Hint to holiday shoppers: Fans of Ina Garten and her Barefoot Contessa cookbooks are surely hoping to receive a copy of Garten’s “Make It Ahead” book for Christmas or Hanukkah. They definitely won’t be disappointed with the gift.
Garten, author of eight bestselling cookbooks, tackles stress-free entertaining by preparing dishes ahead of time. Some of her latest book’s recipes can be prepared several weeks in advance and frozen, but others can only be prepped a few hours ahead, then assembled and cooked just before serving. Garten says she wanted her recipes to actually be better by being made ahead and giving their flavors a chance to meld. Some of the dishes are frozen unbaked so they can be popped into the oven just before they are to be served.
Her book includes tips on baking ahead, planning menus for entertaining ahead and prepping ingredients. Each recipe includes instructions for making the dish as if it were going to be served right away, plus offers a note on how to make it ahead. Each recipe also is accompanied by a full-color photograph by Quentin Bacon. (The book’s other photos are by John M. Hall.)
Surprisingly, the book’s first recipe isn’t for people, but for dogs. A note accompanying the recipe for whole-wheat peanut butter dog biscuits says, “Everyone in the house needs homemade treats … .” Next comes a chapter with recipes for cocktails and what nibbles to serve with them. That is followed by a collection of “to start” recipes, from Caesar salad with blue cheese and bacon to bruschettas with sautéed chard, then chapters on lunch, dinner, vegetables, desserts and breakfast.
Recipes include Make-Ahead Roast Turkey, Summer Filet of Beef with Béarnaise Mayonnaise, Rosemary Rack of Lamb with Easy Tzatziki, Tres Leches Cake with Berries, and Chocolate Banana Crumb Cake. Garten also includes a recipe for Garlic & Herb Roasted Shrimp that, like south Louisiana’s barbecued shrimp, is made with plenty of butter and served with bread for dipping into the pan juices.
As is the case with all of Garten’s books, this cookbook’s recipes are clearly written and easy to follow. However, because the book’s collection is aimed at helping the home cook host stress-free dinner parties, some recipes also can be costly to prepare. For example, I tested a vegetable side dish, Asparagus & Prosciutto Bundles, that ended up costing more than some main dishes I’ve served.
I had selected the recipe because I had asparagus in the fridge that needed to be used, but failed to notice the recipe’s priciest ingredient — white truffle butter — until I headed off to shop.
I could only find black truffle butter (at Maxwell’s Market, with locations in Baton Rouge and Lafayette), but was told Calandro’s Supermarket at Perkins Road and Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge was expecting a shipment this week.
My taste-testers thought the scrumptious dish was worth every penny.
And, that’s exactly what readers will say about Garten’s attractive “Make It Ahead” cookbook, too.
Cheramie Sonnier is The Advocate’s food editor. Her email address is email@example.com.
Asparagus & Prosciutto Bundles
Serves 6. Reprinted from “Make it Ahead.” Copyright © 2014 by Ina Garten. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Asparagus is one of my favorite vegetables and this is how I serve it for a special dinner. Truffle butter, crispy prosciutto, and Gruyère cheese make these roasted asparagus really delicious.
2 pounds medium-size asparagus, bottom thirds discarded
6 slices of Italian prosciutto
Good olive oil
2 tablespoons white truffle butter
Fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces grated Gruyère cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
2. Fill a large pot with water, add 1 tablespoon salt, and bring to a boil. If the asparagus are thick, peel them halfway up the stalk with a vegetable peeler. Immerse the asparagus in the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the asparagus and put them immediately into a large bowl of ice water to set the bright green color. Allow to chill for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain and pat the asparagus dry.
3. Gather 6 to 8 asparagus spears into a bundle with the tips together, and wrap a slice of prosciutto securely around the middle. Repeat to make 6 bundles. Brush a rectangular baking dish (large enough to hold the bundles in one layer) with 11/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the bundles seam side down in the baking dish, arranged side by side, with the tips facing the same way. In a small saucepan, heat the truffle butter and 11/2 tablespoons of olive oil until the butter melts. Drizzle it over the bundles. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon fleur de sel, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the Gruyère and bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the butter is sizzling and the cheese melts and starts to brown. Serve hot.
MAKE IT AHEAD: Assemble the asparagus bundles, top with truffle butter and cheese, and refrigerate for up to 12 hours. Bake before serving.