I admit, I’ve been drawn towards trying the fun and strange cook books we have in stock. I mean, Game of Thrones, True Blood, Big Gay Book of Ice Cream: those aren’t necessarily titles of cookbooks that one would buy to help with every day cooking ideas.
So I decided to switch it up a little, and review Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa at Home. Ina’s whole deal through this book is giving the reader access to great, simple, everyday recipes that make your mouth water but aren’t crazy to make.
Here at Kards, we are huge fans of Ina Garten, Nigella Lawson, and Jamie Oliver. We carry a pretty good selection of their cookbooks, so when I was trying to choose a reasonable everyday cookbook, I had plenty of big names to choose from. For me, though, Ina Garten’s books stood out the most. Lawson and Oliver have some pretty great recipes, but they have a tendency to be too fancy for every day life. The pictures are great and big and the food looks wonderful, but the ingredients called for are sometime hard to track down.
Barefoot Contessa at Home claimed to be a book that you could actually use every day, and it’s true to its word. The recipes I read through were all pretty down to earth. Not bland or ‘normal’, but definitely not complicated. I wouldn’t need to have a personal shopper and an in house butcher to gather my ingredients for me.
This is a big deal for me personally. I often feel like a lot of those TV cooking stars forget that normal people have to go to normal grocery stores to find ingredients. We can track down fun ingredients if we have the time, but you have to be pretty serious about good food to want to make time to find some of the harder to find ingredients.
So, to me, the Barefoot Contessa already has one up on those other guys. She knows how to make a book for people who want to cook good things for not a lot of money and not a lot of time.
Choosing the recipe was a bit hard.… there are a lot of good ones in there, but in the end I just HAD to go with her Chicken with Goat C heese and Basil. There are only 5 ingredients, and one two of them are olive oil and salt.
The only odd or exotic part of this recipe was that it calls for boneless chicken breasts with skin on. They don’t really sell that prepackaged at grocery stores. But it does have a note in the book that you can ask your butcher to de-bone some skin-on breasts for you. And I did! IT was easy-peasy. I just went up to the meat counter at market district and was like, hey, I need 6 chicken breast with skin on de-boned please! And they were like, great! come back in 5 minutes!
Seriously, that was the biggest hassle of the whole thing. Well, that and the first time I went shopping, I bough the prepackage boneless chicken breasts because I didn’t actually read the recipe and realize that there’s a REASON that it calls for skin on!
Making this dish took me like 5 minutes, once I had all the ingredients. 5 minutes, pop it in the oven for 30 minutes, and it was ready to go.
And it was GOOD. Seriously. I mean, I love goats cheese, so I knew I was going to love it, but something amazing happened to those things while they were in the oven. The goat’s cheese melted into the chicken in this awesome way so that it ended up having the texture of cooked ricotta cheese, and all of the flavor was everywhere. The skin gets nice and brown and crunchy and the salt and pepper make it oh so yummy.
Like, seriously, full confession here: I made the mistake of making these while I was home alone. And I ate three of them. THREE. gross. but SO YUMMY.
Ina Garten says right in the book: “Everyone needs a few dishes they can assemble ten minutes after they walk in the door at night.” This is it. She has done it. This dish is ridiculously easy to buy for, make, and serve up piping hot. It’s delicious and it looks really fancy. When you have that next dinner party and make this dish, people are going to think that you are either a culinary genius or that you spent hours in the kitchen.
I highly HIGHLY recommend this recipe and this book as a kitchen basic. Seriously. This book is FULL of things that you can and will actually use in every day life. Your life will be more yummy and more sane because of it.
Barefoot Contessa at Home
Chicken with Goat Cheese & Basil
6 boneless chicken breast, skin on
8 to 10 ounces garlic and herb goat cheese, such as Montrachet
6 large fresh basil leaves
good olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan. Loosen the skin from the meat with your fingers, leaving one side attached. Cut the goat cheese into 1/2-inch-thick slices and place 1 or 2 slices plus a large basil leaf under the skin of each chicken breast. Pill the skin over as much of the meat as possible so that it won’t dry out. With your finders, rub each piece with olive oil, then sprinkle them very generously with salt and pepper. Bake the chicken for 35 to 40 minutes, until the skin is lightly browned and the chicken is just cooked through. Serve hot or at room temperature.