I have so many of Ina's cookbooks, and for the same reason. They are good. They are easy to follow, the photography is lovely and helps me to understand what the finished product should resemble, and I know if I go to the store and spend money on ingredients, it will be worth it. The recipe will turn out as it should. There's a wonderful confidence to be gained from that. It's like having a secret trick up my sleeve. Whatever the occasion, I know I can produce just the right dish to share. I could review any of her books and come to the same conclusion, that you need to have them. I thought though, I would start with her first book, Barefoot Contessa. It's the "OG Ina" if you will, and I return to it again and again when I need some inspiration in the kitchen.
It contains recipes from her specialty food store of the same name. These are crowd pleasing recipes that teeter the line between high and low in the most delicious and perfect way. The recipes are dishes that are familiar, you've made them before, but Ina's added a twist that takes the flavor and luxuriousness up a notch.
About the Author: Prior to writing cookbooks, Ina Garten owned a specialty food store in The Hamptons called Barefoot Contessa. Prior to that she worked on nuclear policy at The White House under Clinton. To say she's an impressive woman is an understatement. Ina taught herself to cook using Julia Child's cookbook and now is a best seeing cookbook author (multiple times over) of her own. She has a popular television show on The Food Network that she films at her home in New York, and is active on social media often sharing the adventures she has with her husband Jeffry.
The book: The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten. I have the 1999 edition published by Clarkson/Potter Publishers
Why I Love It: Simply put, I know the recipe will work. That's not always the case when you try something new, but I know that Garten spends so much time testing her recipes (it's the scientist in her) that by the time I'm reading them they are going to turn out exactly like she says.
I specifically like this book because I feel like as Ina's first book it has a range of recipes to cover many aspects of entertaining she has appetizers, soups, salads, entrees, and desserts. I love that she has an introduction to each section where she offers tips for entertaining.
Whenever she has a specialty ingredient listed there is often a note about where to find it or what to use instead. She also puts notes about what things should look like, how to store leftovers, and plating recommendations. This really is a great cookbook for pros and first time home cooks alike.
Perhaps because a lot of the recipes are from her store where she was catering for a crowd, but I feel like this book really offers some great recipes for crowds. She utilizes ingredients that are familiar to me, but often adds in a luxurious twist such as truffle butter that makes the flavor of a dish out of this world and is far easier to procure than I thought. This book definitely expanded my palate and ingredient repertoire.
Cheddar Corn Chowder
Sun Dried Tomato Dip
Grilled Lemon Chicken Salad
Perfect Roast Chicken
Virginia Baked Ham
Pan Fried Onion Dip
My Favorite Recipes:
Cheddar Corn Chowder: This is my go to for a crowd. It's smokey, creamy, with sharpness from the cheddar, and warmth from the turmeric. It's actually incredibly easy to make once you go through the recipe once and it yields a ton that can be frozen or packed up for guests to take as leftovers. It's perfect any time of year but I particularly like it during football season paired with a platter of sandwiches.
Pan Fried Onion Dip: O.M.G. this dip. Actually I have no idea what it tastes like because I don't like onion dip (slowly shrinks away from having any food authority). I know, I'm crazy. I just don't like it, but why do I confidently say this is a favorite? Every time I make it, it's gone before I can even get it to the table. I have made some pretty fancy schmancy things for parties and yet it's this dip that get's rave reviews time and time again. It's easy to make and a serious party pleaser. I am no longer allowed to by canned onion dip because my husband simply can't have anything else.
If you have to pick a book to start with for Ina, this one is the one (which makes sense because it's her first). It's a wide variety of recipes and will make your next party or gathering phenomenally delicious!
Do you normally cook for a crowd or just a few people?