• On her Food Network series, “Barefoot Contessa,” Ina Garten employs a laid-back, yet elegant approach to entertaining. In real life, she practices what she preaches.

    "People don’t believe me when I say this, but cooking is hard for me,” she says. “That’s why I keep things simple.”

    For a New Year’s Eve dinner party, she suggests picking a meal that can be made in an hour or two, or something that can be prepared well in advance. “You can do the cooking and assembling and put something in the fridge. Pies, in particular, can be assembled and refrigerated,” she said.When it comes to entertaining guests, Garten eschews new recipes for dishes she can make really well — especially on a special occasion like New Year’s Eve.

    “For me, my New Year’s Eve meal is like a little black dress. It’s classic, and I just dress it up a bit with special touches,” she said.

    She suggests a New Year’s menu that includes roast capon (a more elegant choice than the classic roast chicken), tagliarelle with truffle butter, roast carrots, and an apple tart for dessert. “I’ll serve it with a glass of Sauternes to make it really special,” she says, “that's like the diamond necklace to the black dress.”

    When they arrive for the New Year’s Eve meal, Garten hands each guest a glass of Champagne. She also suggests serving Prosecco with splash of cassis, which is more affordable.

    As for appetizers, Garten sticks to noncook options, like gravlax or spreads from specialty stores.

    A true proponent of casual dining, Garten loves buffet, even family-style meals. “I can’t remember the last time I plated meals,” she said with a laugh.

    “The best thing for a party is for the hostess to feel great. People want to feel that the hostess has cooked for 20 minutes and hasn’t slaved over a hot stove for hours.”

     

    Roast Capon

    Ingredients:

    1 (8 to 10 pound) fresh capon

    Kosher salt

    Freshly ground black pepper

    2 lemons, quartered

    12 fresh thyme sprigs

    4 tablespoons (1â??2 stick) unsalted butter, melted (divided)

    2 yellow onions, sliced

    2 pounds carrots cut diagonally into 2-inch chunks

    Sprinkle outside of capon liberally with salt. Wrap well and refrigerate until you are ready to roast it. Capon can sit in refrigerator up to 2 days.

    Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

    Place capon breast side up in 16-by-13-inch roasting pan and pat outside dry with paper towels. Sprinkle inside of cavity generously with salt and pepper. Place lemons and thyme inside cavity. Tie legs together with kitchen string and tie wings close to body of capon. Brush capon with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter, then sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.

    Place onions and carrots in large bowl. Add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to onion mixture along with another 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper and toss well. Place vegetables around capon. Place capon into oven legs first. Back of oven tends to be hotter than front. Roast 1 1/??2 hours or until juices run clear when you cut between the leg and thigh.

    Remove capon from oven and cover pan with aluminum foil. If vegetables aren't browned, transfer capon to a platter and cover with aluminum foil. Return vegetables to oven to cook while meat rests. Allow capon to rest 20 minutes, then carve it and serve warm with the vegetables. Skim fat off pan juices and pour juices over meat and vegetables.

    From “Barefoot Contessa at Home”

    Tagliarelle with Truffle Butter

    Kosher salt

    ½ cup heavy cream

    3 ounces white truffle butter

    Freshly ground black pepper

    1 (8.82-ounce) package of Cipriani tagliarelle dried pasta or other egg fettucine

    3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

    3 ounces Parmesan, shaved thin with a vegetable peeler

    Add 1 tablespoon salt to a pot of water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large (12-inch) saute pan, heat the cream over medium heat until it comes to a simmer. Add the truffle butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper, lower the heat to very low, and swirl the butter until it melts. Keep warm over very low heat.

    Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes exactly. (If you’re not using Cipriani pasta, follow the directions on the package.) when the pasta is cooked, reserve ½ cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the drained pasta to the saute pan and toss it with the truffle-cream mixture. As the pasta absorbs the sauce, add as much of the reserved cooking water as necessary to keep the pasta very creamy.

    Serve the pasta in shallow bowls and garnish each serving with a generous sprinkling of chives and shaved Parmesan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve at once.

    Serves 2 or 3 for dinner, 4 or 5 for a side dish or appetizer

    Serves 6

    From “Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics”

    French Apple Tart

    For a really fast apple tart, Garten says to suggests using defrosted frozen puff pastry.

    For pastry:

    2 cups flour

    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

    1 tablespoon sugar

    1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, diced

    1/2 cup ice water

    For apples:

    4 Granny Smith apples

    1/2 cup sugar

    1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, small-diced

    1/2 cup apricot jelly or warm sieved apricot jam

    2 tablespoons Calvados, rum or water

    For the pastry, place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse for a few seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse 10 to 12 times, until the butter is in small bits the size of peas. With the motor running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least one hour.

    Preheat the oven to 400 degress. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Roll the dough slightly larger than 10 x 14 inches. Using a ruler and a small knife, trim the edges. Place the dough on the prepared shet pan and refrigerate while you prepare the apples.

    Peel the apples and cut them in half through the stem. Remove the stems and cores with a sharp knife and a melon baller. Slice the apples crosswise in ¼-inch-thick slices. Place overlapping slices of apples diagonally down the middle of the tart until the pastry is covered with apple slices. Sprinkle with the full ½ cup sugar and dot with butter.

    Bake for 45 minutes to one hour, until the pastry is browned and the edges of the apples start to brown. Rotate the pan once during cooking. If the pastry puffs up in one area, cut a little slit with a knife to let the air out. Don’t worry! The apple juices will burn in the pan but the tart will be fine! When the tart’s done, hear the apricot jelly together with the Calvados and brush the apples and pastry completely with the jelly mixture. Loosen the tart with a metal spatula so it doesn’t stick to the paper. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

    From "Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics"

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