality that can pull me away from whatever I have planned and draw my attention away from more productive things. I’ve literally stopped dead in my tracks in the living room on the way to basement with a basketful of laundry and stood there mesmerized for entire segments when I happen upon this person. I never know when she’s on either, so it’s always a big surprise.
I get so excited. I squeal with delight. I become enthralled when… INA comes on!
Love her. LOVE. Whatever she’s making, I usually want to run right into the kitchen and start whipping it up myself. Everything is pure food perfection. I like her because she’s insanely knowledgeable. And it’s about layers and technique to maximize flavor – not crazy combos or out-there ingredients. She exudes this…quiet authority, if you will. She knows what she’s talking about…and she makes you want to listen and think like her when it comes to food. She takes things that are relatively simple and turns them into something extraordinary. Case in point, this Baked Shrimp Scampi is one of my most favorite meals I’ve ever made. Simple ingredients, outstanding, amazing results. (Note to self: Make again. SOON!)
Plus, how cute are she and Jeffery? RIGHT?! I just love them.
It’s customary, in my family, to pick on the people we like (Only people we like. If you get picked on a lot, that means we like you a lot. J) So even my foodie idol is not safe from some good natured fun poking every now and then. Eric teases that she’s too fancy – out there in her gorgeous Hamptons house (which is like the most gorgeous country house EVER. I wish she’d invite me over!) And that it’s pretentious when she uses the word “good” when it comes to her cooking. “Good” olive oil. “Good” vanilla. “Good” Cocoa powder, etc. As if she’s saying, in not so many words, if you live somewhere where you have do your shopping at the Super Wally, you might as well just give up.
Of course, we know that when she says “good” she does not mean the most out of the way, expensive item in the world, she means a quality product that you know and trust. When you cook with few ingredients, like she often does, it would make sense that you wouldn’t want to use the bottom of the barrel, cheapo stuff…because let’s be honest, you get what you pay for – ESPECIALLY when it comes to food.
It’s still fun though, when I make an Ina recipe, to come up with most extravagant definition of “good” we can think of.
“Use “good” shrimp. I recommend a special breed found only in waters off the Hamptons. They cluster around a rock that looks like an exact replica of Mount Rushmore, 100 feet below the surface. They must only be harvested at the peak of freshness – once a year from 7:18 a.m. to 5:23 p.m. on April 8th– and eaten within 45 minutes of coming out of the water. No other shrimp will do.”
“Use “good” cinnamon. Preferably this one available only at an invitation-only spice shop in the back of dark alley in Manhattan. You have to know the password and undergo a full body scan to get inside and it costs eleventy-billion dollars an ounce. If you get the password wrong the first time, a giant bouncer named Tiny will club your knee caps, but don’t worry…it’s well worth it.”
We’re just kidding around, of course. Ina is still my homegirl, even if she’s way more sophisticated than we can ever hope to be. 🙂
To prove it, I present the recipe for her insanely rich and decadent Coq Au Vin. Valentine’s Day is all about indulgence and pampering and this recipe fits the bill perfectly. Bone-in chicken pieces are browned in bacon grease (hello? DELICIOUS!) and then slow cooked in a rich flavorful broth of vegetables, stock and red wine. The end result is rich and flavorful dish with lots of layers of flavor, full-bodied red wine, spicy liquor, meaty mushrooms, and a hint of sweetness from the carrots. The chicken was fall off the bone tender. I don’t make it very often because of the added fat and calories, but good skin on, bone in chicken is such a treat. Dare I say I prefer it over red meat? I think I do!
The only thing I would different next time would be to make sure the chicken is really good and brown on the outside. I don’t think I let mine crisp up enough, so the skin got a little slimy and just kind of fell off. Other than that though, this was the perfect Valentine’s Day dinner! I served mine over egg noodles, but mashed potatoes or rice would be good too. A simple salad and crusty bread and you’ve got a meal worthy of someone special.
COQ AU VIN (Recipe Source: Ina Garten, Foodnetwork.com)
- 2 tablespoons good olive oil (good. ha…. ;))
- 4 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced
- 1 (3 to 4-pound) chicken, cut in 8ths
- 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 (I subbed whiskey because that’s what I had on hand)
- 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 (this elusive product I have never ever seen in the store. Not one time! I just left them out.)
- 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced
- Preheat the oven to 250 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 batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. 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 put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate 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.
One Year Ago: Boston Cream Pie Cupcakes. Oh, how decadent and delicious!