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Barefoot Contessa Parties! by Ina Garten

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Jan 01, 2005
Category: Food and Wine

Of late, my wife’s bedtime reading has been Ina Garten’s ‘Barefoot Contessa Parties!’ She is not the first woman in my romantic history to read cookbooks as if they had plots, but she is the first to grab a book as straightforward and useful as Garten’s.

Garten was a gifted amateur who, on a whim in her late ’20s, bought a gourmet store in Westhampton Beach, New York. Two decades of catering for summer residents followed. Long before she decided to write this book, she had entertaining — and cooking — down to a science.

Her philosophy is common sense. Start with people you really like. Add food in season. Cook as much of it in advance as you can. And the most important part: Make sure that you — the host/hostess — have a good time.

Her book is organized around equally sensible ideas. Four seasons. Several party ideas for each season. Recipes that don’t turn you into a slave of the stove.

As I write, it’s early November. I see ‘Not Thanksgiving’ in the Table of Contents. It’s a party for 8. Roast Turkey, Spinach Gratin, Smashed Sweet Potatoes with Apples. For dessert, Plum Tart and Vanilla Armagnac Ice Cream.

Why ‘Not’ Thanksgiving? Because Ina Garten thinks people make too big a deal over cooking turkey. She prepares it like roast chicken — no big deal — and thus feels she can serve it all fall.

Me, I’m using Garten’s recipe for Thanksgiving. If you are prudent, this may be the recipe that liberates you. So I’ll serve it up (you’ll have to buy the book for the luscious yet simple vegetable recipes).

serves 8

1 fresh organic turkey (12 pounds)

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large bunch of fresh thyme

1 lemon, halved

3 Spanish onions

1 head garlic, halved crosswise

1/2 stick butter, melted

1/2 good olive oil

8 carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

l0 red new potatoes, halved

3 heads fennel, fronds removed, cut into wedges through the core

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Take the giblets out of the turkey. Wash turkey inside and out, removing excess fat. Pat turkey dry and set it in a large roasting pan. Liberally salt and pepper the turkey cavity.

Stuff cavity with thyme, lemon, one of the onions (quartered) and the garlic. Brush outside with melted butter, then salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with string. Tuck wings under.

Peel and slice the remaining onions, toss them with 1/4 cup olive oil, and scatter them around the turkey.

Roast the turkey for 60 minutes. Toss the carrots, fennel and potatoes with 1/4 cup olive oil and add to the roasting pan. Roast for another 90 minutes, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. Remove the turkey to a cutting board and cover with aluminum foil; let rest for 20 minutes.

Stir the vegetables and return the pan to the oven. Continue to cook the vegetables while the turkey rests. Slice the turkey and serve on a platter with the roasted vegetables.

Simple? Totally. Just smart ingredients, smartly working together. Like the apples on top of the sweet potatoes. Like the oatmeal in the crust of the apple crisp. Indeed, like pretty much everything Ina Garten suggests.

To buy ‘Barefoot Contessa Parties!’ from, click here.