On Sunday night, a day before Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the mid-Atlantic, my husband and I had some friends over for dinner. We went back and forth, debating whether it was a good idea to encourage people to come out in what we were told was going to be ever-worsening weather.
After a brief consultation with the weather oracles and our invite list, we pushed on with our little gathering. I made two pots of soup. Friends brought bread, cheese, meatballs and wine. We sat around our living room for hours, munching our way through nearly all the food and appreciating the feeling of being part of a community.
When all that was left were empty bowls, a few crumbs and a cheese rind or two, I brought out dessert. Often, when faced with the challenge of choosing a dessert to serve to guests, I flounder. I waffle between making some ridiculously complicated confection that ends up tasting good but looking terrible or I choke entirely and dash out for cookies and ice cream.
This time was different and it was fantastic. I made brownies. Ina Garten’s Skillet Brownies, to be precise. I’ve made her brownies in larger batches in the past for church bake sales and family picnics, but never before for a dinner party. I don’t know why, but I thought they were too basic for “entertaining.” Faced with a need to keep things simple and not spend $30 on cookies, however, I figured that if it came from Ina, it would be okay. And I was right.
Between seven people, we ate nearly the entire pan. No one thought the brownies were basic, they simply appreciated the fact that they were delicious (particularly when topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream). All that was left at the end of the night was a single sliver.
These brownies are the perfect thing for The Weekender, but you don’t have to save them for your next dinner party. Make a batch to share with friends, family and your local first responders.
Before you start baking, here are a few things you should know:
– Ina’s Skillet Brownies come together quickly. Make sure to have all your ingredients in place before you start melting the chocolate.
– This recipe instructs you to use five 3 1/2 inch cast-iron skillets. I baked mine in a single 8 inch skillet and it was perfect.
– These brownies are best when they are just a tiny bit underdone. Keep your eye on them in the last minutes of cooking, to ensure a soft, tender center.
Marisa McClellan is a food writer and canning teacher who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her food (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Canning in Small Batches Year Round, is now available.