no going back

I am not a shopper. Black Friday came and went, my checkbook no worse for the wear. Last week, however, was another story. I sort of went on a bender. It all stated with my ice scrapper. I had gone out to finally liberate my car from the season’s first accumulation of ice and snow. And as if to emulate my feelings on that nippy morning, my favorite 3-inch triangle shaped ice scrapper shattered into about thirteen pieces when I touched it to the windshield. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

When I do shop, I prefer not to do it online, but sometimes, when you live in a town with a population of 600 on a peninsula in northern Wisconsin, it’s just easier. And this was serious. My winter unpreparedness had reached a critical peak. I went straight in and started shopping. It was either that or a plane ticket to Jamaica.

Here’s what came of it:

• An ice scrapper for each car, and although not quite as cool as my triangular model, they are at least made by a small U.S. company. As long as I was outfitting the cars, I also bought new snowbrushes. Whoever designed the two we have been limping by with has clearly never been through a respectable snowstorm. The new ones are made in Canada – a safe bet.

• New snow boots. Last April my ten-year-old Columbias literally broke in half. At the time I could think of no better way to usher in spring than to throw them ceremoniously in the trash – all with a satisfied smirk. I haven’t thought about them since. Until now. So four trial pairs of boots went into my Zappos cart. I don’t know how Zappos does it, but they have something really big figured out with online retailing. I love them (so don’t anybody go and tell me something I wouldn’t want to know about them). When all was said and done, I ended up sticking with the same model of Columbias, even though they had to go and mess with the overall styling of them.

• A small space heater that I hope will keep our little shed functioning as a make-shift root cellar until winter finally wins the war. And when it’s done with that chore, I know I will fire it up in my office on those few days each winter when the passive heat from the downstairs wood stove simply does not make it all the way up to my keyboard.

• Four new pairs of fuzzy pink socks. I don’t know – something about putting on pink socks makes me feel better on cold mornings.

• A pair of bomber mittens. For the past week, my fingers have gone numb on my afternoon walks wearing what I thought to be suitable mittens. I am ecstatic to report that my hands actually broke into a sweat on my last hike. My hands just don’t do that. Ever.

And, while the credit card was hot, I made one last minute, impulse purchase. Even though I have put myself on cookbook probation (due mainly to space limitations) I went ahead and shamelessly ordered a copy of Amanda Hesser’s The Essential New York Times Cookbook. I actually thought about being good and handing the book over to Mark without even cracking the spine so he could wrap it up and get a jump on Santa. But that motion lasted all of about 3 seconds. One peek and there was no going back. Which has not a bad way to spend a blustery Thanksgiving weekend. Wow. Hesser has created a truly astonishing recap of 150 years of New York Times recipes and food history. The only hard part has been deciding what to try first (all signs point to a winter of good cooking ahead). I settled on a chocolate chip cookie recipe that originated from Ms. Hesser herself. I thought I was convinced to try the much talked about David Leite chocolate chip cookie first, but Amanda’s description of a flat, chewy, salty, and chocolaty cookie swayed me. And I’m so glad it did. Get in line David.

Flat and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

As with many of the recipes in the book, Hesser proceeds this one with a great story. The moral of which is to be sure you use Diamond Crystal kosher salt, which is far less salty than other brands of iodized salt. I was so intrigued by the salt factor of these cookies that I gave my final two trays a sprinkling of coarse salt before putting them in the oven. My only regret was that I waited to try this until the end. I highly recommend it.

2 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 scant tablespoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups (12 ounces) chopped bittersweet chocolate (chunks and shavings)
coarse sea salt

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter and sugars until fluffy – about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. Add the flour mixture all at once and blend until a dough forms. Fold in the chocolate. Refrigerate the dough until chilled, preferably overnight.

Heat the oven to 325º F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll 2 1/2 tablespoon lumps of dough into balls, place 3 inches apart on the baking sheet, and flatten to 1/2 inch thick disks. Sprinkle the raw cookies with a pinch of sea salt. Chill the remaining dough between batches.

Bake until the edges are golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet, then transfer to a rack.

1 Response to “no going back”

  1. 1 Julie November 29, 2010 at 9:51 am

    Is Mark recovering some of his weight? And Charly said the sour cherry chutney was incredible. I love new chocolate chip cookie recipes. jb

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