The Barefoot Contessa Talks Turkey


On an evening in September, legions of zealous Ina Garten fans swarmed the steps of UT’s Bass Concert Hall to see their culinary idol in the flesh. The world-famous television chef and cookbook author—otherwise known as the Barefoot Contessa—was on campus to answer burning questions about her covetable Hamptons lifestyle, meringue, and her husband Jeffrey, a frequent and much-beloved presence on her Food Network show. The mere mention of his name received swoons and wild applause from the audience.

Ina_GartenThe Q&A, led by Texas Monthly’s executive editor and food writer Patricia Sharpe, BA ’65, MA ’72, covered Garten’s prolific career in the business, which began when she purchased a fledgling specialty-foods store called The Barefoot Contessa. She also touched on her love of French cooking and her style philosophy when it comes to food, gardens, and interior design: “I like simplicity in everything.”

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the conversation quickly turned to turkey, and Garten gave the captivated audience her dos and don’ts for a delicious and stress-free meal. Here’s a sampling of those tips.


Pay attention to seasoning. “The two ingredients that people misuse the most are salt and pepper,” she said. Garten encouraged her followers not to be afraid of salt and recommended buying a pre-salted Kosher turkey, or salting the bird the night before so that the salt has time to sink into the meat.

Go with the gourd. Butternut squash is her favorite fall ingredient. No holiday table is complete without it.

Get things done ahead of time. Garten said that she isn’t one of those cooks who can work in the kitchen while sipping a glass of wine and hosting her guests at the same time. Everything is prepared before the first doorbell rings.


Brine. “I think it’s completely impossible,” she said. “You have to take the shelves out of your fridge, wrestle pans of hot liquid—there’s turkey juice everywhere!”

Lose sleep. Garten said she remembers her mother always waking up at four in the morning on Thanksgiving Day. There’s no need for this, she stressed. “You only have to cook a turkey for about two and a half hours.”

Reinvent the wheel. “If you ever get the urge to make a turducken,” she said, “just lie down until the urge passes.”

Top, photo courtesy Thinkstock.

Inset, Ina Garten poses for the cover of her new book, Foolproof: Recipes You Trust. Photo courtesy Texas Performing Arts.


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