Tips straight from the Barefoot Contessa's kitchen to yours
Ina Garten — affectionately known to fans as the Barefoot Contessa — has opened her Hamptons dinner parties to fans for years with her long-running Food Network series. Here, the cookbook author and celebrated TV personality shares her secrets to being the best Thanksgiving host — or guest — ever.
1. SIMPLE AND STRAIGHTFORWARD
Thanksgiving is no time for trying that complicated new recipe you’ve been trying. “Only make things you know how to make really well,” Garten advises. “There’s enough stress with Thanksgiving without wondering if that five-spice, onion creamed thing is going to come out well!”
2. HOSTESS MUST-HAVES
Skip the typical bottle of wine, and treat the hostess to tasty nibbles, like a bag of crunchy Bola granola or a delectable box of Fran’s salted caramels. But if you’re looking for a particularly luxe token, opt for cashmere slippers from Garten’s go-to brand, Italian clothier Loro Piana.
3. PLAYLIST PICKS
Garten’s customized dinner playlist includes classic crooners like Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett. “Often times, it’s many generations at one table,” explains Garten. “And I think everybody loves old-fashioned music.”
4. SIDE PIECE
Make side dishes your main focus, suggests Garten, noting “that’s what [people] really love.” Her favorite seasonal staple? Creamy root vegetable gratin, topped generously with Gruyère cheese and crispy homemade bread crumbs. (Look for the recipe in her new release, Cooking for Jeffrey, available now.)
5. NICE ENOUGH TO MAKE IT TWICE
If you’re aiming for the title of “hostess with the mostess,” consider taking the time to make a second turkey with all the fixings. “I make double everything,” admits Garten. Her rationale? “I send guests home with all the leftovers, so they have not only a great Thanksgiving, but so that they can have leftovers and can make fabulous sandwiches the next day.”
6. SPEAK EASY
Given the likelihood that politics will come up while the mashed potatoes are being passed, consider having a few water cooler topics ready. “You should have a few questions prepared for guests, so once [political conversation] gets started, you can cut it off,” says Garten. Her go-to subject? Pop culture and recent favorites, like the Broadway show Falsettos. Says Garten, “It’s just fabulous.”
7. STRAIGHT FORWARD SHORTCUTS
Good news for all the mere mortals out there: There’s no shame in opting for easy shortcuts. “It’s not cheating,” says Garten. “If there’s a great bakery that makes a wonderful apple pie, buy it. If there’s a florist that does beautiful arrangements, order them.” In short, “Do everything you can not to do it all yourself.”