Cooking

How to Throw a Dinner Party like Ina Garten

The Barefoot Contessa shares recipes and stories from ‘Cooking for Jeffrey’
Photos: Rachel Vanni/Tasting Table
Ina Garten Dinner Party

“Cooking is one of the great gifts you can give to those you love.”

These words of wisdom could come from only one person: chef, cookbook author, Food Network star and every home cook's fairy godmother, Ina Garten. And there’s plenty more where that came from in the Barefoot Contessa’s newest book, Cooking for Jeffrey, which comes out tomorrow.

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The book is a milestone, not only because it’s Garten’s 10th cookbook, but also because it’s dedicated to her husband of almost 50 years. “I thought 10 books in, it was time for a memoir and a little bit of a love letter to Jeffrey, because he’s so appreciative whenever I cook for him,” Garten tells us.

Photo: Quentin Bacon

For the uninitiated, Jeffrey has become a subject of fascination in his own right—appearing by his wife’s side at those dreamy, outdoor dinner parties or taking bites of her freshly baked cookies in their envy-inducing kitchen. Finally, with this new cookbook, fans of this model couple can get an annotated glimpse into their lives together.

Want to know how the couple first met? Or about their first date, which ended up in a Connecticut coffeehouse, because at 16, Garten was too young to get into a bar? And just wait until you see the couple cutting the cake at their wedding. The book is strewn with endearing moments, photos and stories like these—as well as tons of staple recipes you’ve come to know and love from Garten.

That’s why we’ve picked our favorites for the ultimate all-Garten dinner party menu you can prepare in your own home.

We start things off with a maple-roasted carrot salad (see the recipe), continue on to a skillet roasted lemon chicken (see the recipe), then end on a sweet note with a devil’s food cake with coffee meringue buttercream (see the recipe). As Garten would say, “How easy is that?”

“I like things that are both hot and cold, and have a lot of flavor,” Garten says of the carrot salad. “I always look for things that balance each other.” With a strong garlic vinaigrette, slightly sweet carrots and tangy goat cheese, the salad hits a perfect harmony—and is as visually appealing as it is tasty.

As for the chicken, it’s a weeknight staple in the Garten household that’s quick and easy but special enough for any party you’re throwing.

“I think I’ve probably made it more than anything. I like that it cooks at a high temperature, so it’s done in 45 minutes,” Garten tells us. “The lemons become part of the sauce—there’s something magical about that one.” We couldn’t agree more.

Finally, the cake. Garten used to make wedding cakes when she owned her specialty food store and mastered a strategy for complex desserts long ago. “I’d make the cakes one day and do the icing the next,” she explains.

Speaking of the devil’s food cake, she says, “It takes a little bit of time, but if you just follow the steps carefully, it’ll turn out.” She also advises testing the recipe before baking it for a crowd. “Try it once on your own, so you know what to expect,” the queen of dinner parties suggests.

“When you’re throwing a dinner party, there’s so much else to do. It’s an enormous amount of work, so I want everything to be simple,” Garten says. That’s what makes this particular lineup so perfect. You can make the cake the day before and quickly cook the butterflied chicken in just one pan, and all the components of the carrot salad can be made in advance and assembled just before serving.

But this is just one of many potential party menus, weeknight dinners or holiday baking projects. Like the nine books that came before it, Cooking for Jeffrey is a bible on living well, cooking with ease and making every day feel special.

As Garten says in the introduction, “It doesn’t really matter what the occasion is—big or small—but it’s the connection that we have with people we love that nourish our souls. Entertaining isn’t just about making dinner parties. It’s about celebrating those connections and I think that’s what makes life worth living.”

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