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In new book, chef Ina Garten shares how to ‘Cook Like a Pro’

  • "Cook Like a Pro" by Ina Garten. (Penguin Random House) Penguin Random House



Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
Thursday, November 08, 2018

For her 11th cookbook, Ina Garten — the Emmy-winning force behind the Food Network’s “The Barefoot Contessa” — turns her attention to passing along easy-to-apply tips that she’s gleaned from professionals, her own career and her busy test kitchen.

“My goal with this book is that everyone will have the tools and information to cook totally delicious and professional-looking dishes every time,” she writes in “Cook Like a Pro” (Clarkson Potter, $35). “And even better — your family and friends will love you for it! How great is that?”

Garten chatted via phone about Instagram, her favorite kosher salt and her easy-to-make remake of a famous 1980s chicken dish.

Q: What comes first, the book or the television show?

A: Usually I write the book, and then once the book is published I do the recipes on TV. This is the first book that I’ve done where I did them together. I’ve always been so rigid about it, because I had the idea that, once you’ve seen the recipe on TV, why would you need the book? But sometimes, when I’m working on the TV show, I’ll think, “I wish I could have put this recipe into the book.” So, for this book, I decided to see what happens, and let it happen organically. Sometimes we have to let the universe react.

Q: I loved encountering Chicken Marbella a la Ina. How did that remake of a famous recipe from “The Silver Palate Cookbook” come about?

A: I wrote in the book that Nora Ephron used to say that if you went to a dinner party in New York in the ‘80s, you’d have Chicken Marbella. But the reason why is that it’s so good, and it’s so simple. I thought, “Let’s go back and try the original recipe.” And it was very good, but it needed more flavor. I wondered: Does our garlic have less flavor than the garlic of the ‘80s? I doubt it. But really, the recipe demanded more flavor.

Q: What is it about you and chicken?

A: Someone once said that the most-googled word at 4 in the afternoon is “chicken,” because everyone is trying to figure out what to make for dinner. I like chicken because it’s so satisfying. It’s more satisfying than seafood in a lot of ways, and it’s not red meat.

Q: Why are you so drawn to Diamond Crystal kosher salt? You specify it in your recipes.

A: So many companies have tried to get me to endorse their products, but I never do. That way I can tell you that I love a product because I love it, not because I was paid to tell you that I love it. I’m very scientific about products. I’ll buy six brands of olive oil and try them all at once to figure out which one I like best. I did the same with salt. I think that Diamond Crystal has the right amount of saltiness. Some kosher salts are saltier. And salt is tricky, but salt is so important for making the intrinsic flavor of something taste right. Even saying “salt to taste” is tricky. With Diamond Crystal, you can follow the amounts that I recommend with that salt.

Q: I picture your cabinets filled with lots of dishes. Do some get used more than others?

A: I like white serving dishes. I just find that the simpler they are, the more the food pops. What’s also important is the size of the dish. You want to fill the dish, but you also want a border, which acts like a frame. A lot of people use bowls, but I don’t like bowls. You couldn’t make that Israeli Vegetable Salad in a bowl, for example, because then you couldn’t see what it was. If you’re going to use a bowl, a low, shallow bowl is better. And sometimes I find a pale gray serving dish that I like, because the color makes a green vegetable — like broccoli — really pop. But if you want to collect six to eight serving platters that work with everything, it’s best to stick with white.