In her bestselling books, Ina Garten has showed us how to make refined cooking easy, and then foolproof. Now, in her ninth and latest effort, Make It Ahead (Clarkson Potter, Oct. 28), the über popular food personality has pulled together recipes that can be, in some way, prepped in advance to help make entertaining, as she writes in her foreword, "less stressful and more fun." We caught up with the Food Network star to chat about the ultimate make-ahead Thanksgiving menu, her culinary influences, and what book is on her bedside table.
Congrats on your ninth cookbook! In another interview with PW, you had mentioned that when your publisher, Clarkson Potter, asked for a second book after 1999’s The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, you thought you didn’t have any recipes left. What does it feel like to now have nine under your belt?
It’s pretty daunting, and amazing. It’s kind of like exercise, the more you do it the better you are at it. I was quite concerned that I wouldn’t have anything left, but now I can sit down and write 100 ideas of things I want to work on. My worst fear hasn’t been realized!
In your foreword, you say writing this book has taught you how to think “about making dishes ahead of time in a whole new way.” What did you mean by that?
The thing that surprised me was that even as I was writing about making ahead, I wasn’t doing it. I had to force myself to stop doing that, and make recipes that were meant to be made ahead, ahead. Not only was everything done before guests arrived, I just had much more fun.
Thanksgiving dinner is so often thought of as a stressful meal to prepare. Can you fill us in on your make-ahead Thanksgiving lineup?
Everything can be made ahead! The gravy can be made in advance, and you’re done. You can make that up to a week ahead. Instead of stuffing, I always make bread pudding. I assemble the whole dish, and put it in the fridge.
We all think you have to make mashed potatoes right before. But I put them in a gratin dish, sprinkle on Parmesan cheese, and put it in the oven, and it’s fantastic. I carve a roast turkey in advance onto a bed of gravy—it’s more moist, and stays hot longer.
You’ve mentioned in previous interviews that Sarah Chase’s cookbooks are staples in your home. Have there been any other cookbooks that have become mainstays on your shelf?
I’m always interested to see how everybody does things. I tend to look back at Lee Bailey’s cookbooks from the 80s. I like the ideas of them, and then I just take it a little further, taking old-fashioned flavors, and then put a more modern twist on them. I like David Leibovitz’s ice cream cookbook, The Perfect Scoop—we were cooking from that recently. And the book [Franny’s: Simple Seasonal Italian Cookbook], from Franny’s, the restaurant in Brooklyn.
One more, for our Publishers Weekly audience, who I think would be really interested in what you’re reading. What’s currently on your bedside table?
I’m always looking for a good book. I loved Flash Boys, by Michael Lewis. I’m looking forward Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators. That’s my next book.