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Barefoot Contessa: If It Ain't Broke...

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Last week Ina made lobster and shrimp gratin and dark chocolate bark. I'm currently experiencing a peculiar deja vu as she whips up a scallop gratin and ... drumroll ... white chocolate bark.

I'm a fan, but I've felt this Groundhog's Day syndrome when reading her cookbooks as well. Four recipes for roast chicken, a tomato and feta salad not to be outdone by a feta and tomato salad, coconut cake and coconut cupcakes. I suppose this is a side effect of empire building and recipe proliferation.

Just for the record, I'd happily eat any and all of these meals. I'm just noting a phenomenon.

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  1. Isn't the theme this season to recreate the old standby recipes? I thought I've heard her say that more than once so far. But even before this season, she seemed to be stuck on roast chicken and salmon. She also serves baquettes with stuff on them alot for appetizers too. (Giada too) But I too would gladly eat any of her food, it does look delicious.

    1. I've been stalking foodtv for the last 8 years. Made hundreds of recipes. Emeril's, Ina's, Gale's, Bobby's, Giada's, Sandra's, Sarah's, Bob's, Tyler's, Guy's, Jaques'.. you name them and I've experimented with several of their recipes. What is the point of all of this?
      Ina's recipes work. Her recipes fail me less than 1% of the time. They are always delicious no matter what, and often teach me a new technique or introduce me to a new flavor.
      Whatever she does.. I just say - keep it coming!!

      2 Replies
      1. re: HalfBaked

        I have to agree with you, HalfBaked. I don't think there is a single recipe of Ina's that I didn't want to make again. Her recipes work, and they work well.

        1. re: HalfBaked

          There is only one recipe that I have made of Ina's that I wasn't overly impressed with. I love her recipes and just bought her new cookbook. I can't wait to make shrimp scampi!!!

        2. It's also a function of the fact that she's really a caterer (and a very good one) rather than a chef de cuisine, as it were. Catering involves a particular repertoire of cooking - recipes that are designed to be prepped ahead without suffering in quality, planned in a modular way (allowing contraction or expansion of the number of servings - in her case, she's contracted the number down to family/home-size), and be able to be delayed in serving without noticeable damage. Themes and variations are a natural part of this repertoire.

          Ina's food is the kind of food one should use as a benchmark for event meals (like weddings, et cet.), rather than fine dining restaurants.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Karl S

            Good analysis. I never thought about it that way, but you're right.

            There's lots of redundancy in any cook's repertoire, and I'd rather see repetition than a new recipe that is "original" but doesn't work.

            1. re: Karl S

              Thanks for the comments. I anxiously (often rabidly) await her new shows, and I was mildly disappointed to see such a similar menu two weeks in a row. That being said, she's never steered me wrong -- from lasagna with turkey sausage to pear and cranberry fruit crisp. Mmm.

              1. re: bostonbelle

                love that lasagna. :)

            2. jfood just finished a double batch of her Chicken Pot Pie and can't wait to hit the table with it. Jfood is a huuuuuuuge fan of Ina. Used to love her store in EH as well, if you could get by the people she hired.

              Karl S hit it right on the head. The food is for a bunch of friends who are gathering for a meal to enjoy together.

              2 Replies
              1. re: jfood

                agreed. i love her food. it just tastes good and works. not fancy restaurant food, but frankly that's why i go out!

                1. re: jfood

                  This recipe and a discussion of it have been moved to the Home Cooking board:

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/585552

                2. todays (housewarming meal) looks yummy! i think it's that others make food that looks good to eat. she makes food that looks good to MAKE AND to eat! :)

                  that apple cake. mmmmmm..........

                  1. You also really have to appreciate the calm and non-threatening manner she teaches you how to prepare her recipes. She is the only food network personality other that Jaime Oliver that I think I could enjoy sharing a homecooked meal with...

                    1. I love Ina. Her food is like her: warm, friendly, unpretentious. Just bought the new Back to Basics and have made the Chicken Bouilliabaisse, Coq au Vin, the Pomegranate Cosmopolitans, the roasted fennel/asparagus/green beans, all phenomenal. Certainly nothing I could/would have dreamed up myself. Next: roasted pears w/ blue cheese, walnuts and dried cranberries to put atop dressed arugula. What's not to love? Hers are the only cookbooks that I return to routinely; and I have dozens of cookbooks.