Calories that crumble
By Jody Stump
For all the virtues of a holiday season – and there are many – there is one vice that creeps up every year from the shadows of my childhood and grabs me about the waist and thighs: the sin of gluttony. It seems that for many of us the way we express the seasonal virtues of unbridled love and selfless giving is by serving sinfully luscious foods we all munch and gobble. It starts with the groaning boards of Thanksgiving and continues almost nonstop for six weeks, until to final excesses of chili-and-dip-drenched buffets on January Bowl days. I know I’m wearing extra stuffing in the saddlebags of my hips, and my jeans have reported that I have a new paunch of rum punches. It’s time to take stock in the never-ending cycle of bite-and-diet and resolve to eat less and better.
Still, in looking back at how I got to this state, I find I have few regrets. Yes, the Tamal Motulena, which I wolfed like a starving savage at the legendary Café Pasqual in Santa Fe, carved a new notch in my belt, and I’m still wearing the salt-glazed chocolate caramels my cousin sent from Paris, but most of the calories I consumed were the good kind. They were supremely delicious examples of excellence in the art of cuisine. From the pinnacle Pina Colada slurped in eye-popping appreciation on a beach in Barbados to the melt-in-your-mouth crunch of Mom’s Christmas cookies, every morsel was a memory made sensory. Each bite carried with it the sight, smell and flavor of a happy time.
And so, my first resolution for this New Year is simply this – live and eat well. I vow to eschew all empty carbs with eeto in their names. I will eat no bread, spud nor kernel unless an artisan crafted its basic form. And, I will sample with gusto every specialty of every house worth remembering – be it humble or proud. Happy New Year everyone and bon appetit!
Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
My mother taught me many things. Fat flows to your feet if you eat standing up; almost anything is better with butter; and always eat only the crumbs – the calories have already fallen out. Although almost everyone alive has a style preference for chocolate chip cookies – and almost anything with chocolate is good – these are the ones my mother taught me to make on the kind of chilly gray days that needed warmth from the oven. These cookies crack and crumble, tumbling out those evil stick-to-the-hips calories, leaving bits of buttery sweet and cocoa sharp flavors to melt on the tongue. Reserve the whole ones to feed the fit.
NOTE: The trick to crispiness is in dissolving the soda before you mix. If you want soft and chewy, just omit the water and reduce the butter by half a stick and the soda by half.
Approximately 60, 2-inch cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. lukewarm water
1+ tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups semisweet chocolate (Ghiradelli’s preferred)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Whisk flour and salt together and set aside.
3. Cream butter until fluffy. Add sugars, beating until smooth and light.
4. Dissolve soda in water and let stand 10 – 15 seconds. Add to butter mixture with vanilla. Beat until well mixed.
5. Add flour and beat until just combined. Mix in chips and nuts. Cover and set in the refrigerator for 15 to 30 minutes.
6. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. For a more delicate cookie, I often use Silpat cooking sheets.
7. Bake 8 to 12 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp on the edges. If your oven heat is uneven, turn the cookie sheets halfway through baking.
8. Cool for a minute or two before transferring to racks. Store in tight tins to keep the cookies crisp – and don’t try to bake these on a rainy day. They’ll wilt.