What happens when six people put together an Ina Garten-themed potluck dinner on a Sunday night? They all roll away feeling like they never want to eat again for the rest of their lives. And that’s a good thing. Yes, last Sunday, a few of my friends and I put on a Barefoot Contessa dinner party, and the results were stunning. Each one of us brought at least one dish, and I’ll tell you right now, there was enough food to feed a small army (assuming one would want that small army to then be sluggish, moaning, and occasionally be prone to reiterating “THAT WAS SO GOOD”). Here’s how it broke down: our hosts, Greg and Andrea, were in charge of the main course; Sly took on dessert; Jash was appetizers; Malibu Judie was cocktails; and I provided the side. Together, we formed a Voltron of culinary bliss, helped — no doubt — by the presence of GOOD ingredients.
Pictures of all that we created after the jump…

The work began the day before the dinner party. Jash, whose mouth was burning from Jalapeño Cocktail Hour, sought an activity to distract himself from the pain; so he assembled Ina’s Summer Borscht while the rest of us drank. Malibu Judie and I were supposed to head up the soup, but we were more than happy to booze instead.

Yogurt, sour cream, chicken stock, and some of the cooking liquid from the beets.

All of the above, mixed.

In go the diced beets.

Dill, cucumber, more dill, and some green onions. A veritable garden sampler of Eastern Europe.

Within seconds, the soup takes on its trademark neon pink color. It then goes into the fridge where the flavors then marry over the next twenty-four hours.

The next morning, I head to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market with Sly and Malibu Judie. I’m in search of corn and basil (my burgeoning plant regrettably could not yield the amount needed in my dish).

I find an insane deal on corn: seven ears for $2.50. I’m becoming a pro at this.

The three of us take a break to enjoy some delicious tamales.

I photograph this husk and spork in order to properly memorialize the meal.

Back at my kitchen, I’ve got my corn and various other items ready to go (half and half and ricotta, courtesy of Fresh & Easy)

The recipe, Ina’s Sagaponack Corn Pudding, calls for five cups of corn kernels. And here it is. Note that I used GOOD corn.

A poorly lit onion. It shall soon be sautéed with the corn.

Onions and corn, ready for the aforementioned sauté experience. How easy is thaaaat?

It wouldn’t be an Ina Garten recipe if it didn’t call for butter. Sure enough, here’s me melting an entire STICK of the stuff.

And now the sautéing commences.

A few minutes later, the odors emanating forth are intoxicating. And let’s not overlook the glistening butter covering everything.

Further evidence of buttery goodness. If you look carefully, you can see a butter bubble just off center. That’s right. A bubble made of BUTTER. As Ina might say, how bad can that be? (This would then be followed by a hahahahahahahaha and INHALE and hahahahahahaha)

Meanwhile, in another bowl, I mix together half and half, ricotta, milk, basil, cheddar cheese, cornmeal, salt, sugar, pepper, and four eggs (not cracked in a separate bowl, despite the prevailing notion that YOU NEVER KNOW WHEN YOU’LL GET A BAD EGG).

I then add the corn and onions into the mixture, thus creating an enticing yellow muck of epic proportions.

It all goes into a baking dish, which in turn goes into a water bath, which in turn goes into the oven for the next forty-five minutes. Amazing aromas soon fill my living space.

Meanwhile, the borscht looks more fluorescent than ever. A taste test is conducted: it needs a touch more salt, but aside from that, it’s pretty damn amazing.

Fast forward forty-five minutes, and the corn pudding is browned and mouth-watering. I let it hang out and cool for another hour or so, and then it’s time to hit the road.

Meanwhile, at his place, jash prepares all the components of his various hors d’oeuvres.

Malibu Judie, having squeezed the remaining citrus from Friday’s grocery spree, prepares a signature Ina cocktail, the enigmatically named Juice of a Few Flowers. Shockingly, nothing breaks in Malibu Judie’s presence.

Jash also cooks up two batches of Ina’s Savory Palmiers — always a hit.

Finally, we all arrive at Greg and Andrea’s place. Ina serves as the centerpiece, both literally and figuratively.

Andrea reveals a bright green tub of Ina’s pesto pasta, made (shockingly) with walnuts. This reignites the age-old debate as to whether pesto made with walnuts is truly pesto. Fighting and bleating (the latter from jash) ensues.

In an alarming turn of events, Andrea opens her fridge, only to be assaulted by an instantly airborne jar of teriyaki sauce. She masterfully dodges its trajectory, causing the offending condiment to plummet to the ground where it cracks in half dramatically. We all immediately blame Malibu Judie.

Crostini, dabbed with olive oil, are ready to be topped with various cheeses and peppers.

Sly and I get to work spreading gorgonzola on the crostini. I should mention though that some of the crostini get brie because in a shocking twist, jash deigned to bring a non-Ina hors d’oeuvre to the party (some improvised mix of brie, caramelized onions, and apple straws). We were disdainful of this alien recipe, but being that we’re an open and loving clan, we still eventually welcomed it — especially since it was delicious.

More assemblage.

Andrea poses with the lady of the hour.

Closeup of the cheese. Just because.

This turned out to be quite the lengthy process.

Malibu Judie, meanwhile, prepared us each the Juice of a Few Flowers. Again, no bottles of vodka were accidentally thrown to the ground.

Greg and Andrea posing in their “Greg” and “Andrea” aprons.

Sly happily cups her hands around her Juice of a Few Flowers as the promise of vodka elevates her soul.

The Juice of a Few Flowers. It’s kind of like Five Alive for grownups.

And voìla: the savory palmiers have arrived — replete with a dainty garnish. I can already hear one of the many Barefoot Contessa musical tracks playing in the background.

With the hors d’oeuvres ready, we all sit down and partake. It only takes about thirty seconds before we’re making suggestive jokes about “The Juice of a Few Flowers.”

Meanwhile, Andrea has cooked up quite the bird. It’s Ina’s Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken. And yes, it smells about as good as it sounds.

Here I am taking an obligatory photo with the cookbook. It’s sad how these things don’t seem lame to us.

With the borscht served, Andrea and Greg dive into Ina’s latest book, regaling all of us with stories of the Hamptons and dinner parties and Jeffrey.

Okay, I’ll admit it. They weren’t reading. They were just cheesing out for the camera.

Sly momentarily recoils, perhaps having imbibed the juice of one too many flowers.

It’s a GOOD staged photo.

Ah, the borscht. Sadly, Andrea’s not a huge beet person; so she didn’t enjoy this soup much. Malibu Judie, Sly, and I, however, were practically licking the bowls clean.

At last it was time to try the chicken. I should note that there was bacon in the roaster. Unless something seriously went wrong, this could not taste anything but awesome.

Greg ably carves the chicken, despite many self-doubts to the contrary.

Chicken, pesto, corn pudding. All of it amazing. For me, the pesto stole the show. Then again, the corn pudding was pretty damn awesome too.

Andrea expresses shock at just how excellently everything turned out. Sly, meanwhile, is just counting down the seconds until she can sip the Juices of a Few More Flowers.

I should note the presence of Maggie the dog, who seemed to be enjoying the dinner party as well.

Also wandering around was Andrea’s dog, Syndey Bristow. She’s a spy dog, you see. Hence the covert location under the table.

For dessert, Sly presented us with some of Ina’s macaroons. So simple, and yet still wonderful. Have I gushed enough about the food yet?

I can’t even express to you how full and uncomfortable I was. I just wanted to put on some gym shorts and lie on a couch.

Sly, meanwhile, flittered about like a butterfly hopped up on speed while Malibu Judie indulged her perpetual need to clean things. I could not for the life of me understand how they were able to move.

Even the dog looked full.

Despite my gastrointestinal tract being supremely overloaded, I still managed to find room for one more macaroon.

Nom nom nom…

Nom nom nom…

Eventually it was time to go home. I believe the look on my face is something to the effect of “If I have to stand for one more second, I’m going to barf all over this kitchen.”

As you could probably tell, the Ina Garten potluck was a rousing success. The food was delicious across the board, leaving her record still untarnished in my book. Of course, everything was exceedingly rich (note my repeated mentions of being absurdly full), but the good news was that we all had tons of leftovers. We will certainly be doing this again, and I highly encourage others to do the same. For those wondering, here are the recipes we employed:
• Bruschetta with Sauteed Sweet Peppers and Creamy Gorgonzola
• Savory Palmiers
• Juice of a Few Flowers
• Summer Borscht
• Pasta, Pesto, and Peas
• Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken
• Sagaponack Corn Pudding
• Coconut Macaroons
And so concludes the monster weekend of cooking. I hope it was good for you. It was definitely good for us.

22 replies on “ADVENTURES IN DOMESTICITY: Ina Garten Potluck Edition”

  1. Everything looked delish.
    I just bought Ina’s Back to Basics cookbook 4 days ago. Now I definitely have to use it.
    Are Andrea and Greg trying to decide on a color to paint their dining room, or is that some sort of modern art that this Valley Girl can’t appreciate?

  2. you are correct ms rn–paint samples.
    it should be noted that i was somehow TRICKED into making the borscht. when i told my mom i made it she said “but you hate cooked beets!” yes, yes i do. but its so pretty!
    and thanks for minimizing my “carmelized onions” which were in fact carmelized onions with crisped coppa in a sage & red-wine reduction sauce on crostini with brie, topped with green apple. not ina, true, but surely something even SHE would love like the stamens of crocuses!

  3. Wasn’t it Jash who brought the off-script frozen jalapeno poppers to the fancy cocktail hour? Now the non-Ida crostini? I sense a pattern here.

  4. Oh, my God . . . I will be recreating this menu in my home. Soon. Minus the borscht, however.

  5. “As Ina might say, how bad can that be? (This would then be followed by a hahahahahahahaha and INHALE and hahahahahahaha)”
    I love how you note this – I have also determined that each bite that Giada takes at the end of her show is always accompanied by a look that says “mmmm…penetration”.
    Tell me I’m wrong!

  6. jaded RN–i too spotted the paint samples & painter’s tape above the kitchen cabinets in a later shot. I have similarly-colored cabinets & may i humbly suggest Dark orange on one wall & medium yellow on the other? That’s what we did with ours & it looks pretty good, if i say so myself!
    B-side, thank you for linking those recipes—i will be trying most of them (MAYBE the borscht too, tho not wholly convinced). This thread is a particular favorite of mine! keep ‘m coming, pls.

  7. Ben,
    I am a longtime fan. I’m a Hamptons resident myself and one day in Bridgehampton, I was on line at a florest when I heard the “hahahhahahahhahahhahahINHALEhahahahahahha” behind me. I was in the presence of the great Ina. She is a sweet person, completely down to earth but man! She is short. And wide. And has the East Hampton accent mastered. (a little note- whenever she goes on her ‘outings’- the vendors love it because they get some free publicity and she gets her stuff for free). If you ever want to have a wonderful meal, go to The Canal Cafe located on the Shinnecock Canal in Hampton Bays. It is run by my friends- brothers Paul and Parker, both formally executive chefs from Barefoot Contessa.

  8. I don’t know how normal it is that I get SO excited every time you have an Ina-related post. Probably about as normal as you and your friends throwing a Barefoot Contessa dinner party.
    I have to say, your corn pudding looks like the best of the bunch. If I don’t make that soon, it’s going to be haunting my dreams

  9. How much fun that looks, and what an excellent idea you should turn this into a monthly supper club making her recipes or recipes from other food TV shows have you ever had her Brownies?? omg to die for

  10. This was quite a delish looking meal. It actually makes me feel to cook! I am not a corn pudding fan but that one I would definitely eat.
    That dog-bowl-holding-thingy is very impressive. Never seen one.

  11. why on earth are you not posting more often? It’s great when it happens but i’m almost always disappointed when i check in and it’s not updated. what is it that you are doing when you should be posting?

  12. Well, your party seems cool, albeit it was not vegetarian in any imaginable form, but hopefully we’ll get you there.. does Sly like veggie food?
    By the way, unless you are in Germany (my guess) the ‘t’ in borscht is completely silent..Russians and Ukranians say borsch..borscht just sounds like you are hearkening back to SS..brrr..
    so yah, borsch and I didn’t know here it was called “Summer Borsch”..we always just called it “Cold Borsch” during summer..and did you say you put the sour cream BEFORE the entire concoction is done? No, no no..sour cream is supposed to be 100% fresh and hundred percent put in AFTER the soup is served.
    Good Russian movies recommendations=: Night Watch and Day Watch (guy who directe Wanted w/angelina jolie-will put Lucas’ gamey ninja one-sidedd nonsense to shame..and also Lilya 4-ever, directed by Luc Besun (misspelled) Dutch director, but all set in post-Soviet Russia.
    Cheers, (and lets say borsch without the T)

  13. DeeDee – I have spent much of the past month traveling. I am currently in Michigan, heading back to Los Angeles. Thankfully, this is the end of my travels, which means regular posting will happen again.
    Feel free to follow my twitter, which is updated frequently (and will inform you of such travel plans and thus blogging interruptions) or go to the forums to continue the discussion about whatever it is that’s on your mind.

  14. Or feel free to not complain when a FREE BLOG doesn’t get updated enough for your liking.

  15. vensa–thats intersting about the borscht. yes, ina’s recipe called for the sour cream to be added in along with everything else at the same time, then left to sit and “stew” overnight. but i agree that it would’ve been great mixing in just before it is served.

  16. Jash,
    Yes, all over Eastern Europe sour cream is added just prior to consumption. I’m from Belarus and that’s how both of my grandmothers did it, and I don’t believe there was any chicken stock involved. My Mom actually keeps the beet soup part separately, chops the vegetables right before and adds it along with the sour cream. This way, one could it the borsch for several days with the veggies being fresh. Although, it may have been because Russian beets take FOREVER to boil for whatever reason.

  17. The fact that your friend has a dog named Sydney Bristow is made of so much awesome that I can hardly stand it. Alias is my favorite show ever, in the history of ever.

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