One of my favorite things to do is eavesdrop. It’s terrible to admit but I've been known to shush my dining companion’s soliloquy just so I can listen in on the couple having a tiff next to us. I’m fascinated by how other people talk to each other and it’s always nice when the drama doesn’t involve me. Years ago, at a neighborhood Chinese restaurant, we were seated next to a 50 something couple and their 20 something son. As we took our seats I noticed the mother was looking down at her plate and shaking her head in that I-can’t- believe-he’s-saying-this kind of way. The father was looking imploringly at his son. The son stood up dramatically, still holding his napkin, and bellowed, “that’s it! I will never break bread with the Sterns again!” and with that he hurled his napkin onto the detritus of his moo shu pork and shrimp fried rice and stormed out. To this day I’m still dying to know what the Sterns did that was so bad.
Once, at a Mexican restaurant, the two women next to us were enjoying chips and salsa and chatting away. Again, I shot my dining companion a look and mouthed, “I’m working”-code for “shut up, this is good.” The two women were talking about how the husband of one had just written his will and how freaked out she was. Her friend comforted her, using her name which was quite unusual. My ears pricked even higher as there was only one woman I knew of with this unusual name and I was really hoping this was not she. Unusual Name responded with “[Name of Husband goes here] says it’s all because I’m pregnant. I’m just getting so emotional.” And she began to cry. I almost did a margarita spit-take when I realized she was the wife of a guy I had dated (if you consider dating months of so many ups and downs I should have gotten sea sick) that ended with him crying on a park bench when he broke it off with me. And now this winner of the jackass, arrogance, narcissism trifecta was going to be a father? That poor child. And why did his wife have to be so pretty?
In addition to listening in on other diners’ chit chat I also have food envy. It’s all I can do not to ask “is that good?” to a stranger eating her crab cake. And don’t think I haven’t been tempted to grab an abandoned French fry or the last bite of cake once my neighbors have left. I still haven’t stooped that low but I’m sure some day I will.
The other night I was out to dinner with friends who passed on having dessert. I went along with it knowing I had cookies at home but on my way out I saw a woman plunging her fork into the brownie sundae she was sharing with her man. Suddenly my awaiting cookies seemed like poor substitutes. So…time to make my favorite brownies!
These are the best brownies ever if you like your brownies fudge-y and rich. (Cakey brownie lovers? Move it along-there's nothing to see here.) As far as I'm concerned, there is no need to search for any other recipe. Believe me, I’ve tried them all. Now, again, when you see ‘coffee’ on the list of ingredients don’t start with “oh, but I hate coffee.” Or “it will keep me up.” 1) The brownies don’t actually taste like coffee, just deep and dark chocolatey 2) Buy decaf espresso powder if you’re worried. You’ll be fine. Also, nuts? Are you nuts? They just get in the way so forgo them.
I make half of the original Barefoot Contessa recipe, see below, so I can actually fit the pan in the oven and fit into my clothes. I also cut them into one inch squares so I can have more than one!
Notes: When melting the chocolate I put the bowl in the microwave and nuke it for one minute intervals-stirring after each minute. Usually can be stirred smooth after 3 nukes. Also, to reduce clean up I use one small Ziploc baggie to mix my flour, baking powder and salt and another for the 6 oz of chips and 2 Tablespoon of flour mixture. Please don’t give me a hard time about my plastic consumption-my dishwasher is tiny.
Better Than Food Envy Brownies
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
link to printer friendly version
2 sticks unsalted butter
8oz (or 1 ¼ cups) plus 6oz (or 1 cup) Ghiradelli 60% Cacao chocolate chips, divided
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate (I use Baker’s Unsweetened Chocolate Squares)
3 extra-large eggs
4 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee powder
1 Tablespoon real vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup 2 Tablespoons flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 9 inch pan.
Melt together the butter, 8 oz (1 ¼ cups) chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate (3 squares) on top of a double boiler or use microwave method above. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.
Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the remaining 6 oz (1 cup) chocolate chips with 2 Tbs flour to coat. Stir into the chocolate batter and mix till fully incorporated. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Do not over-bake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate and cut into squares-the size is up to you.
My Most Recent Chocolate Chip Cookies and Better Than Food Envy Brownies-two choices are better than one!