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Barefoot Contessa Family Style: Easy Ideas and Recipes That Make Everyone Feel Like Familyby Ina Garten
Turn up the Volume
We've all had the experience. We're invited to dinner at a friend's house. We ring the doorbell and the host (maybe a little distraught) opens the door to a VERY quiet house. Oops! Are we the first to arrive, or-worse-is it the wrong day? Either way, we feel a bit ill at ease and the evening's off to a bad start.
Replay the opening scene with this difference: the host opens the door and you hear Roy Orbison belting out "Pretty Woman" or the Beach Boys rocking to "Good Vibrations." Not only do you know you've come to a party, but you feel good immediately. No matter what kind of day you've had, your spirits soar. And that's a great start for a fabulous evening.
I think the first few minutes of a party really set the tone for the night. For me, music that makes you feel like you're at a party is the difference between a fun evening and a dull one. The music I choose is a lot like the food I make: it's familiar, but it's a little better than you remembered. I used to organize all the details for a party and then at the last minute throw some CDs on the stereo. Once I realized how important the music was, I started previewing my choices while I cooked dinner. (My CD changer holds six discs, more than enough for an entire evening.) During cocktails, I'll choose music that is upbeat and fun and I play it just a little too loud: Cesaria Evora's Café Atlantico, Stephane Pompougnac's Costes: La Suite, Pink Martini's Sympathique, and The Best of the Temptations: Volume 1, the 60's. I always know I'm successful if everyone is swaying to the music while we fix drinks and nibble on roasted cashews.
When it's time for dinner I want to turn down the volume a bit but I don't want something that's going to put everyone to sleep. This is a great time for Anita Baker's Rapture, Ann Hampton Callaway's To Ella with Love, and even something a little more emotional, like Roy Orbison's For the Lonely. The music makes you feel good but it's relaxed. Then, as I'm serving dessert and everyone is feeling just a little too satisfied, I'll crank up the volume again with something like Roxy Music's Avalon or a CD from the Cuban group Buena Vista Social Club. This way I'll send everyone home feeling upbeat and thinking, "Wasn't that fun!"
East Hampton Clam Chowder
Serves 6 to 8
This soup is a variation on a recipe from the original Loaves and Fishes Cookbook written by friends Devon Fredericks and Susan Costner. Instead of the usual bland cream and clams, this one is like a clam stew with lots of vegetables and just a bit of milk to finish. You can make it a day in advance and reheat it slowly before dinner.
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
2 cups medium-diced celery (4 stalks)
2 cups medium-diced carrots (6 carrots)
4 cups peeled medium-diced boiling potatoes (8 potatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 quart (4 cups) clam juice
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
3 cups chopped fresh chowder clams (1 1/2 pounds shucked clams)
Melt 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) of the butter in a large heavy-bottomed stockpot. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until translucent. Add the celery, carrots, potatoes, thyme, salt, and pepper and sautÃ© for 10 more minutes. Add the clam juice, bring to a boil, and simmer, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.
In a small pot, melt the remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and whisk in the flour. Cook over very low heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Whisk in a cup of the hot broth and then pour this mixture back into the cooked vegetables. Simmer for a few minutes until the broth is thickened.
Add the milk and clams and heat gently for a few minutes to cook the clams. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve hot.
If you use bottled clam juice instead of fresh, you may need to add more salt.
Chicken Noodle Soup
Forget canned soup-this is the real thing. And wouldn't we all feel better after eating a bowl? I love having homemade chicken stock in the freezer so I can make this soup in a hurry.
1 whole (2 split) chicken breast, bone in, skin on
Freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts homemade Chicken Stock (page 93)
1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)
1 cup medium-diced carrots (3 carrots)
2 cups wide egg noodles
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Place the chicken breast on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until cooked through. When cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and shred or dice the chicken meat.
Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a large pot and add the celery, carrots, and noodles. Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, until the noodles are cooked. Add the cooked chicken meat and parsley and heat through.
Season to taste and serve.
I use Goodman's wide egg noodles.
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