Families can be divided for a lot of reasons – money; family secrets; sibling rivalries. Or, in my family’s case, food network star Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa.
For years, my mom, aunts and grandmother have been Ina’s number one fans: they’ve bought every new Barefoot Contessa cookbook, my mom DVR’s almost every episode, and even keeps her flour and sugar in the same glass jars and salt and pepper in the same white ramekins that Ina Does. At every family holiday, you can pretty much bank on the fact that when you bite into one of the twenty five desserts on the table, when you ask for the recipe, you’ll hear “They’re Ina’s”, as if she’s a second cousin whose sitting in the next room or something.
And then, there’s my cousin Erin: she loathes Ina. The sheer thought of her standing in her beautiful hampton’s kitchen, with a denim or black blouse on, collar popped, cooking up something for Jeffrey before he gets home from work releases the steam from Erin’s ears. Perhaps it’s because she herself has a small bakery operation of her own in L.A., and Ina’s seemingly perfect desserts don’t live up to a Bella Boo Brownie or Max’s Monster Oatmeal Cookies. Or maybe it’s Ina’s exessive use of the word ‘Fabulous’ or the term ‘How easy is that?’
And then there’s those of us that are torn, like myself and some of my cousins. Because yes, Ina, like all Food Network stars, can make you crazy. We’re jealous of her kitchen, and her hampton’s house, and the fact that she gets to sit home and cook delicous food all day and get paid for it! WTF! But, I do think her recipes are delcious – they’re basic enough that 9 times out of 10 you’ll have most of the ingredients on hand, and can manage to put them together without burning the house down – and the woman loves her cocktails. I’ll drink to that!
One of Ina’s recipes that has become a Murphy Family Favorite is her Pecan Squares. There are 9 sticks of butter. NINE. N-I-N-E. Oh and, as if the squares themselves aren’t enough, she takes it up a notch and dips half of them in chocolate (see I knew there was a reason I liked this woman). This recipe goes on forever – you’ll have pecan squares for breakfast, lunch and dinner for a year, because one square inch of them is probably equal to your daily caloric intake. They are just sinful. But, the recipe is pretty involved – it feels like it takes forever to make them (I mean do you know how long it takes to unwrap nine sticks of butter? I’m sweating just thinking of it!)
So I was browsing online and found this delicous looking alternative for Ina’s 9-sticks-of-butter-bars (that’s what I’m renaming them) from Just a Taste, and it looked easy and equally as delicious!
Easier-than-Ina’s Pecan Bars
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 cups chopped pecans
1) Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line a 9×13-inch pan with foil, leaving enough for a 2-inch overhang on all sides. (I sprayed my foil with non-stick cooking spray, just in case)
2) First make the crust by creaming together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add in the flour and salt and mix until crumbly.
3) Press the crust into the foil-lined pan and bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
4) While the crust bakes, prepare the filling by combining the butter, brown sugar, honey and heavy cream in a saucepan and stirring it over medium heat. Simmer the mixture for 1 minute, then stir in the chopped pecans.
5) Remove the crust from the oven and immediately pour the pecan filling over the hot crust spreading it to cover the entire surface.
6) Return the pan to the oven and bake an additional 20 minutes.
7) Remove the pan and allow the bars to fully cool in the pan.
8) Use the foil overhang to lift out the bars and transfer them to a cutting board. Peel off the foil, slice into bars.
9) *An optional, highly recommended last step, stolen from Ina – DIP THE ENDS IN CHOCOLATE! Milk or Dark – you won’t be sorry! I didn’t do it this time, but, it will only make them that much more amazing.
Well what’s the verdict? Could these put Ina out of business? I think so! They were absolutely delicious. Not quite as thick and hearty as hers, but that means you get to eat more of them! The same great flavor, without all the hassle, time, and BUTTER.
So Ina, how much easier was that?