Ina Garten's Foolproof Cooking Tips and Holiday Menu

PHOTO: Ina Garten's slow-roasted beef tenderloin is shown here.
Quentin Bacon; Clarkson Potter

The Barefoot Contessa is at is again, this time offering her easiest foolproof recipes for any occasion. Whether you're an experience cook or beginner, you're guaranteed to find a fantastic new recipe in her latest book. Here are some of Ina Garten's tips from "Barefoot Contessa Foolproof."

1. Read the entire recipe before you start cooking. You don't want to discover the beans need to soak overnight when guests are due to arrive in an hour.

2. Follow the recipe precisely when you make it the first time. After that, you can always modify it to your personal taste.

3. Buy the right ingredients. Using table salt instead of kosher salt or crushed tomatoes instead of whole tomatoes can really change a recipe.

4. Set most of the ingredients out on the counter before you start cooking so you don't run around like a crazy person or forget to add something to the recipe.

5. Unless you're Julia Child or an Iron Chef, measure all your ingredients. Use wet measures (glass measuring cups) for wet ingredients and dry measures (cups and teaspoons) for dry ingredients. I also use a small kitchen scale, which is a great tool for measuring.

6. Smell or taste ingredients for freshness before adding them to a recipe. Using fish, eggs, milk, or olive oil that are even slightly off can wreck even the most carefully made dish.

7. Taste for seasonings while you're cooking to see how the dish is progressing--except, obviously, things like raw chicken and hot caramel!

8. Grind your own black peppercorns and Parmesan cheese. It's amazing what a difference it makes.

9. Don't walk away from something simmering on the stove. While you're not looking, liquids can boil over or evaporate and ruin a perfectly good dish. Check them every 5 minutes or so to be sure the heat's right.

10. Store all food well, both raw ingredients and cooked dishes. Keep fresh meats and fish very cold and keep vegetables wrapped or in the crisper in your fridge. Allow cooked dishes to cool to room temperature and then wrap them tightly--and label them!--before storing in the refrigerator or freezer.

PHOTO: Ina Garten's slow-roasted beef tenderloin is shown here.
Quentin Bacon; Clarkson Potter
Slow-Roasted Filet of Beef with Basil Parmesan Mayonnaise

Who knew roasting a filet of beef at 275 degrees would have such a tender result? Make the basil-Parmesan mayo while the filet cooks and you have an instant main course made with little effort.

Recipe: Ina Garten's Slow-Roasted Filet of Beef with Basil Parmesan Mayonnaise

PHOTO: Ina Garten's balsamic-roasted Brussels sprouts are shown here.
Quentin Bacon; Clarkson Potter
Balsamic Roasted Brussels

Brussels Sprouts get a bad name for being bland. This recipe uses a good sweet balsamic vinegar to add a delicious tang to boring sprouts.

Recipe: Ina Garten's Balsamic Roasted Brussels

PHOTO: Ina Garten's sticky toffee pudding recipe is shown here.
Quentin Bacon; Clarkson Potter
Sticky Toffee Date Cake with Bourbon Glaze

End the meal with this sweet cake soaked in a homemade bourbon glaze. Serve with whipped cream and cups of freshly-brewed coffee.

Recipe: Ina Garten's Sticky Toffee Date Cake with Bourbon Glaze

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