Thursday, June 3, 2010

Who do you want in your kitchen?

My blogger pal and friend in real life Trevor (if you're lucky someday I'll show you our high school homecoming picture) LOVES Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. Loves her. Ina this, Ina that. When he was recently pondering what to prepare for an upcoming dinner for eighteen, I advised him to do whatever Ina says. He knows I'm right.

I could totally imagine them hanging out in his kitchen threading kabobs and glazing cakes. And maybe he could ask her what I've always wondered: Is that really her name? Is it supposed to be a sort of play on "In a Garden"? Or is just a coincidence that her name sounds like that and she likes fresh produce? I looked in the questions section of her website, and they don't address this.

Who do I love? That's easy: Joanne Weir.

I first discovered her on her PBS cooking show Wine Country Cooking. She cooks exactly what I like to eat, Mediterranean-inspired seasonal California cuisine. And unlike other cooking shows, when I watch hers I think "I could make that!" and "Oh, she seems really nice!" Both are important to me. Her book Weir Cooking: Recipes from the Wine Country is one of my favorites go-to books when I need inspiration and a no-fail recipe. I've cooked my way through it and back several times.

And it's not just cookbooks and a show. For a ghastly sum of money you can accompany Joanne on a "culinary journey." Joanne arranges everything: fabulous accomodations, cooking, shopping, touring. I would love to go on vacation with Joanne. I would happily carry all her bags. She also teaches private cooking classes in her San Francisco home. I probably couldn't afford those either, but sometimes I dream about standing on my tiptoes outside her window and watching one.

I've made her recipe for Asparagus Cheese Puffs several times this spring. The puffs are best hot out of the oven, and guests were delighted when I pulled out sheets of these as they hung around the kitchen with a glass of wine or enjoyed a game of dominoes and a cocktail while I finished dinner.

Affordable asparagus is nearing the end of its season, so the time to make these is now.

One of my adaptations is mixing the dough in a standing mixer, beating thoroughly after the addition of each egg.

I'm eager to try variations of this recipe when the asparagus are gone—cheddar chive is one I'm thinking of.

I cooked one sheet of these at a time for a total of two sheets, so just as guests were finishing one batch, out came another.

Adapted from Weir Cooking in the Wine Country

1/2 pound asparagus, ends trimmed and bottom of stems peeled
3/4 cup whole milk
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for the pot
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup coarsely grated dry sheep’s milk cheese, such as pecorino or Manchego
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cut the asparagus into 1/4-inch lengths. Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and simmer until just tender, about 1 minute. Drain immediately and reserve.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with lightly buttered parchment paper or use a Silpat-lined pan.

In a heavy saucepan, bring the milk and butter to a boil over medium-high heat. In the meantime, whisk together the 1/2 teaspoon salt, flour, and cayenne. As soon as the milk comes to a boil and the butter has melted, remove the pan from the heat and add the flour mixture all at once. With a wooden spoon, beat the mixture until it thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Do not add another egg until the previous one has been thoroughly incorporated. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Add the asparagus, sheep’s milk cheese, and Parmigiano to the dough and mix together. Spoon rounded teaspoons of the dough 1 inch apart onto the baking sheets (half of the dough—this will give you two sheets). Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the puffs from the parchment and serve immediately.

Makes 36 puffs to serve 6.

In this day of over-the-top bombast celebrity chefs, it's so nice to find a true cooking inspiration. If I agreed to sweep the villa and scrub pans after everyone else goes to bed and carry Joanne's bags, do you think she'd let me come on one of her tours??


Sabina said...

i too love joanne. i've made these asparagus cheese puffs several times and they're a big hit. miss you! xoxo

Midge said...

Cindy, do you know if you could make part now and freeze the remaining dough?

Cindy said...

From what I understand from similar recipes, the time to freeze is after baking. When ready to use thaw and then crisp up in the oven for about 10 minutes. I've meant to try this but am embarrassed to admit that we always eat them all.

jilly said...

Oh those look so good, I may have to try those. You can tell your friend that Ina really is her name. One of my girlfriends mom is a good friend of hers, or at least was back in the 90's! We were frequent customers when we used to have a summer share in the Hamptons.

Sis. Boom. said...

I'm so glad you posted these but a bit too late for me to incorporate into weekend plans. Just to show how much YOU know, I have finished the party menu and there is not a single Ina item on the menu! I'll admit that it doesn't happen, however! I am going back into my own personal archive this time around. Hopefully it will give me blog fodder for a couple weeks.

But seriously, I think it would be mad-fun to spend an evening in the kitchen with YOU. I can and have done everything Ina already. An evening with Fig would be a lot more fun. Can you imagine?

And about that picture. Good odds it will make it up before the summer is out, no?

Brianne said...

Thank you for posting these, Cindy! I've been thinking about them for days and just finished devouring a plate of them. It was a BIG mistake to make them without a crowd of people to help me eat them. Guess I'll have to hit the gym a little extra this week... Thanks again!!!

政弘 said...


ANFQ said...


Anonymous said...

傻氣的人喜歡給心 雖然每次都被笑了卻得到了別人的心..................................................

Rachella said...

I'd pick Anthony Bourdain, though he seems to hate vegetarians so I'n not sure what we'd make.

Anonymous said...

認清問題就等於已經解決了一半的問題。 ....................................................