Double Chocolate Layer Cake


This is a great everyday cake. Because other people make cakes just because, right? It’s also a great birthday cake, retirement cake, anniversary cake, Valentine’s Day cake, Arbor Day cake, Brewers finally won today cake, you had a hard day at work cake… See, you can come up with a cake reason any day of the year. Plus, this cake is so easy to make. Mix dry ingredients, dump in wet, mix. That’s it.

For me, it’s only made from pantry ingredients that I normally have on hand anyway, so I really can bake it up whenever the mood strikes for chocolate. The cakes bake up light and springy with a high dome. Most people cut off the dome to even it out for easier layering, but to me that’s just wasted cake. I just keep the dome and fill in where I need to with extra frosting glue. Plus I don’t care how it looks when it’s done; if it’s domed on top, fine, just means more cake. If you’re feeling fancy, cut that dome off.

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My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies


Forget apple pie, chocolate chip cookies should be America’s iconic baked good. Everyone loves them, you can get them anywhere, and they’re easier to make than apple pie. 

This is my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe. It uses browned butter to impart a toffee-like flavor that you generally only get from aging the dough in the fridge for a day or so (as started by the NYT famous recipe). While I’m sure that recipe is pretty damn delicious, I never plan ahead to make cookies. When I want chocolate chip cookies, I need them NOW. Maybe other people can plan ahead for their cravings, but not me. (That is also why my most common brownie-baking time is midnight.)

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Late Summer Lobster Salad


I’ve never cooked whole, live lobsters before. So when the local high-end grocery store, Sendik’s, had a one-day lobster sale, I figured it’d be a great time to try! $10 live ~1 lb lobsters. Awesome. I even avoided the first-come-first-serve fiasco by reserving them the day before.

My friend Lynn was having a cookout the next day, so I decided to use the lobsters in a dish to bring. It being late summer, there was plenty of gorgeous produce available at the farmer’s market, so I decided to make a lobster salad with sweet corn, tarragon and orange cherry tomatoes. And as another first, I made the mayonnaise from scratch. Because if you’re going to spend $20 on lobsters for a salad, you better make sure you use awesome ingredients with it!

The mayonnaise is an Alton Brown recipe, and was pretty easy. I initially used my immersion blender, and everything was going swimmingly until the emulsion decided to break about halfway through adding the oil. I have no idea what happened, but I switched to the old fashioned bowl and whisk for the next attempt. Of course, that worked perfectly, even if I had to ask Nick to hold the bowl steady for me while I whisked and added oil.

I was also hoping to have lobster fights on my kitchen floor, but alas, one of the lobsters was almost dead by how lethargic he was. So they simply went in the pot as soon as I brought them home. (I admit I was tempted to name one Pinchy and make him my pet and grow him until I accidentally cooked him in a too-hot bath, but that’s another story).

I served the salad on top of some crusty baguette slices that I drizzled with olive oil and toasted in the oven. I’m sure it’d be good on salad greens, as a lobster roll (though a complicated, sacrilegious one), in pita bread, or eaten with a fork straight from the bowl as I did with the leftovers!

Late Summer Lobster Salad

2 1lb live lobsters, cooked your preferred method (I chose to steam instead of boil)
2 ears of fresh sweet corn
1 large handful of orange cherry tomatoes, straight from the garden
1/4 c minced red bell pepper
2 TB fresh minced tarragon
1 TB minced chives
2-3 TB homemade mayonnaise, or to taste (see recipe below)
S+P to taste

1. Remove the meat from the cooked lobsters. I even lined up the little lobster legs and used a rolling

Say hello to my little friends

Say hello to my little friends

pin to smoosh the meat out of them. I don’t waste lobster! Roughly chop the meat and try not to eat it all while doing so.

2. Remove the corn from the cob. Quarter or halve the cherry tomatoes, depending on size.

3. Combine the lobster, veggies, herbs and mayonnaise and mix gently to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Simple and delicious!

AB’s Mayonnaise

1 egg yolk
1/2 t salt
1/2 t dry mustard
2 pinches sugar
2 t fresh lemon juice
1 TB white wine vinegar
1 c oil, safflower, corn, or canola

1. Whisk together the egg yolk and the dry ingredients. Whisk in half the lemon juice and vinegar.

2. Whisking quickly, add oil a few drops at a time until an emulsion forms and it becomes thickened and lighter. Then keep whisking while you add half of the oil in a thin steady stream. Add the rest of the lemon juice a vinegar, then continue adding the oil slowly until it is all incorporated.

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Peanut Butter Brownies


I probably don’t need to say it, but holy decadent, batman!

I had these beautiful brownies bookmarked over at Loves to Eat for the longest time, just waiting for an excuse to make them. I figured Labor Day, and specifically my friend Lynn’s party, was good enough for me. As an added bonus, other people would be at this party, ensuring I wouldn’t eat the entire pan myself. Thanks, other people.

These remind me of the chocolate peanut butter cake I’ve made, but with much less effort and time expenditure. But the payoff is still awesome. The brownie base is super fudgey and rich, so I cut these into 24 squares and one is plenty (at least for a couple hours!). The peanut butter filling is really just frosting, which works for me. And the topping originally didn’t call for any cream, but I wanted something that wouldn’t set up as a hard layer, and adding a bit of cream to make a ganache worked out perfectly. The peanut butter layer is soft and silky and the ganache is smooth but still a bit soft, even from the fridge.

Make these. You know you want to.

Peanut Butter Brownies

Brownie layer
1 c butter
2 c sugar
3 eggs
3 t vanilla
2/3 c cocoa powder (Dutch process is fine)
1 c AP flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking powder

PB filling
1/2 c butter, softened
1/2 c creamy peanut butter
2 c powdered sugar
~2 t milk

Ganache topping
1/4 c peanut butter
2 c semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 c butter
1/4 c cream

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a 9×13 pan with aluminum foil to make a sling, or use parchment, and coat with cooking spray. I only used a heavy dose of cooking spray, and that still wasn’t enough for these fudgey brownies, so I recommend lining the pan for once.

2. For the brownies, melt the butter in a large saucepot. Remove from heat, add the sugar and stir to combine. Beat in eggs and vanilla until homogeneous. Add cocoa, baking powder and salt and combine. Add flour last and stir until combined. Spread into pan and bake 25-30 minutes. Cool completely before frosting.

3. For peanut butter filling/frosting, combine the ingredients and beat until smooth. Add more milk if necessary to make it spreadable. Try not to eat all the frosting before your brownies are cool.

4. For the ganache, combine the ingredients in a double boiler or in a microwave safe bowl. Melt together and combine.

5. Once the brownies are cool, spread the frosting on top. Place them in the fridge for at least 30 minutes until the frosting sets up a bit. Pour the ganache over the top and spread gently. Return to the fridge until set. I like to keep them in the fridge and serve cold because the brownies are so fudgey.

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Meat and Potatoes Night


Nick requested steak and baked potatoes last Saturday night. I’m not the biggest fan of either, frankly. I really have to be in the mood for steak, and baked potatoes have never wowed me. The only real steak-and-potatoes-meal I crave is French-style steak frites from one of my favorite restaurants, Chez Jacques.

So, to compromise, I made steak au poivre with brandied cream sauce and potatoes gratin with jarlsberg cheese and cream from a local farm. Even if you’re craving a manly man steak and baked potato, how on earth can you say no to that?! Yeah, Nick enjoyed it. So did I, but I think I’m steaked out for the next 6 months or so.

Once again, the steak recipe is adapted from Cook’s Illustrated. The potato recipe is a mish-mash from memory from last Christmas and random recipes online. I don’t remember exactly what recipe I used last year, but it’s pretty difficult to screw up, don’t worry. But whatever you do, don’t underestimate the amount of baking time those potatoes need. I used two smallish Pyrex dishes, and they still needed about an hour and 15 minutes to just cook through. We were impatient, but they could have cooked another 15 minutes longer for a more mashed-potatoes consistency.

Steak au Poivre with Brandied Cream Sauce

Sauce (I almost doubled the amount of sauce the original recipes makes)
4 T butter
2 shallots, minced
2 c beef broth (must be low sodium as it reduces)
1 c chicken broth (also low sodium)
2/3 c heavy cream
2/3 c brandy
2 t lemon juice (I used lime because that’s what I had, no problem)

4 strip steaks (or however many you’re serving)
1 T black peppercorns, crushed with the bottom of a heavy pot
salt to season

1. Heat 1 tablespoon butter in 12-inch heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat; when foaming subsides, add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add beef and chicken broths, increase heat to high, and boil until reduced to about 3/4 cup, about 8 minutes. Set reduced broth mixture aside. Rinse and wipe out skillet.

2. Season the steaks with salt on both sides, then rub and pat the peppercorns evenly onto one side of each steak. Sear on unpeppered side first, then turn and continue cooking until it’s done to your liking. (CI recommends using an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness: 120 degrees for rare, 125 degrees for medium-rare, and 135 to 140 degrees for medium.) When done, place steaks on cutting board and tent with foil until the sauce is done.

3. To make the sauce, pour reduced broth, cream, and  brandy into now-empty skillet; increase heat to high and bring to boil, scraping pan bottom with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Simmer until deep golden brown and thick enough to heavily coat back of metal tablespoon or soup spoon, about 5 minutes. Off heat, whisk in remaining 3 tablespoons butter, lemon juice and any accumulated meat juices. Serve immediately over steaks. And don’t forget the bread to sop up the extra sauce!

Potatoes Gratin with Jarlsberg gratin

Yukon gold potatoes, sliced thinly on a mandoline, enough to fill whatever containers you’re using. For two medium Pyrex dishes, I used about 2.5 pounds.
Heavy cream
Chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated nutmeg
Jarlsberg or gruyere cheese, grated. I used about half a pound.
Parmesan, grated
1 clove of garlic

1. Combine cream and chicken broth at about a 2:1 ratio. You’ll want enough to come up about halfway up the sides of your layered potatoes in the pan. Don’t worry about guessing, you can easily just pour a bit more cream or broth over the potatoes if you need to.

2. Season the cream mixture with salt and pepper. Use more salt than you think you’ll need as potatoes love salt. Grate in a small amount of nutmeg.


Fantastic cream from a local dairy

3. To prepare your dish, cut the clove of garlic in half and rub it all around the bottom and sides of the dish. Then rub with butter or coat with baking spray.

4. Place a layer of potatoes at the bottom of your dish. You’re aiming for about 3 layers, so use about 1/3rd of your potatoes. Top that with a sprinkling of both cheeses. Use the parmesan sparingly.

5. Keep layering for 3 layers of potatoes, then top with the last of your cheese. Pour the cream mixture over the potatoes and let it soak down into the bottom of the pan, it’ll take a moment. Pour more cream mixture if neccessary to come up about 1/2-2/3 the way up the potatoes. If you tip the dish a bit, you should see a pool of cream. If you don’t have enough of the mixture, just add a bit more cream or broth.

6. Dot the top of the dish with a little butter to help browning. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven, covered, for 30 minutes. Uncover, and continue baking until a knife can be inserted in the middle without resistance. Mine took about an hour and 15 minutes. The top will get golden brown and crunchy.

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