The 10 Ways Ina Made Our Lives Better in 2020
Although Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa herself, made her name as the queen of entertaining, she surprised us this year — the year of staying in our own homes — by showing us how to improve our time alone. From the start of the pandemic, she knew just what everyone needed: light-hearted cooking videos and giant cocktails. She also moved up the release date for her latest cookbook, Modern Comfort Food, to October and helped us all plan a menu for a small Thanksgiving. In this list, we’ve rounded up the best ways Ina improved our lives in 2020.
1. Her Clever Chocolate Cake Trick
It’s not exactly new, but it’s just another year in which we were reminded again that Ina’s fabulous chocolate cake recipe contains the brilliant move of thinning the batter out with hot coffee. The bitterness of the coffee brings out the chocolate flavor, and using it in place of the water usually found in cake recipes turned out to be a total game-changer.
Read more: Ina Garten Has a Clever Trick for Making the Best Chocolate Cake Ever
2. Her Creamy Crispy Hash Brown Trick
Among the many brilliant tricks in her new cookbook, Ina saved us time and trouble when making crispy, creamy hash browns. Forget the oven, forget the stovetop — Ina goes straight for the waffle iron. The results mean lots of crunchy, golden-brown nooks and crannies — and a very quick cleanup time.
Read more: I Tried Ina Garten’s Trick for the Crispiest, Creamiest Hash Browns and They’re as Good as Promised
3. Her Most-Used Kitchen Tool
When Kerry Diamon, the host of the Radio Cherry Bombe podcast, asked Ina for her most-used kitchen tool, she likely expected an answer like a favorite spatula or perhaps a certain knife she loves. Instead, Ina came out as practical as always, choosing a sheet pan, because, she says, “You can cook almost anything on it.”
Read more: Ina Garten Shares Her Most-Used Kitchen Tool
4. Her Potato Salad
We’ve long known that Ina, among other things, is a master of the potato. Her potato salad recipe came extremely highly rated, so this year we had to dig in and find out why. And the answer, it turns out, is much like so many of her recipes: It’s simple, classic, and never holds back on the seasoning. The potatoes get cooked in salted water and salted after, too, setting it apart from most other recipes.
Read more: I Tried Ina Garten’s 5-Star Potato Salad, and Now I Understand the Hype
5. Her Favorite Recipe of All Time (!!!!!)
Ina has done a lot of great stuff and created many brilliant recipes, so when she mentions a recipe as her favorite from all 11 of her books and as the easiest cake she’s ever made, it’s time to take notice. We may have had some quibbles with the ease she promotes, but if you’re looking for a great fig and ricotta cake, Ina’s got your back.
Read more: I Tried Ina Garten’s Favorite Recipe of All Time
6. Her Giant Cocktails
Who could forget Ina’s incredible cocktail video at the start of the pandemic? Her wry humor and heartwarming honesty — and the fact she just happens to own an enormous martini glass — show just why she is so beloved.
Read more: Ina Garten Making a Cocktail Is the Only Quarantine Cooking Video You Need
7. Her Kitchen Design Tips
As with so much of what Ina tells us, the kitchen design tip she shared with the Today crew is a classic that she reinterpreted and explained in an approachable, bite-sized way. She showed them — and us — how her fridge, stove, and sink make a work triangle, allowing her to move quickly and easily between the three most important spots in the kitchen.
Read more: Ina Garten’s Classic Tip for Designing a Kitchen
8. Her Puff Pastry Batons
When you’re fed up with cooking and just want something simple but delicious to snack on, Ina’s got the happy hour app to get you through the evening. Despite their elegant appearance, these are simply adult cheese sticks: strips of puff pastry sprinkled with cheese and baked. But the hidden treat inside — a generous layer of Dijon mustard — takes these from tired to tangy and balances out the warm, buttery richness.
Read more: Ina Garten’s Cheesy Puff Pastry Batons Are So Good, I’ve Made Them Every Single Week of Quarantine
9. Her New Chicken Recipe
This year was the summer of outside, since that was the only way to safely see friends. But since we’ve all come inside, we’ve sought solace from the best comfort food recipes — thankfully Ina’s new book was dedicated to just that. Her skillet roasted chicken recipe seemed made for the moment — big buttermilk marinated chicken thighs roasted in the oven require little attention to produce big flavors. The potato side dish even cooks up in the same pan to make everything easy. The result is moist, well-seasoned chicken, but almost as importantly, the most flavorful potatoes ever.
Read more: Ina Garten’s New Chicken Recipe Is One of the Best Things I’ve Made All Year
10. Her “Easiest Appetizer Ever”
Well before her cookbook came out, Ina knew that we needed just a little taste and offered up the recipe for her “easiest appetizer ever” on Instagram. An instant Ina classic, it takes a few simple ingredients, a touch of fancy, and almost no time to assemble. Warm goat cheese, fig jam, and figs make a sweet and savory topping for toast, finished with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
Read more: Ina Garten Shared the “Easiest Appetizer Ever” from Her Not-Yet-Released Cookbook
What did Ina teach you this year? Yell it out in the comments.