Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cook Club: Barefoot Contessa Parties!


HIGHEST SCORE DISHES: Elaine's Rugelach, Lisa's Tabbouleh, and Amanda's Lemon Bars

Our November/December Cook Club brings us Lisa's pick (check out the dish she made above!) -- Barefoot Contessa Parties!  The cookbook is categorized by different parties, ranging from Sunday Breakfast to Academy Awards, from Canoe Trip to Lunch in the Garden.  We were rather dessert loving this time around (hurray for desserts!), so check out all the tasty treats...


Chicken ChiliJackie's Chicken Chili
Score: 4

Mr. J and I love chili, so I had to try this lighter version.  This recipe brings together onions, garlic, peppers (I somehow managed to forget to buy the yellow peppers, so only had two red peppers on hand...), tomatoes, and roasted chicken.  I love how the Barefoot Contessa roasts her chicken breasts -- very simple and easy -- just rub down with pepper, salt, and olive oil and stick it in the oven at 350 for 30-40 minutes.  I found though that the chicken got a little rubbery with reheats of chili.  This dish was really flavorful -- although I have to admit that I prefer a more robust chili.  I think this would be perfect for a warm day when you're craving comfort food, but don't want something super heavy.

Side Dishes

TabboulehLisa's Tabbouleh
Score: 4.5

I have made several dishes from this cookbook and have loved all of them. Ina’s recipes tend to be easy and tasty! Her tabbouleh is a very flavorful dish that requires minimal effort. It would be great to serve on a hot summer day. The flavors of the fresh cucumber, tomatoes, scallions, mint, parsley, and lemon juice combine very well together. Make sure to refrigerate for a few hours after making it in order to experience the flavors to the fullest!


Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk CookiesBana's Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Score: 4

I've been on a cookie kick recently, so I choosing the Peanut
Butter Chocolate Chunk cookies was a no-brainer. There were no surprises in the recipe - very standard, as far as cookies go. It's essentially a chocolate chip cookie with peanut butter and brown sugar in the batter. The cookies come out very thick and soft. Because the flavor is so rich (like an overwhelming peanut butter cup), I plan on making thinner, crispier versions the next time I pull out this recipe. And, yes, there will definitely be a next time.

RugelachElaine's Rugelach
Score: 4.5

These rugelach turned out so much better than I expected -I even had a couple people like them so much they asked for the recipe! I'm not usually a big fan of raisins so I was worried that it would be too raisiny for my liking. I used mixed raisins instead of just normal raisins which I think made them taste nicer. Also, I used Tiptree's Apricot Conserve thus there was no need to puree in a food processor.

This recipe took much longer to complete than I expected due to the need to refrigerate the dough for an hour before making the rugelachs and also chilling the cookies for 30 mins before baking. One big problem I had making this was that no matter how much I buttered the parchment paper, the rugelachs stuck because of the oozing apricot conserve. So it took a while to peel away all the paper bits. I definitely plan to make these again but next time I will get myself one of those teflon/silpat baking liners. I also plan to experiment with the filling as well - chocolate and raspberry come to mind!

Amanda's Lemon Bars
Score: 4.5

I was very excited to make this recipe...I adore lemon bars, but have only eaten them ;), so thought this was a great opportunity to learn how to make them. The recipe is fairly involved, and has multiple steps, including chilling the crust, pressing it out, baking, cooling, then baking again with the filling. The hardest part was making the crust, and making sure I spread it evenly on the bottom of the baking pan. Once completed, they were cut up, and taken to work for a party, but not before I sampled! ;-) They were rich, and very (for lack of a better term) lemony, which is just the way I like them. I would venture to guess my colleagues liked them as well, since there was only one left when I went to get the plate at the end of the day. Despite all of the steps, I will definitely make these again!

Chocolate Chunk CookiesAmanda's Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Amanda's score: 3.5
Her Dad's score: 4.5 

This recipe seemed very straightforward, but per the picture, something clearly went wrong! I made this recipe when I was home for the holidays. I couldn't find chocolate chunks at the store, so I raided my parents' freezer and found scharffen berger chocolate bars. Score! I chopped a few into chunks, and charged on. The ingredients went together very quickly and easily, but when I started baking the cookies they spread, and spread, and spread...until they were thinner than 90s Kate Moss. I tried chilling the dough for the next round, but nothing seemed to help. Despite the weirdo appearance, the cookies still had a good flavor, and my family managed to annihilate them over the next few days. My foodie father thought the recipe was good, and recommended adding pecans the next time. He also diagnosed my "super skinny" problem, overbeating! I am eager to try this recipe again with a few tweaks.

Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk CookiesJackie's Chocolate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Score: 3.9

These cookies were a hit with my in-laws -- and they are amazing straight out of the oven -- soft and full of chocolatey goodness.  However, these cookies harden up quite a bit.  Don't get me wrong, the cookies are still very tasty, but I prefer my cookies soft.  I always waver on how big I should be making my cookies -- my idea of how big a cookie will be when rolling it into a ball pre-baking isn't too great.  So I leaned more towards smaller pre-baking balls this time!  Next time around, I think I would try baking these a few minutes less than recommended or making these a bit thicker.

Thanks to everyone that participated!  I'm really excited for our next cookbook -- it is one that I've never tried before that Anjali introduced to us.  Be on the lookout for the post in early March! 

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