Lovin’ Spoonful

Celebrity chef Ina Garten weaves a passionate tale sprinkled with recipes in her latest book, "Cooking for Jeffrey."

Perfect Potato Pancakes

Bestselling author Ina Garten has cooked up a new cookbook — combining friendship, tenderness and respect with 48 years of marriage.

Garten, famously known as the Barefoot Contessa, adds her 10th book, Cooking for Jeffrey (Clarkston Potter; $35), to her repertoire. Garten’s previous Barefoot Contessa offerings are straightforward cookbooks, bursting with delectable recipes. But this new book is unique — because it’s personal. Cooking for Jeffrey is a love story entwined with food.

“Cooking is one of the great gifts you can give those you love,” Garten writes in the book’s introduction. Before each of the chapters, she describes a personal vignette about her life with her husband. These mini portraits exude a tender, devoted relationship.

The first story begins when she meets Jeffrey — not exactly a meeting so much as a sighting. Jeffrey spotted her from the window at the Dartmouth library and inquired about her. In a classic coup de foudre — French for lightning bolt — he was smitten from afar. Coincidentally, his roommate knew her, and they met. A bar was suggested for their first date, but she was underage. When they were turned away, the couple went to a coffeehouse.

The stories go on to tell a timeline of their marriage from camping trips to a Paris rendezvous to an auspicious dinner Garten attended, cooked by a friend. She was inspired by the preparation, taste and presentation. She then began entertaining and hosting dinner parties herself.

In 1978, Garten was working as a budget analyst in the White House when she read about a specialty store, the Barefoot Contessa, for sale in the Hamptons. The couple decided to buy it and Jeffrey encouraged her to transition her pastime into a profession, learning on the job that customers wanted simple, tasty food. Many of those simple recipes, like Tuscan Roasted Potatoes, Sauteed Shredded Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Chicken with Radishes and Roasted Salmon Tacos are included in this cookbook.

Ina and Jeffrey Garten at their 1968 wedding

Cooking for Jeffrey contains some wonderful Jewish holiday recipes. Yes, they are the traditional offerings — but in her hands, there is a hint of surprise. The honey cake, for example, has one-fourth cup of bourbon, while the challah includes saffron. (Her homemade challah is a staple at her own Friday night dinners.) Garten’s Perfect Potato Pancakes (see recipe, right) is not your bubbie’s recipe; she suggests substituting panko crumbs for matzo meal. Her Brisket with Onions & Leeks is legendary, and the book explains that it’s “based on the most Googled brisket recipe ever.”

Garten describes the Tsimmes as a traditional vegetable stew served on Jewish holidays, but that one does not need a holiday to serve it. The book concludes with some helpful resources like food stocked in her pantry, a starter utensil kit and suggestions for cookware.

Tsimmes

The book cover is a sweet photo of Garten and Jeffrey with one of his favorite desserts. The Devil’s Food Cake with Coffee Meringue Buttercream is a “showstopper,” according to Garten, who loves the combination of moist chocolate cake and the light buttercream frosting — although we think the Pecan Rum Raisin Ice Cream and the Chocolate Creme Brulee look equally scrumptious.

The book’s dedication sums up the premise: “For Jeffrey, who makes everything possible.” *

By Carla Schwartz, Special to the Jewish News. Schwartz is the former editor of Style magazine, a former JN columnist, a blogger and community-relations consultant. Visit her blog at motownsavvy.com.

RECIPES

Below are two recipes perfect for your Chanukah gatherings.

Both recipes reprinted from Cooking for Jeffrey. Copyright © 2016 by Ina Garten. Photographs by Quentin Bacon. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC.

PERFECT POTATO PANCAKES

Makes 24 to 30 pancakes

I have always made potato pancakes with grated potatoes for crisp pancakes, but I’ve also thought about making them with mashed potatoes for creamy ones. When I read that Andrew Zimmern’s grandmother made potato pancakes with both of them together, I had an aha! moment. Even better!

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and 1-inch-diced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 pounds Idaho baking potatoes, peeled

1 large yellow onion

2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

½ cup panko (Japanese bread flakes) or matzo meal

3 tablespoons minced fresh chives, plus extra for serving

Unsalted butter

Good olive oil

Sour cream, for serving

Place the Yukon Gold potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until very tender when tested with a knife. Drain and pass through a ricer or the coarsest blade of a food mill into a large bowl and set aside.

Grate the Idaho potatoes lengthwise in long shreds, either by hand or in a food processor fitted with the coarsest grating disk. Place the potatoes on a kitchen towel, squeeze out most of the liquid, and transfer to the bowl with the cooked potatoes. (Don’t worry — they’ll turn pink.) Grate the onion either by hand or in the food processor and stir into the potatoes along with the eggs, panko, chives, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium-high heat, until sizzling. Drop heaping tablespoons of the potato mixture into the skillet (you want them to be messy). Flatten the pancakes lightly with a metal spatula and cook for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until browned. Continue adding butter and oil, as needed, to fry the remaining batter. Serve hot with sour cream and chives.

Make ahead: Prepare the mixture and refrigerate for several hours. Fry just before serving or up to 30 minutes ahead. Place on a sheet pan, and reheat at 400 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes.

BRISKET WITH ONIONS & LEEKS

Serves 8

This amazing dish is based on the most Googled brisket recipe ever! The original came from Nach Waxman, who for many years owned New York’s Kitchen Arts & Letters, an iconic store specializing in cookbooks. This is my version of his spectacular (and really easy!) recipe.

1 (5½- to 6-pound) brisket, trimmed with a thin layer of fat

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons canola oil

¼ cup Wondra flour

1 pound yellow onions, halved and sliced ⅓ inch thick

1 pound red onions, halved and sliced ⅓ inch thick

3 large leeks, white and light green parts only, halved and sliced

6 large garlic cloves, sliced

¾ cup dry red wine

½ cup canned beef stock, such as College Inn

6 sprigs fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string

3 tablespoons tomato paste

 

Sprinkle the brisket with 2 teaspoons salt, wrap it well, and refrigerate it overnight. This is more important than you think!

The next day, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a very large (13-inch) Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset, heat the oil over medium-high heat. The pot should be large enough for the brisket to lie flat. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper all over the brisket. Sprinkle the Wondra flour all over and dust off the excess. Brown the brisket in the oil for 5 minutes on each side, adding more oil if necessary. Transfer to a large (18 × 14 × 2-inch) roasting pan and set aside.

Put the yellow onions, red onions, and leeks in the Dutch oven, adding a few tablespoons of oil if the pot is dry, and saute over medium to medium-high heat for 15 minutes, scraping up any brown bits, until the onions are tender and begin to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the wine, beef stock, and thyme and cook for 3 minutes, scraping up any brown bits.

Spoon half the onion and leek mixture under the brisket. Spread the tomato paste evenly on top of the brisket. Spoon the rest of the onions and leeks on top of the brisket, covering the tomato paste. Wrap the roasting pan tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Roast for about 3½ hours, until the meat is extremely tender when tested with a meat fork.

Discard the thyme bundle and allow the meat to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before slicing thickly across the grain. Serve the meat with the warm onion mixture spooned on top. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot.

Make ahead: Refrigerate the cooked brisket and vegetables for up to 2 days. Slice the cold meat, put it back in the pan with the vegetables, cover with aluminum foil, and reheat in a 325-degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes. *

 

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