Cooking With ‘Barefoot Contessa Foolproof’: Smart, Streamlined Slam-Dunks

As promised in yesterday’s Taste of Orange County, and in honor of Ina Garten’s Orange County visit, here are two recipes from her new “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof: Recipes You Can Trust” (Clarkson Potter, $35), the book she’ll be signing at Williams-Sonoma in South Coast Plaza at noon today. These dishes are great examples of what Garten’s many fans already know—how she builds flavor into a dish at every step, without a lot of fuss, for lots of return. Do not miss her leek-cleaning tip—never have leeks started so clean, dry, and ready for a sauté.

Crispy Mustard-Roasted Chicken

(Makes 4 servings)

I’m always looking for an easy chicken dish. For this, whisk together Dijon mustard and white wine and use it as a coating for chicken the way you’d use beaten eggs, then dip in flavorful panko crumbs. Moist and crispy chicken every time! To make in advance, prepare the chicken without baking it. Refrigerate and then bake before dinner.

4 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 cups panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

½ cup Dijon mustard

½ cup dry white wine

3-½ pound chicken, cut in eight pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place garlic, thyme, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in food processor fitted with steel blade. Process until garlic is finely minced. Add panko, lemon zest, olive oil, and butter; pulse a few times to moisten panko. Pour mixture onto large plate. In shallow bowl, whisk together mustard and wine.

Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Sprinkle generously all over with salt and pepper. Dip each piece in the mustard mixture to coat, then place skin-side down only into crumb mixture, pressing gently to make crumbs adhere. Place chicken on sheet pan crumb-side up. Press remaining crumbs onto chicken pieces.

Bake chicken for 40 minutes. Raise heat to 400 degrees and bake another 10 minutes, until crumbs are browned and chicken is cooked through. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Mushroom & Leek Bread Pudding

(Makes 8 to 10 servings)

A turkey with stuffing needs to cook longer than a plain turkey, so you end up with dry turkey and soggy stuffing. I prefer to roast a turkey the same way I roast a chicken, with just onion, lemon, and thyme in the cavity. Instead of stuffing, I make a savory bread pudding with mushrooms, leeks, and rich Gruyère cheese to go with the turkey. It’s crusty on top and moist inside. Assemble this in advance and bake it before dinner.

Cut the leeks lengthwise, slice crosswise ¼-inch thick, wash in a big bowl of water, and spin-dry in a salad spinner.

6 cups ½-inch cubes from rustic bread, crusts removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 ounces pancetta, diced small

4 cups sliced leeks, white and light-green parts, about 2 large (see note, above)

1-½ pounds cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed, sliced ¼-inch thick

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves

¼ cup medium or dry sherry

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/3 cup minced flat-leaf parsley

4 eggs

1-½ cups heavy cream

1 cup chicken stock

1-½ cups grated Gruyère, about 6 ounces, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread bread cubes on sheet pan and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned.

Meanwhile, heat oil and butter in 12-inch sauté pan over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook about 5 minutes, until starting to brown. Stir in leeks and cook 8 to 10 minutes, until tender. Stir in mushrooms, tarragon, sherry, 1 tablepoon salt, and 1-½ teaspoons pepper. Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until most liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Off heat, stir in parsley.

In large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, chicken stock, and 1 cup Gruyère. Add bread cubes and mushroom mixture, stirring well to combine. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow bread to absorb liquid. Stir well and pour into 2-½ to 3-quart or 13-by-9-inch gratin dish and sprinkle with remaining Gruyère. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, until top is browned and custard is set. Serve hot.

Photo of Ina and Jeffrey by Quentin Bacon.

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