Sunday, February 14, 2010

Girls Night In

Last night was such a great night! I had two of my good friends over, and we had a stereotypical girls night that included eating, drinking, watching movies, and the required girly gossip. I decided that since I've had some bad luck with homemade brownies in the past, I was going to just follow a recipe. I started looking through recipes I've saved from some of my favorite blogs, and found quite a few that had used Ina's Outrageous Brownies Recipe. Of course, when I go to get my ingredients together, I found that my supply of semi-sweet chocolate was woefully low. I did have a vast amount of bittersweet chocolate (and it was the good stuff!) so I forged on. The bittersweet chocolate made them so rich and chocolate-y, they were amazing! I think that any combination of milk, semisweet, bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate would be great for the chocolate that is melted. And of course anything can be mixed in after. Besides that, I didn't change much. I used one of the General Foods International mixes instead of instant coffee. I think Ina may be the only person who buys extra large eggs, so I just used large and I was fine. The next time I make the brownies, I am going to cut back a bit on the butter. I figure if there is butter seeping out of the bottom, there is probably too much!

(FYI these are definitely not healthy.) Also, since I don't own a 12x18 sheet pan, plus I didn't want brownies coming out of my ears, so I halved the recipe and made it in a 13x9 lasagna pan, lined with parchment paper. And I left out the nuts. I didn't really want anything that wasn't chocolate in my brownies, plus one of my friends isn't the biggest fan of nuts usually.

Around 7:00 pm, my apartment was clean (only happens when I have people coming over!), the brownies were ready, and I had about an hour before my friends were coming over. I started to think, maybe I should have more than just brownies for my friends to eat! So last minute, I look through my fridge to see what I had to make a dip. I had a red bell pepper that needed to be used up. My first thought was hummus, since I have garbanzo beans, but I don't have any tahini. That's probably something I should stock up on. Then I saw that I had white beans, and since I've seen some recipes for pepper and white bean dips, I decided it would work. At this point, my apartment currently smelled of chocolate and scented candles. I didn't really think it through that making a dip with a fresh pepper required charring the skin, which not only set off my smoke detector, but also made my apartment stink of smoke. Oh well... I thought the dip turned out really well! I only had the one pepper, so I also used some jarred peppers. I think that the jarred ones added a nice acidity, which I was trying to achieve through the lemon juice. And I think this is something that can easily be adapted to include other flavors. I served it with multi-grain crackers (off-brand wheat thins).

And lastly - the drinks! It isn't a true girls' night without some good drinks. My alcohol supply is unfortunately pretty low. I have some wine and beer, but when it comes to the hard stuff, I haven't stocked up yet. I got spoiled when I was in St. Louis - you could buy that stuff at any grocery store around. Here, you can at least get wine and beer at the grocery store, but you have to go to an overpriced ABC to buy anything else. The only thing I had was Bacardi Razz, so I decided to make something fruity and tropical. I knew that my friend Sarah had Malibu Rum, and after looking through my pantry, I saw that I had a can of crushed pineapple in juice. Perfect! I really liked the drink.  Jess brought some wine, and I really liked that as well.  I usually prefer white, and this was a red, but it was very "drinkable."  My technical term.  She told me it was: Agua de piedra.

Outrageous Brownies (adapted from Barefoot Contessa)
2 sticks unsalted butter
7.5 oz bittersweet chocolate (use the good stuff! I used 3.5 oz Lindt and 4 oz Scharffen Berger)
4.5 oz semisweet chocolate chips (I just used 365 brand, from Whole Foods)
3 large eggs
1.5 tbsp instant coffee powder (I used General Foods International Suisse Mocha, decaffeinated)
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour + 2 tbsp
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
6 oz semisweet chocolate chips (365 again)

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a 13x9 lasagna pan with parchment paper. It's easy to get them all out if you leave an overhang on two of the sides. Melt the chocolate and the butter either in a double boiler, or in a medium heatproof bowl over simmering water. Be careful not to let the bowl actually touch the water. Allow to cool slightly.
In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee, vanilla, and sugar. Stir a little of the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, to warm it up slightly. (Otherwise you may cook your eggs if the chocolate is too hot.) Then pour the rest of the chocolate in, and just fold it together, being careful not to introduce too much air into the mixture. Allow it to cool to room temperature.
In a medium bowl, sift together 1/2 cup flour, baking powder and salt. If you don't have a sifter, just whisk them all together. Add slowly to the chocolate mixture. Toss the 6 oz chocolate chips (and walnuts, if using) in a medium bowl with the 2 tbsp flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the prepared pan. (My batter was pretty thick, so I had to spread it in the pan.)
Bake for 18 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough.

At this point, a lovely crust should be forming. (This is my favorite part of brownies! It is the indication that you have made the perfect brownie - chewy and flaky.)
Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with just a little chocolate on it. Don't overbake! I think it's better to err on the side of caution - I'd rather have an underbaked than overbaked brownie.
Allow to cool thoroughly, and enjoy!

Red Pepper and White Bean Dip
1 red bell pepper, fresh
3 cloves garlic
1/2 red bell pepper, jarred, rinsed
1 cup white beans, rinsed and drained if canned
1 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp lemon juice
s&p to taste

Preheat oven on broil setting, and move oven rack to top 1/3 of the oven. De-seed the fresh pepper and cut it in half, pressing it slightly so the halves are somewhat flattened. Place them, the outer side facing up, on a foil-lined pan. Put them under the broiler until the skin is completely charred, about 15 minutes. Put them in a container with a lid for 10-15 minutes, until skin is loosened. Carefully remove skin (they will still be hot).
Add the garlic to a food processor and pulse until minced. Add the red pepper, both fresh and jarred. Pulse until thoroughly blended. Add the beans, a little at a time, and pulse until mixed in. Add the remaining ingredients and blend. Add s&p as needed.
Spoon into a small bowl, and serve with crackers or fresh veggies.

Raspberry, Pineapple and Coconut Cocktails:
Bacardi Razz
Malibu Rum
Pineapple juice (not heavy syrup)
Club Soda (optional)

Mix 1 part Bacardi Razz, 1 part Malibu Rum, and 3 parts Pineapple juice. Add to a shaker with ice, and shake until mixed. Pour into glasses, and add some club soda if desired.

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