The Lexingtonienne



If I could have dinner with any famous person, I once would have said Pee-wee Herman, but then I met him and he was a weirdo. I know you are, but what am I.

So now I would choose the Barefoot Contessa, aka Ina (pronounced EYE-na) Garten. Or as Little Brother calls her, In A Garden.

A couple of years ago, when my work on the show “Pushing Daisies” sadly came to an end on a Thursday, instead of being bummed out about it, I was a little bit thrilled because the Barefoot Contessa was signing cookbooks at Williams-Sonoma the very next day — a Friday — which normally would have been a workday. Since I was freshly unemployed, I could attend said book signing. Score.

That Friday morning, I met up with my friends Aaron and Karrie at Williams-Sonoma an hour ahead of book signing time. Actually, we met each other three blocks away from Williams-Sonoma, because that’s where the end of the book-signing line was.

We stood in line in the sun for an hour and a half, listening to all the ladies in the queue clucking about Ina Garten, eagerly clutching copies of her latest cookbook. Aaron, Karrie and I chattered nervously about what we would say to the Barefoot Contessa when we got up to her.

“Ina, you are fabulous? I’m your biggest fan? I want to be in your big gay posse and live at the windmill down the road from your house in the Hamptons and go to the fish monger with you?”

I wanted to do or say something witty and charming to gain her instant favor, something that would compel her to say, “Hannah Duffy, you are fabulous and I would love for you to join me and my big gay posse for dinner tonight.” Ohhh, Ina, I accept.

I felt like I was in the movie “A Christmas Story,” when Ralphie anxiously stands in line awaiting an audience with Santa Claus. Remember when the lady in the Wicked Witch costume tries to talk to him while he’s in line and he’s all, “Beat it, I’m trying to think”? That was me with the Williams-Sonoma employees offering parmesan thyme crackers to the Ina fans.

Finally, we were inside the store (instead of wrapped around the sidewalk outside) and could actually see the Barefoot Contessa sitting behind the table, signing and smiling oh-so graciously, while rays of sunshine emanated from her dimples. She had a throng of helpers — just like Santa’s elves — and before I knew it, one of them had grabbed my cookbooks for signing out of my hands and another had spun me around and pushed me right up to the desk in front of INA GARTEN HERSELF.

I choked. I couldn’t think of anything to say. I can’t remember what she said to me. My mind was blank, just like when Ralphie stupidly fumfered that he wanted some Tinker Toys. And two blurry seconds later, I was being pushed by another one of Ina’s elves down the slide and into a pile of polyester snow. My grand meeting with the Barefoot Contessa was over. Ho, Ho, Hooooo.

All in all, it was a bust. Ina’s recipe for Parmesan Chicken, however, is not.

From Barefoot Contessa: Family Style. Serves 6.
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 C all-purpose flour
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
2 extra large eggs
1 1/4 C seasoned dry bread crumbs
1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
Unsalted butter
Good olive oil

Pound the chicken breasts until they are 1/4 inch thick. Combine the flour, salt, and pepper on a dinner plate. On a second plate, beat the eggs. On a third plate, combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Coat the chicken breasts on both sides with the flour mixture, then dip both sides into the egg mixture, and dredge both sides in the breadcrumb mixture, pressing lightly.

Heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan and cook 2 or 3 chicken breasts on medium-low heat for 2-3 minutes on each side, until cooked through. Add more butter and oil and cook the rest of the chicken breasts.

Keep the chicken breasts warm on a sheet pan in a 200-degree oven.

Ina serves this with a green salad with a lemon vinaigrette. I serve it with a salad of baby romaine lettuce, dried cranberries, toasted walnuts, and bleu cheese crumbles tossed in good olive oil and really good balsamic vinegar. (Yes, even I like this salad.)

This was an on-the-fly invention the other night. It would be a delicious and super-easy appetizer to serve when you have company.
French baguette, sliced on a diagonal
Olive oil
Basil pesto (store-bought is fine)
Shredded parmesan cheese

Lightly brush each side of the baguette slices with olive oil, then place under the broiler until lightly toasted. Flip pieces to toast each side. Spread each piece with basil pesto and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Broil again until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Happy Friday!


  • Comment by Kim — June 25, 2010 @ 8:43 am

    i have been dying to try this recipe!!

  • Comment by Hannilou — June 25, 2010 @ 10:50 am

    Kim, you should definitely try it. Ina’s recipes are fail-proof! I love this one and you can also cut your chicken breasts into strips (after you’ve pounded them thin) and make chicken fingers 🙂

  • Comment by Maggie Duffy — June 25, 2010 @ 6:31 pm

    OK…..I just finished dinner and looking @ these pictures…..I’m hungry!!!!

  • Comment by fadrian — June 26, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

    All this talk about breasts makes me (un)comfortable!

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  • Comment by Kelly Bradley — January 14, 2012 @ 12:44 pm

    Oh Hannah, your photos are gorgeous! This recipe is almost exactly the same as one your Mama gave me years ago(during Telefund, of course), when I was overwhelmed with trying to learn how to feed my family. I still make it today. Your family is BEAUTIFUL, and I love the blog. Glad you still call yourself a southerner.

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