Flashback Friday – Notes On A Recipe, Ina’s Mustard Chicken Salad

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 2/18/09 at Exit 51.

Notes On A Recipe – Ina’s Mustard Chicken Salad

I love a good chicken salad. Its one of those dishes that, when done right,  can shine in its simplicity.  In many ways, it is the ultimate test of a cook.  Almost anyone can learn fancy techniques that dazzle and delight.  But how many of us, when faced with the challenge of taking a bare minimum of the simplest of ingredients, can create a dish that is memorable because it hits all the right notes, because it becomes more than you imagined possible?

Ina's Mustard Chicken Salad

I don’t have a recipe for my go-to chicken salad.  It comes from the prepared food case at The Fresh Market and is everything I want in my chicken salad.  As far as I can tell, there are three ingredients – chicken, celery, and mayo.  That’s all it needs.  And it is the standard by which I measure all other chicken salads.

During my weekend with Ina, she made Mustard Chicken Salad, which uses both mayonnaise and mustard.  I’ve long known the beauty of mixing mayo and mustard together.  Have you ever dipped pretzels in a mix of mustard and mayo?  If not, I’ll wait here while you go experiment.  Start with a couple of tablespoons of mayo and gradually add mustard till it’s creamy and tangy at the same time.

See what I mean?  That’s good stuff.  So I imagined that a chicken salad that used one of my favorite flavor combinations would be a home run.  But I think it ran out of steam somewhere around second base.  I prefer to have a drier chicken salad, not too wet and definitely not thick or gloppy.  And while not gloppy thanks to the white wine, Ina’s  Mustard Chicken Salad is just too wet for my taste.  I can’t imagine a slice of bread being structurally sound enough to support a sandwich made of this.

But all is not lost. Because when added to a mix of lettuce and spinach, you’ve got yourself a lovely salad.  The wetness of the chicken salad provides just enough of a dressing to moisten the greens.  This would make a light lunch by itself, or pair it with some soup and you’ve got a fuss free dinner.   So if you’ve got the few simple ingredients on hand that go into Ina’s Mustard Chicken Salad, I think it’s worth a try.

Mustard Chicken Salad

Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Back To Basics

  • 2 whole (4 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 1/2 cups good mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and dice the chicken in large bite-size pieces.

Meanwhile, add the broccoli florets to a large pot of salted boiling water. Cook for 1 minute, until crisp tender, drain, and place into a bowl of ice water until cool. This will stop the cooking and set the bright green color.

For the dressing, whisk together the mayonnaise, wine, mustards, 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add enough sauce to the warm chicken to moisten well. Add the tarragon, broccoli, and tomatoes and mix gently to combine. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Serve at room temperature.

Flashback Friday – Notes On A Recipe Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Stew

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 2/9/08 at Exit 51.

Notes On A Recipe – Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Stew

As I’ve  said, I’m enjoying the fact that the current season of Barefoot Contessa is based on her new cookbook.  Watching the show with the book on my lap reminds me of those storybooks that came with records.  You listened to the record as it read you the book.  My favorite was Peter and the Wolf.  I’m telling you, somebody is missing a golden opportunity to do this with cookbooks.


Having spent the weekend with Ina…ok, she was on my tv for thirty minutes…I made one recipe and put two others into the test pile.  There is a reason that I never serve a recipe to guests until I’ve tested it.  Sometimes the dish misses the mark and needs to be tweaked.  I think the Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Stew falls into this category that I like to call Not Living Up To Its Potential.

I managed to remember that the recipe calls for the cubed beef to marinate overnight.  But Ina, why would you tell me to marinate the beef in an entire bottle of red wine if I’m only going to use 2 1/2 cups of it in the stew?  Seriously, I’m glad I read the recipe all the way through before I started because I was able to save at least one cup of wine to enjoy later.

Later, as in when it came time to wash all the dishes that you call for in preparing the ingredients.  Why wouldn’t you just use the Dutch oven you plan to cook the stew in to do your browning and sauteing and move the cooked/browned ingredients to a separate plate?  It’s easier for me to fit a large plate or bowl into the dishwasher than to hand wash my biggest frying pan.  Less is more Ina; less is more.

And speaking of less, I think next time I will try searing the beef without the flour dredge, or maybe only on half of the beef cubes.  It made the final stew too gummy and it certainly eliminated the need to add any flour to thicken things up at the end.  I had to add at least two more cups of beef broth before serving.

I love a good beef stew and I think this one certainly has potential.  But it’s just not there yet.    So if you come over to our place hoping for the Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Stew, I hope you won’t be disappointed if it’s not on the menu.

Barefoot Contessa’s Beef Stew

This is the recipe as it appears in her new cookbook.  Use your taste and sensibilities to adjust it as you see fit.  Consider scaling the recipe in half to make a smaller test batch.

  • 2 1/2 pounds chuck beef, cut into 1 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle red wine
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 6 ounces bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 cups, plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut diagonally into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • 1 pound small potatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1 (14 1/2 ounce) can beef stock
  • 1 large branch fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen peas (not petit pois)

Place the beef in a bowl with the red wine, garlic cloves, and bay leaves.  Cover the bowl and marinate the beef in the refrigerator overnight.

Brown the bacon in a large (12 inch) saute pan for 5 to 7 minutes, over medium heat.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a Dutch oven.  Combine 2 cups of the flour, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper in a bowl.  Lift the beef out of the marinade and discard the bay leaves and garlic, saving the marinade.

In batches, dredge the beef cubes in the flour mixture and then shake off the excess.

In the same saute pan, brown half the beef over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.  Place the browned beef in the Dutch oven with the bacon and brown the remaining beef.  Add the second batch to the Dutch oven.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.

Lower the heat under the saute pan to medium low, add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes, adding olive oil if necessary.  Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 more minute.  Add the carrotts and potatoes and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Place all the vegetables in the Dutch oven with the beef.

Add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved marinade (discard the rest) to the saute pan and cook over high heat to deglaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the brown bits with a wooden spoon.  Add the beef stock, rosemary, sundried tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper.  Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables in the Dutch oven and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.  Cover the pot and place it in the oven for 2 hours, until the meat and vegetables are all tender, stirring once during cooking.  If the stew is boiling rather than simmering, lower the oven to 275 degrees.

When the stew is done and the meat is tender, discard the rosemary branch.  Ladle 1 cup of the pan juices into a bowl and whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour.  Pour it back into the stew, stir gently, and simmer for 3 minutes, until thickened.  Stir in the frozen peas, season to taste, and serve.

Flashback Friday – Battle Barefoot Contessa

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 12/8/08 at Exit 51.

Battle Barefoot Contessa

Are you tired of hearing me talk about the new Barefoot Contessa cookbook yet?  I hope not.

Before I was lucky enough to snag it from The Washington Post Food Chat, I had downloaded the recipe for Mustard Roasted Fish.  It screamed Easy Weeknight Meal that must be tried as soon as possible.  So once the Thanksgiving madness was behind me, I put it on the menu.  And you know what, my instincts were spot on.

Let me say it again, this is an Easy Weeknight Meal.  It’s the kind of dish that tastes like it took hours but really only needs about five minutes of your time.  As the Barefoot Contessa herself would say, how easy is that?


In the time it took for the fish to cook in the oven, I had my grill pan going on the stovetop, pan roasting some asparagus.  If I had really been thinking, I would have put on a pan of water and made some quinoa.  That didn’t occur to me until the timer had gone off so the best I could do was some microwave brown rice.  Still, in less than thirty minutes, dinner was on the table.  Yes, you read that correctly.  From prep to table, a complete meal in less than thirty minutes.

Mine might not look as pretty as the picture in the cookbook, but if the empty plates were any indication, Battle Barefoot Contessa was a success.

Mustard Roasted Fish

From Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics

  • 4 skin-on mild white-fleshed fish fillets, such as black rockfish or Alaskan red snapper (6 to 8 ounces each)
  • Kosher salt, plus 1 teaspoon for the sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/2 teaspoon for the sauce
  • 2 to 3 medium shallots
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons capers
  • 8 ounces creme fraiche
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper, or have a baking dish ready that is large enough to hold the fish in a single layer (the fillets can overlap slightly).

Season the fillets lightly on both sides with salt and pepper. Place them skin side down on the sheet (or in the dish).

Mince the shallots (to yield 2 tablespoons) and drain the capers (to taste); place both in a medium bowl, then add the creme fraiche, the water, both of the mustards, 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, stirring to combine. Spoon the sauce over the fillets, making sure the fish is completely covered. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until it is just barely cooked through.

Serve hot or at room temperature, with sauce from the pan (or dish) spooned over the top.

Flashback Friday – Barefoot Contessa In The House

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 11/20/08 at Exit 51.

Barefoot Contessa In The House

Less than 24 hours after my awesome acquisition of the new Barefoot Contessa cookbook, the good folks at the Washington Post had it in my hands. You guys rock!


I haven’t looked inside beyond the autographed title page yet.  I am afraid that once I start turning pages, I won’t be able to stop until I get to the end.  So for the time being, I’ll have to satisfy myself with Ina’s new Mustard Roasted Fish recipe posted in yesterday’s Food Section of The Post and today’s feature on her in the Post’s Home Section.

Confidential to SFC: I did this during lunch, I swear!

Flashback Friday – Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

Flashback Friday

The following originally appeared on 11/19/08 at Exit 51.

Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner

That endearing phrase is something that SFC says, usually as he’s shaming me in some card game or other.  But today I’m the big winner.  How’s that you might ask?  Because I just won an autographed copy of Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics cookbook.  No fooling.

The Free Ranger’s over at washingtonpost.com had a copy to give away during today’s Food chat.  So my Ina-centric post was this:

Barefoot Contessa: Where HAS Ina been? She didn’t have any new BC shows on Food Network for ages.

Thanks for posting her Mustard Roasted Fish recipe today. Will we be getting previews of any other items in her new book?

Bonnie Benwick: She was just here 2 weeks ago, signing books at Sur La Table in Arlington. She does a new cookbook every 2 years. She renovated her barn/now kitchen. Be sure to read the Home section tomorrow for more about Ina.

I can tell you that the Brownie Pudding in that book is really, really great, and that Jane Black did a version of the turkey roulade she liked as well. Beseech Joe for that AUTOGRAPHED copy we’re giving away today!

And at the end of the chat, THAT post was the one they chose to get her book.  How freaking awesome.  Guess I will be looking for ways to South Beach the Brownie Pudding recipe that Bonnie mentioned.

Good thing I’ve been clearing out the cookbook collection at home.  I wouldn’t have had any room for her otherwise…..as if.