I first "met" Ina Garten while living in Paris, and while I've bumped into her a few other times over the years at various food events, it is the memory of that first encounter that really sticks with me. I had popped into our neighborhood florist to pick up some fresh flowers to bring home, only to find the place swarming with Ina's advance team, setting up lighting and cameras, and getting the place looking "just so".
Apparently she was in-town to film an episode of her "Barefoot Contessa" show that was all about her favorite places to shop in Paris (hey, someone's got to do it), and this little jewel of a flower shop on Rue Oudinot was on her hit-list. It took me a while to figure out what all the fuss was about because quite frankly, I hadn't a clue who Ina Garten was back then. I heard the word contessa being murmured by some of the staff, so claimed a spot in the corner of the shop from which to catch a glimpse of whatever royal figure was approaching from down the street.
A few moments later cameras starting rolling and in walked Ina with the force of a hurricane, handlers in-tow and dressed in her trademark blue (jammies looking) pant suit. To be honest, not knowing who she was, my first thought was that someone needed to tell this poor woman that it's not OK to be seen in public in THIS city in your pajamas……this was Paris after all. When she started speaking and I realized that she wasn't French royalty but rather an American, I really started to get anxious. "OMG, they are going to eat this poor woman alive….someone has to tell her to go back to her hotel and put on some real clothes!"
My anxiety over her wardrobe choice was short-lived because within seconds of her arrival not just the staff of the shop, but many of the clientele were fawning all over her, posing for photos and asking for her autograph.
I was gobsmacked.
In a city where it was de rigueur to dress for a night on the town just to drag your trash to the curb on collection day, how could it be that these locals were falling all over themselves for a moment with this American diva traipsing around Paris in her PAJAMAS?
Being a TV celebrity has its perks I guess, and trolling around Paris in your PJs looked to be one of them.
Garten has made a lovely career out of teaching people how to entertain with ease. Her cookbooks like this one, Barefoot Contessa at Home and her Food Network cooking shows, are all about flower arranging, table setting, and cooking to please a crowd. Her recipes showcase fresh ingredients, fairly simple preparation, and are chosen for their ability to be prepped (and sometimes cooked) before guests arrive, and require a minimal amount of attention and fuss to finalize and get on the table. I've cooked many of her dishes over the years all to rave reviews, but this one has to be one of my favorites. Both the fish and vegetables can be prepped in advance of guests arriving, then popped in the oven to cook (largely unchecked) while you all mingle and enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail or three. Check out the video below to watch Ina creating this dish and see for yourself how very simple it is to make.
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You can see more videos like this at ulive.com.
The prosciutto protects the cod (or halibut or bass) from the extreme heat of the oven, rendering it perfectly moist and flaky, and enhances it's ocean-brine saltiness. In contrast, the roasted root vegetables caramelize beautifully and offer a nice sweet counter-point to the slightly salty surf and turf combo of the cod and prosciutto. Any root vegetables will do here, use whatever you have laying about. I had some sweet potato, white potato, carrots, and parsnips, and they made for a deliciously colorful bed on which to serve the fish. A last minute drizzle of browned butter – rosemary – lemon sauce brings it all together with a certain je ne sais quoi.
Cook in your pajamas if you want….I'll never tell.
Cheers – Steve
Prosciutto Wrapped Fish with Roasted Root Vegetables
- 2 cups peeled, seeded and 1/2" diced butternut squash
- 2 cups peeled, and 1/2" diced yukon gold potatoes
- 2 cups peeled, and 1/2" diced parsnips
- 2 cups peeled, and 1/2" diced carrots
- good olive oil
- kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
- 6 (8 ounce) skinless fish fillets (sea bass, cod, halibut)
- 6-12 slices prosciutto
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 6 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- lemon wedges for serving
- Heat the oven to 400 ℉.
- To prepare the vegetables, place all the diced veggies in a large mixing bowl, drizzle with 1/3 cup of olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Toss to coat, then pour onto a large, rimmed sheet pan and spread into an even layer. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring once about halfway through cooking. After 30 minutes, toss with the garlic and roast another 10 minutes, until all the vegetables are tender and starting to brown.
- Meanwhile, line another sheet pan with foil and place a baking rack on top of the foil. Brush the fish fillets with olive oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Wrap each piece with 1-2 slices of prosciutto (depending on how large the fillets are, and how wide the slices of prosciutto are...you want the fish well wrapped in the ham). Arrange the fillets on the rack with the seam side down and roast for 10-15 minutes, until just cooked through.
- While the vegetables and fish are roasting, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium sized saute pan. Add the rosemary sprigs (finely mince one of them if you wish) and cook over low heat until the butter begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprigs, stir in the lemon juice and set aside.
- To serve, spoon the vegetables onto each of 6 plates, top with a piece of fish, and spoon lemon-rosemary butter over the top of each fillet. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.