Holiday Homage to Ina
Looking to burnish your kitchen prowess this holiday season? Start by heading to Arcade Booksellers and purchasing one, or several, of Ina Garten’s cookbooks. Her recipes are foolproof and memorable. When a meal needs to be perfect, I know I can count on her. Christmas dinner is one of those occasions.
While I’m always trying out new recipes and tweaking others, our Christmas meal is built around Garten’s Slow-Roasted Filet of Beef with Basil Parmesan Mayonnaise, from her “Barefoot Contessa Foolproof” cookbook. It is easy and elegant. Simply tie a whole bunch of tarragon sprigs to the filet and brush with olive oil, salt, and pepper. The tarragon gives it just the right amount of delicate flavor. You can make the mayonnaise in advance.
A perfect complement to the rich filet is Roasted Vegetable Torte, which you will find in Garten’s first cookbook, “Barefoot Contessa.” While we eat this dish year-round, it has become a holiday buffet staple. It’s not only easy to assemble but can be made in advance, which is a godsend when the kitchen is in full chaos mode. I serve this colorful, layered torte, at room temperature, on a cake plate. This dish will have your guests thinking you’re a CIA (not the spy agency) graduate.
The beauty of Ina Garten’s recipes is that they enable home cooks to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with guests. While leafing through her time-tested cookbooks, you’ll find plenty of appetizers, sides, and desserts to fill out your holiday menu.
Wishing you wonderful feasts and family festivities!
Slow-Roasted Filet of Beef with Basil Parmesan Mayonnaise
1 whole filet of beef tenderloin (4-5 lbs.), trimmed and tied
3 T. good olive oil
4 t. Kosher salt
2 t. coarsely ground black pepper
10 to 15 branches fresh tarragon
Preheat oven to 275° F.
Place the filet on a sheet pan and pat it dry with paper towels. Brush the meat all over with olive oil, reserving about half a tablespoon. Sprinkle it with the salt and pepper. Place the tarragon branches around the beef, tying them in 4 to 5 places with kitchen string to keep them in place, and then brush the reserved oil on the tarragon.
To ensure your oven temperature is accurate, insert an oven thermometer in the meat. (I use one by All Clad, which stays in the meat while it cooks.)
Cook the filet for 1¼ to 1½ hours, until the temperature registers 125 degrees in the center for rare, or 135 degrees for medium-rare. Cover the meat with aluminum foil and allow to rest of 20 minutes.
Slice thickly and serve warm or at room temperature with basil parmesan mayonnaise.
Roasted Vegetable Torte
2 zucchini, cut into ¼-inch slices
1 red onion, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
1 t. minced garlic
Good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 red bell peppers, halved, cored, and seeded
2 yellow bell peppers, halved, cored, and seeded
1 large eggplant (1½ lbs.) unpeeled, cut into ¼-inch slices
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400° F.
Cook the zucchini, onions, garlic, and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat for 10 minutes, until the zucchini is tender. Season with salt and pepper. Brush the red and yellow peppers and eggplant with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast on a baking sheet for 30-40 minutes, until soft but not browned.
In a 6-inch round cake pan, place each vegetable in a single, overlapping layer, sprinkling Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper between each of the layers. Begin with half of the eggplant, then layer half of the zucchini and onions, then all the red peppers, followed by all the yellow peppers, then the rest of the zucchini and onions, and finally the remaining eggplant.
Cover the top of the vegetables with a 6-inch round of parchment or waxed paper. Place a 6-inch flat disk (such as a cake pan or the bottom of a false-bottom tart pan) on top and weigh it down with a heavy jar or several cans of beans. Place on a plate or baking sheet and chill overnight). Drain the liquids, place the platter on top of the cake pan, and flip it over. Gently remove the cake pan.
Serve at room temperature.
Basil Parmesan Mayonnaise
Yields 2 cups.
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
3 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 T. Dijon mustard
½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves, lightly packed (I use more)
½ t. minced garlic
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup vegetable oil, at room temperature
½ cup good olive oil, at room temperature
Place the egg yolks, lemon juice, Parmesan, mustard, basil, garlic, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Process for 20 seconds, until smooth. Combine the vegetable oil and olive oil in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. With the processor running, slowly pour the oil mixture through the feed tube to make a thick emulsion. Add more seasonings as needed to give this sauce the right amount of punch.
Store in the refrigerator until ready to use; it will keep for up to a week.