We’re thrilled to have cookbook author and Food Network star Ina Garten as our featured chef at Williams-Sonoma this month. From her foolproof recipes to her relaxed entertaining style, who better to provide this year’s Hanukkah menu and offer her best party tips?
We talked to Ina to learn exactly what led her to the kitchen, the ingredients and tools she uses most, and her favorite holiday traditions. Keep reading to hear what she had to say.
How did you begin cooking?
When my husband Jeffrey and I were first married, we took a 4-month camping trip to Europe. The markets in France knocked me out (I was cooking dinner for us on a camping gas stove!). After the trip, I decided to really teach myself how to cook. I bought the two volumes of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and I was hooked.
What sets your cookbooks apart?
When I started to write cookbooks, the popular books had 500 recipes in them. I thought, “Who needs 500 recipes?” I wanted to do a book that had 75 really good recipes that I could make over and over again. My cooking experience was from running a specialty food store so, as opposed to restaurant food, I knew what people wanted to eat at home, like roast chicken, roast carrots, and spinach gratin.
What is your most prized kitchen possession?
What is one thing that’s always in your fridge or pantry at home?
When I’m testing recipes, there’s always the moment that I think, “This needs something but I’m not sure what.” For those moments, I always have sea salt, Dijon mustard, and Grand Marnier in the pantry; dishes of lemon and garlic on the counter; a big chunk of Parmesan cheese in the fridge; and fresh thyme growing in the garden. One of those ingredients usually does the trick!
What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Hands-down, my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. I love the meal, Thanksgiving doesn’t have the gift-giving pressure of Christmas, and it’s a time to be with the people you love most. We eat dinner around 4 p.m. and then everyone comes into the library to watch an old movie and eat homemade salted caramels. That’s my idea of heaven!