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 â€” no doubt â€” 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 JalapeÃ±o 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 sautÃ©ed with the corn.
Onions and corn, ready for the aforementioned sautÃ© 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 sautÃ©ing 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 â€”Â 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 â€”Â especially since it was delicious.
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 voÃ¬la: the savory palmiers have arrived â€”Â 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:
â€¢ Bruschetta with Sauteed Sweet Peppers and Creamy Gorgonzola
â€¢ Savory Palmiers
â€¢ Juice of a Few Flowers
â€¢ Summer Borscht
â€¢ Pasta, Pesto, and Peas
â€¢ Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken
â€¢ Sagaponack Corn Pudding
â€¢ Coconut Macaroons
And so concludes the monster weekend of cooking. I hope it was good for you. It was definitely good for us.