The Barnes & Noble Review
Haven't given a party for a year or more? Once you're out of the habit, it's hard to start again, but any secret party anxiety you may have will be quickly dispelled by Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa Parties!.
Garten, a celebrated caterer, who also writes the "Entertaining Is Fun" column in Martha Stewart Living magazine, is a one-woman cheerleading squad for simple, tasty food and easy parties. She doesn't want you to enter the Entertaining Olympics. She doesn't want your party-giving activities to rival the hours spent on your full-time job. She likes food that's fun to eat and made way in advance so you can get out of the kitchen and enjoy your guests. Her recipes, like those in The Barefoot Contessa Cook Book, are stylish but in no way complicated or fussy. If you don't have time to cook, no problem: She's a big proponent of buying and assembling great food.
Why, Garten asks, do most people knock themselves out to give a big Saturday night dinner party with drinks and nibbles and lots of courses, when their friends might prefer a low-key Sunday brunch? And here's her position on hors d'oeuvres: She's got some recipes, if you want them, but she actually prefers to buy and serve tasty little potato chips, cheesesticks, and oil-cured olives along with Campari and soda. Desserts? There are some great recipes here (Chocolate Ganache Cake, Peach Raspberry Shortcakes), but her favorite winter dessert requires no cooking at all: pears, green grapes, English Stilton, and English crackers, served with port.
In Barefoot Contessa Parties!, Garten dishes out guilt-reducing entertaining advice along with 16 seasonal menus, illustrated with 160 full-color photos. Her Sunday Breakfast menu features Roasted Asparagus with Scrambled Eggs, Sour Cream Coffee Cake, and Tropical Smoothies. Her Football Party menu includes Popcorn, Salted Cashews, Lobster Rolls, Filet of Beef Sandwiches, and Imported Beers, with Outrageous Brownies and Caramel Chocolate Nut Ice Cream for dessert. Her Winter Snow Party stars Chicken Chili with all the fixings, served with Green Salad Vinaigrette, plus three kinds of Chocolate Chunk Cookies and Vanilla Ice Cream, and a Hot Mulled Cider. Attractively designed, it's a good sourcebook for party menus and recipes. (Ginger Curwen)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Building on the success of The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, Garten presents 16 simple menus, yielding readers four fun and distinctive parties per season. True to her theory that the easiest parties are usually the best, Garten offers sound advice (e.g., prepare dishes in advance when possible so you can be a guest at your own party, and use strategy when building a guest list) and fare within the reach of any cook. Moreover, by suggesting many dishes that can be served at room temperature, she helps hosts minimize any last-minute frenzies. Brisket with Carrots and Onions requires very little supervision, and Chocolate Ganache Cake can be baked a week ahead and glazed the day it's served. Garten pumps up the flavor with such recipes as Potato Pancakes with Caviar and an irresistible vinaigrette-tossed salad topped by sliced onions baked with balsamic vinegar and then by crumbled Maytag blue cheese. Potables are as innocent as Tropical Smoothies and as potent as Raspberry Vodka and Real Margaritas. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
The Barefoot Contessa is Garten's upscale take-out shop in East Hampton, NY, but her Barefoot Contessa Cookbook proved to have a national audience (it sold more than 100,000 copies). Here she provides menus and recipes for 16 parties and other festive gatherings, from "Lunch in the Garden" to "Not Thanksgiving" to "Valentine's Day," along with tips for stress-free entertaining. With the same attractive design (featuring dozens of full-page color close-ups of food and settings) that helped make the first book so popular, and its simple, seasonal recipes, this, too, is sure to be in demand. (Not to mention that Garten is soon to become a regular contributor to Martha Stewart Living, as well as host of a new Food Network series.) Recommended for most collections. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
Recipes from Barefoot Contessa Parties!
We had been making traditional chili at Barefoot Contessa for almost 20 years. I decided to update it with chicken to make it lighter, and it's even more popular than our regular chili.
8 cups chopped yellow onions (6 onions)
1/4 cup good olive oil, plus extra for chicken
1/4 cup minced garlic (8 cloves)
4 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
4 yellow bell peppers, cored, seeded, and large-diced
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for chicken
4 28-ounce cans whole peeled plum tomatoes in puree, undrained
1/2 cup minced fresh basil leaves
8 split chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
Freshly ground black pepper
Chopped onions, corn chips, grated cheddar, sour cream
Cook the onions in the oil over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne, and salt. Cook for 1 minute. Crush the tomatoes by hand or in batches in a food processor fitted with a steel blade (pulse 6 to 8 times). Add to the pot with the basil. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until just cooked. Let cool slightly. Separate the meat from the bones and skin and cut into 3/4-inch chunks. Add to the chili and simmer, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. Serve with the toppings, or refrigerate and reheat gently before serving.
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Makes 36 to 40 cookies
This is my favorite variation of the old Barefoot Contessa chocolate chunk cookie recipe. It has the combination of flavors in a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. Yum!
1/2 pound unsalted butter at room temperature
1-1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup good smooth peanut butter
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound good semisweet chocolate chunks
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Add the vanilla and peanut butter, and mix. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and add to the batter, mixing only until combined. Fold in the chocolate chunks.
Drop the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, using either a 1-3/4-inch ice cream scoop or a rounded tablespoon. Dampen your hands, flatten the dough lightly, then press the tines of a wet fork in both directions. Bake for exactly 17 minutes (the cookies will seem underdone). Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Hot Mulled Cider
Nothing tastes as good on a cold winter day as hot spiced cider. It's easy to make and really warms your insides after an afternoon of winter sports. And nothing makes a house smell as wonderful. For a party, I leave it on the stove over very low heat and everyone helps themselves.
16 cups apple cider or pure apple juice
4 2-inch cinnamon sticks
Zest and juice of 2 oranges
8 whole cloves
8 star anise
Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan and simmer over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes. Pour into mugs and serve.
*Commercially prepared mulling spices, which combine many of these ingredients, can be added to the apple cider to make preparation even easier.