Monday, May 30, 2011

How I get myself invited back every year

I take Memorial Day weekend off.  The grill is cold. The doorbell does not ring.  The house is not picked up.  I sleep in.  It's fantastic.

This program is made possible by other people stepping up to the plate and hosting BBQs.  Not just regular BBQ's mind you, which are great but might not merit the state of breathless anticipation which pervades our family as this weekend approaches.  I'm talking about a BBQ where we, the fortunate attendees, get to show up and be handed fresh cherry mojitos while the host grills up a variety of gourmet sausages, slow-smoked ribs, chicken with an Asian spice rub, and burgers with all the fixings. Where we sip our drinks and enjoy a variety of homemade salsas, guacamole, and chips as we chat.  Not to mention where there are more than 10 different kinds of individually hand-packed, custom-made gourmet ice creams to choose from* to go with the warm cobbler and hot-from-the-oven caramel sugar cookies for dessert.

As Maria Von Trapp so aptly put it, somewhere in my wicked childhood, I must have done something good.

But just to be on the safe side for next year's evite, I always bring this.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

They have a great personality

There's just no way to make these look good. I tried. Artfully lit or not, they look like little piles of brown poop.  

If you make these cookies, it will not be because you are holding a food photography workshop. Or a fancy tea party where people wear linen pants. When you are hoping the local news just might be covering the charity bake sale, do not make these cookies. First time having a potential life partner over for a gourmet meal?  Ix-nay.  If there is any chance at all that there will be a lasting visual record of your dessert course, for heaven's sake make something else. These are not for public consumption.

No.  These are private cookies.  Lick the beaters when you're done because no one is home to catch you kind of cookies.   Make the whole house smell like cookies kind of cookies.  Warm and cozy and homemade in the best possible way kind of cookies.  Grab a handful fresh from the oven kind of cookies. A whole glass of milk kind of cookies. Hearty and substantive and meaningful kind of cookies. Close your eyes and sigh happily kind of cookies*.

My kind of cookies.

Visually Unimpressive But Otherwise Outstanding Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
When you've had a great oatmeal raisin cookie, straight out of the oven, it'll haunt you for the rest of your days.   There is a nearly two-year old thread on chowhound where converts continue to seek this elusive holy grail.   I don't claim to have found it.  The recipe below is a mash up of one from my sister, ideas from that blog thread, and my own instinct for what molasses could do in a cookie like this.  The quest will go on.  But these are very very good.  Try them (in private) and see for yourself.

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 Tb. molasses
2 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. quick-cooking oatmeal
1 1/2 c. raisins, or a mix of raisins and other dried fruit**

Pre heat oven to 325.

Combine butter and sugars in a large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy.  Add eggs, vanilla and molasses, and mix again.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.  Add to the butter/sugar mixture, beating a low speed just until combined.  Gently stir in oatmeal and raisins by hand.

If you have time, chill the dough for an hour or so before baking.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat, and scoop dough by rounded spoonfuls on to the prepared sheet, placing a few inches apart.  Gently pat down the centers of the cookies with two fingers, so the tops are flat, but the cookies aren't squished.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until edges are golden brown but centers are still pale brown***.  Share with people who don't care what you or your cookies look like.

* BTW, if your eyes are closed, you will by definition not give a damn about appearances.
**  If your raisins are very dried up, soak them in a little warm water for 30 minutes or so before using.
*** Will look just like little pools of crap.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mother Lovin' Sauce

In classic French cooking, there are so-called "Mother Sauces", dating from the 1800s.  They have fancy names like "bechamel" and "veloute", and were one of the first things they taught us to make in our pro chef class.   Once you know how to make a mother sauce, you can get creative.  If you add tarragon to hollandaise, you get bearnaise.  If you add gruyere cheese to bechamel, you get mornay. There's even one where you add veal bone marrow to espagnole, and get something equally incomprehensible.

That's all fine.  But when the family's hungry on a Tuesday night, I don't turn to the Mother Sauces.  I turn to the Mother Lovin' Sauce:

I (the mother) open a jar (of sauce), add stuff (see below), and get dinner in 20 minutes.  (Lovin' that).

Mother Lovin' Sauce - A Rough Guide
There's not really a recipe here, more of a general concept.  Endless variations of the MLS are possible, and then there are, in turn, a slew of possible applications of the MLS*.

MLS basics:  Ground meat (should include sausage if at all possible), an onion, fresh or dried herbs, veggies you want your kids to eat without knowing it, a jar of starter sauce, and a "kicker" sauce to add another layer of flavor.  As you can see, it is extremely helpful to live near a Trader Joe's if you will be doing this often.  Not shown: garlic, red wine, olive oil.

Chop your onions, mince the garlic, and then chop or shred the veggies.  Rule of thumb:  the more reviled the secret veggie is, the finer you will need to chop it so they won't catch on.  Carrots blend.  Zucchini does not.

Start by browning the meat in a large pan.  Did I mention you should definitely include Italian sausage if possible?  It'll really help the flavor of your sauce.  When it's brown, drain most of the fat, and put the meat in a bowl on the side.

Add a splash of olive oil to the pan.  Give it a minute to warm up, then add the chopped onions.  I like onions, so I usually add at least a cup, maybe more.   Let those soften for a few minutes, then add the garlic.  Give that a few minutes, then stir in the veggies.   Add a good sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper, and a few spoonfuls of dried oregano and basil.  Note:  At this point, people may start coming into the kitchen and asking when dinner is.

Stir the meat back in, then add the jar of starter sauce.  You probably have a favorite, but if not, try a few until you do!   Add the kicker sauce, too.  This could be a tub of purchased basil or sun dried tomato pesto, or (in this case) pizza sauce.  Blending these in makes it even more "homemade" tasting, because the flavors are more complex and layered. Start by using just  half the jar/tub of kicker sauce at first, then add more if you like.  Add a generous splash of red wine.  Taste, throw in more of anything you like, then allow the sauce to simmer for a few minutes, or even longer if you have the time.  It gets better if you do.     

You can serve it immediately, on top of cooked pasta.   Really good way to go.  Or, if you feel inspired, say by a blog post with photos that made your mouth water as you were reading, you can go a step further and make a baked spaghetti dinner.

Line the bottom of a baking dish with a layer of your MLS.  In a large bowl, combine the remaining sauce with the pasta (should be undercooked by a minute or two), a generous amount of grated cheese (a combo of Trader Joe's shredded mozzarella and their Quatro Fromaggio mix works great), and some more chopped fresh basil.   Turn that mixture into the baking dish, and cover it with more shredded cheese.  Cover like a blanket.  That's how much cheese.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or so, until it's all gooey and bubbling.

Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes, then serve**.

* For example, Bereavement Pasta.  The sauce in that recipe is one of my favorite variations of MLS.
** If you want to move from making your family very happy to making them your slaves for life, serve The Bread on the side.  Of course, you will also then have to up your health insurance coverage, due to the extreme amount of cheese and butter involved.  

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A six pack of chicken

It's a vicious circle.

Me:  Hey, can you fill up a tub of drinks for the party?  There's practically a case of beer in the fridge from last time.  Let's try to get rid of it.
My husband:  Amen to that.  All that Heineken is taking up valuable tonic space.
Guests (a few hours later):  Hi!  Thank you so much for having us. We brought you some beer.  Hope you like Heineken...Ooh! Did you make margaritas?

At the end of the party, we rinse out the empty marg pitcher, dump a case of red wine bottles in the recycling bin, and pour the dregs of exactly three partially full beers down the sink.   

My husband: (sighing heavily as he tries to find space for the net gain of two and a half six packs) When is your dad coming over?  He's good for a couple at least.

My dad doesn't come over that often.  

Beer-Basted Chicken with Asian Flavors
clipped this recipe years ago from Bon Appetit, based solely on the tantalizing list of ingredients:   Ginger, garlic, lemon, scallions...and a whole bottle of beer*.  It turns out that this is the juiciest, most flavorful roast chicken that has ever come out of my oven.   It's perfect for an easy weeknight supper.  All you need is a side of rice or mashed potatoes to soak up the tangy sauce, a green salad, and a nice cold glass.  Of white wine.  

1 12 oz. bottle of beer (whatever brand is left after the party)
6 green onions, chopped
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbs. brown sugar, packed
2 Tbs. peeled fresh ginger, chopped
1 Tbs. chopped garlic
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1 3 1/2 to 4 lb. chicken, butterflied**
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients except chicken in a bowl, and whisk to combine.   Place chicken in a non-reactive container***, and pour marinade over.  Lift chicken to make sure some of the marinade is underneath, and all the little nooks and crannies are submerged.   Cover the container, and refrigerate for at least an hour or as long as overnight.

Preheat oven to 375.  Place chicken, skin side up, in a 13x9 roasting pan, and pour marinade around the chicken.  Season the chicken liberally with salt and pepper, and roast for 15 minutes.  Baste, then reduce oven temperature to 350.  Continue roasting until juices run clear when a thigh is pierced, about 35-40 more minutes.   Baste every 15 to 20 minutes, but allow chicken to roast without basting for the final 15 minutes to allow skin to get crisp.

Transfer chicken to a platter.  Pour pan juices into a medium saucepan.   Spoon off as much fat as you can, then boil until sauce is reduced and slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.   Serve the chicken with the sauce alongside.

* Other dents in the collection have been made, thanks to these tacos, these carnitas, and a boatload of beer-battered fish & chips, which I'll post about another time.
** The original recipe did not specify that the chicken should be butterflied, but I was hoping to shorten the roasting time and decided to try this method. It worked! It's not hard to do. First, remove the neck and giblets from the cavity. Rinse the chicken and trim any excess fat.  Using sharp kitchen shears, cut out the backbone.   Then, you can either remove the breast bone completely by pulling it out carefully, or turn the chicken over, so the skin side is up, then break the breast bone in half with your hand or a kitchen mallet.  Either way, the chicken should now lie completely flat. Rinse the chicken, and pat dry.  You are now ready to go!  To see a video how-to, click here.
*** BTW, "non-reactive container" is just a code word for "Tupperware(R)".

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Birthday Box

When my son was about 3, and my mom first moved to town, they had an intense discussion about birthday planning.  I'm not even sure who the proposed party was for, but they were making a list of what they would need for the next day.

My son:  Streamers!
My mom:  OK.  What else?
My son:  Balloons!  And confetti!
My mom:  That sounds good.
My son:  And could it be in the morning?
My mom:  Well, I'm not sure...
My son:  Nobody wants to wait for their party.  You want to wake up and have it first thing!  Don't you want that on your birthday?
My mom:  Now that you mention it, I would like that.  I would like that very much.  Let's do it!

So they did.  They decorated our little family room, the two of them.  There were balloons. And confetti.  They strung a "Happy Birthday" banner across the window, and draped streamers along the guinea pigs' cage.   The doors to the room were closed, and when the birthday person woke up, my son excitedly led the celebrant in there and everyone screamed "Happy Birthday" really loud, put music on** and danced around in their pajamas.  Best of all, there was ice cream and cake, with a candle in it, for breakfast*.   It was brilliant. 

Ever since then, at our house, you get that party for your birthday.
First thing.

Celebrating his 5th birthday with his Aunt.  PJ's?  Check!
All you need to make the party is in the Birthday box.   

Most items have been in there for years.  A Happy Birthday banner made of colored foil letters, now with wads of leftover tape stuck the the H and the Y.   A roll of streamers***.  Candles of all shapes and sizes.   Packs of confetti.  A plastic Winnie-the-Pooh holding a bunch of balloons.    Wooden numbers for the cake****, to show how old you are.  

And silver rings for decorating the room.   Mom made these by hand one year, out of a roll of  ribbon she got on sale at the Hallmark store in her mall.  She painstakingly cut the ribbon into equal sized pieces, then taped them into interlocking rings, like kids do for projects at preschool with construction paper.   She made yards of these dazzling silver chains, and the guinea pigs were upgraded from crepe paper to these sparkling ornaments.  

My son turned 15 yesterday.  The night before, I went into the garage, and got out the Birthday box.   The silver rings cascaded onto the floor, and I burst into tears.  There were the streamers.  The confetti.  The candles.  The worn out banner waiting to be taped up to the window one more time.  Everything I needed to make the party.

Except Mom.

* Some years, there was bacon and eggs too, or cheese sandwiches cut into heart shapes, or buttered toast.   It is the most important meal of the day, after all.
** Stevie Wonder's Happy Birthday!
*** These do double duty as a source of confetti.  Mom hated paying for confetti, unless it was special occasion confetti, so she'd just cut up the crepe paper streamers into little pieces for birthdays.   Special occasion confetti is mini footballs for Super Bowl, or silver snowflakes for Christmas.  That she'd splurge on, but only if it was on sale.   She also used it very sparingly, so we have plenty in the Box.
*** Or the fruit snacks, the cupcakes, the Krispy Kremes...whatever your birthday treat of choice is.  My son was definitely missing his grandma, too. His choice this year was Barnaby Day Cookies, with vanilla ice cream.  

Monday, May 16, 2011


In another of our occasional forays into the wonderful world of vocab, today on Cheesy Pennies we examine the word "Barfly", and whether it could be an appropriate term for yours truly.


Noun: A person who spends much time drinking in bars

Strictly speaking, this is not me.
I spend very little time drinking in bars.
I drink in my house*.
But I do spend much time baking up bars.
Does that count?

I think yes**.

This round is on me.  I'll make it a double.

Peanut Butter Fudge Bars
Adapted from the Simply Scratch blog.  Her step by step photos? Mesmerizing. I drool over most of the things posted there***, but this particular recipe haunted me.  Not for myself, but for my peanut-butter-and-chocolate-loving sister.   I thought it was my duty to make them on her behalf****.  Let's just say that in this case, doing good was its own reward.  Imagine that you took the best peanut butter cookie dough you ever had, packed it in tight, so it was super dense, almost like fudge, then baked it just a little, so it wasn't quite a cookie yet but was definitely not raw, and had a bit of a crispy top and some crunchy edges on it.  Got that?  Now, slather on a layer of soft, dark chocolate.  See?  You're probably falling off your barstool right now, just thinking about it.

For the bars:
1 c. butter
1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
1/2 c. chunky peanut butter
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda

For the chocolate ganache topping:
4 oz. semi sweet chocolate (I used mini chocolate chips)
1/2 c. heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350, and butter a 9 inch square baking pan.  Set aside.

Using a stand mixer or a food processor, combine the butter, peanut butters, sugars and vanilla until smooth and creamy.   Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda, then slowly mix into the peanut butter mixture, just until combined.

Press dough into prepared pan with your fingers.  Don't worry if it's not perfectly will smooth out as it bakes.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until top is golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.   As it cools, the middle will sink.  Fear not!  This is exactly what should happen.  Because there are no eggs in the recipe, the dough only rises a bit as it bakes, and will condense as it cools, creating that intense, fudgy texture that makes these so rich and addictive.   It will also create a nice cozy area in the middle for the chocolate to go into, and leave a tasty cookie border around the edges of the pan.

To make the ganache, you'll need the chocolate to be chopped into small pieces if you aren't using chocolate chips.   Place the chopped chocolate into a medium bowl and set aside.   Heat the cream in a small saucepan, just until it begins to simmer.  Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and allow to sit for a few minutes so the chocolate will melt.   Whisk the mixture for several minutes until it is completely smooth and shiny.   Cool for just a bit more, then pour over the prepared bars.  Smooth out over the bars by tilting the pan from side to side, or by using a spatula. Place the pan in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour to allow chocolate to set.

Cut into small squares, and serve.

Click to Print this recipe!

Crispy Caramel Chocolate Truffle Shortbread Bars 
Once again, this illustrates the beauty and the danger of drinking at home instead of at a bar:  You can read other people's blogs while you do it.   That's how I discovered these decadent little numbers, recipe adapted from A Southern Grace.    In a nutshell, it's shortbread.  With a gooey-chewy-sticky chocolate middle.  And crunchy-nutty-salty-caramel stuff on top.    Lord, those people in the South sure do have a way with desserts!*****

For the shortbread layer:
2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. butter, cold and diced

For the chocolate truffle layer:
1 c. light corn syrup
1 1/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla

For the crunchy caramel topping:
3/4 c. butter, melted
1/4 c. corn syrup (dark or light)
3/4 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. quick-cooking (not instant) oatmeal
1/2 c. finely chopped, lightly toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter a 13x9 baking pan.

To make the shortbread, combine flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined.  Add butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.   Don't worry, it's not supposed to form a ball of dough.  Turn the crumbly mixture out into the prepared pan, and use your hands to press into a single layer.  Now it looks like dough!  Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are just beginning to turn brown.

Meanwhile, make the chocolate layer.  Combine corn syrup and chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl, and zap for a minute or two, or until chips have melted.  Whisk the mixture together until smooth, let cool, then add the sugar, salt, eggs and vanilla.  Beat on medium speed with an electric mixture to combine.  Pour over prepared crust, and bake for 27 minutes, or until outer edges are firm and center is only a little bit jiggly.

While the filling bakes, prepare the topping.  Place all of the ingredients to a medium mixing bowl, and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.   When the bars come out of the oven, allow the pan to cool for 10 minutes, then drop spoonfuls of the topping onto the chocolate layer.   Carefully spread evenly, to completely cover the pan.  Return to the oven for another 25 minutes, or until just set.

Allow bars to cool for at least an hour.  Cut into squares and serve!

Click to Print this recipe!

* It is cheaper, easier, and infinitely more comfortable.  I don't have to wear shoes.  The company is excellent.  The bartender knows exactly how much lime to put in my cocktail and is extremely liberal with the gin.  And they stock the good stuff.
** Although a more appropriate name might be...


Noun: A person who mixes and serves drinks at a bar.

...since there was definitely mixing involved and I served both of these bars to a very appreciative set of customers this weekend.  Maybe they're the barflies!
*** Drooling is also a noted characteristic of the barfly.
**** Because I'm a barfly with a heart of gold.
***** Must be all that bourbon givin' them the inspiration.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Return of Barnaby Day

Transitions are hard.

When you are five, and start a brand new school with all new kids and a new teacher and a new lunchbox at a new place with a new play structure and much higher basketball hoops, it's all very exciting, of course.  But it's also very stressful.

When you are five, you cannot make yourself a stiff gin and tonic when you get home, or strap on your boxing gloves and punch the living daylights out of something during kickboxing class*.

But you might just be lucky enough to have Barnaby Day.

Every Friday afternoon, for a few hours after school during that first year of kindergarten, my son and a bunch of friends from preschool would come over for a playdate at our house. They'd run around, getting wet in hoses, acting like pirates, playing hide and seek, shooting marbles, building train tracks, climbing in the tree house, and generally going bananas with the relief of making it through another week. The parents all chipped in a few bucks to have the kids' favorite Pre-K teacher show up to play with them.  Barnaby, a 20-something transplant from Britain, had a wacko sense of humor, hair that was constantly falling over his eyes, a ukelele, and a million ideas for crazy games. Having this icon of coolness and fun all to themselves was akin to us getting Bono to stop by the family BBQ. They couldn't believe their luck.

Little did they know just how lucky they were. The other person who was there, every week, like clockwork, was Mom.  She's the one who named the reunion free-for-all, "Barnaby Day".  She collected and paired up the muddy shoes, and stacked backpacks and lunch boxes neatly by the front door.  She knew everyone's names, gave each child a high-five when they arrived, asked about their new schools and got them some juice.  "Sharon," she'd say, smiling at me as she gazed at the mob taking over the living room, "you are doing such a nice thing for them.   Just look how happy they are!"

Then she'd start the oven, and make cookies.   Every week, the same cookies.   Because when you are five, there is enormous comfort in routine**.  In knowing that, even when so much around you is new and changing and different, Friday afternoon is coming.  You can count on it.

Transitions are hard.

When you are forty-six, and have your first Mother's Day without a mom, when Maria and Arnold are breaking up without a divorcee in Burbank scanning the tabloids, fretting, and hoping they can work it out, and when you board a plane and realize no one is sitting in an apartment praying fervently that a deranged person won't start pounding on the cockpit door during your flight, it's not exciting at all.  It's very stressful.

I'll have a stiff gin and tonic tonight.  I'll punch something during kickboxing class.  And I'll make a big batch of Barnaby Day Cookies***.  You can count on it.

Barnaby Day Cookies
These are ridiculously simple, but crazily addictive.  You know that commercial where they say, "You can't eat just one."?    It's about these cookies.   They're thin and flat, deliciously crispy and buttery around the edges, with melt-in-your mouth soft, chewy, caramel-flavored middles.   The secret?  The ratio of butter to sugar to flour in her recipe is skewed HEAVILY in favor of the butter and sugar. As it should be whenever comfort food is involved.

1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350, and line a baking sheet with a silicon baking mat.  Combine butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla at low speed with an electric mixer.   Add the dry ingredients, and continue mixing on low speed until combined.   Dough will be very soft.  Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets.   Bake for 12 minutes.

Allow to cool for a minute, then transfer to cooling rack.   Eat as soon as your fingers can stand the heat, while they are still almost bendy in your hand.  Or, cool a bit more, put on a round plate with a train in the middle and serve to the pack of kindergarteners in the back yard.

Click to print this recipe!

* You can punch the living daylights out of your little sister.   Without gloves.  Then she gets stressed out, but you feel a lot better.
** Not to mention that the kids LOVED these cookies.  Parents, too.  One dad walked in the door every week, headed straight for the cookie plate, and ate about five before he even started looking for his kid.  I think he would have proposed marriage if he could.
*** Mom made these so often, and with so many variations (when we were dieting, she added raisins, because they are fruit, and when we were celebrating, sprinkles, because they are fun), that I assumed I could just whip them up from memory whenever I wanted.

I was wrong.  I tried them with one egg. I tried them with two.  With extra brown sugar.  With a little less flour.  The now-nearly grown son faithfully tried every batch and looked wistful and sad with each bite.   He'd shake his head:  They're good, Mom.  But they're not Grandma's cookies.

I became strangely desperate, almost frantic.  I felt compelled to have these for real, not just as a memory like everything else.   At last, I tracked down the recipe in a friend's seven year old copy of a spiral-bound school cookbook.   When they came out of the oven, even before the first bite,  we all started dancing around the kitchen and screaming, "These are them!  These are them!"

Like a bunch of crazy five year olds.

We had Barnaby Day back.  We hadn't lost everything after all.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sophisticated Shorty

Apparently, "shorty" is now:

An affectionate term for a girlfriend, attractive female or concubine*.
Sample usage: "Yo shorty, it's your birthday".

I find this to be completely offensive to women in general, and attractive concubines in particular.  So I'm going to reclaim the term, and elevate it.  Henceforth, shorty is:

An affectionate term for a sweet biscuit, luscious summer fruit, and fresh whipped cream.  
Sample usage:  "Yo shorty, pass the shorty".

Bittersweet Chocolate Strawberry Shorty
Adapted from a contribution by Govind Armstrong to the Great Gatherings cookbook.  Based on the photo alone, I was dying to try it, but had to wait for berry season to come around again.   At last, the time had come.  I decided to pit this version against my tried and true recipe**, bringing both to friend's house for dinner tonight. The verdict?  This new shorty was dark, elegant, and utterly sophisticated.   The biscuit was deeply chocolate, only slightly sweet, and offset the strawberries and cream beautifully.   This is a dessert that cries out to be consumed by candlelight with an espresso and an intense conversation about contemporary architecture.  It's damn good, but it's completely different from the lazy, homey, summertime pleasure that the traditional shorty delivers every time.  

Yo.  I'm a play-ah.  I had one of each.

1 c. flour, plus extra for prepping biscuits
1/2 c. sugar, plus extra for dusting
1/4 c. good quality unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Valhrona)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 c. good quality bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate chips (I used bittersweet)
1 c. heavy cream
About 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
Strawberries and fresh whipped cream, prepared according to my original recipe.

Preheat oven to 375.  Cover a baking sheet with a silicon mat and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, place flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and pulse well until combined.   Add the chocolate chips, and pulse a couple of times.   With machine running, pour in the cream, and then pulse until dough comes together.  It will be very sticky.  You'll notice this recipe has no cold butter or shortening, like a more traditional biscuit dough does.   Somehow it works!

Turn the dough out onto a well floured board, and, using your hands, gently pat into a rectangle about 3/4 inch high.  Don't knead or otherwise work the dough.  Using round or square cutter, cut out biscuits and place onto your prepared baking sheet.  Gather scraps and use up remaining dough.

Brush tops of biscuits with melted butter, and sprinkle with sugar.   Bake for 12 minutes, or until firm to the touch.   These will not rise up very much, but don't worry.  There's so much flavor in them that you don't want them to be super thick.    Allow to cool.   At this point, you can keep these for several hours, or overnight, in an airtight container before serving.

Split biscuits with a sharp knife.  Spoon a generous portion of strawberries onto the bottom portion, add a big dollop of whipped cream, and finish with the top biscuit.   Serve immediately.

* I checked, just to make sure.   It's true.  Even worse, it's often spelled "S-H-A-W-T-Y."  Good lord.
** Given how fancy the chocolate version was, I simplified the original recipe by substituting orange zest for the lemon zest, and leaving out the thyme.  I also used 1 c. of cake flour for part of the all purpose flour, just to try it, and loved how tender the biscuits came out.