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Archive for August 12th, 2010

tastes like home

In high school, I spent a summer as an exchange student in France living with a family in the Loire Valley. Mireille, her husband, and their two children welcomed me into their home and lives and even took me on vacation with them. Even though I flooded the upstairs bathroom on my first evening when I couldn’t figure out how to use the hand-held shower. Even though I asked that they not add butter to my chicken because I kept kosher (no butter? a heresy!). Even though I was shocked at being invited to drink wine with dinner. Even though I was shy with my French and spent the first few days virtually in silence. (Yes, me, silent.)

Quickly I grew to love the rhythms, smells, and tastes of small town life. First in Mont près Chambord visiting châteaux most weeks and the corner bakery to pick up a baguette or a pain de campagne every morning.  Then on vacation in Sables-d’Olonne in the Vendée at the  grandparents’ rustic house where we picked our meals largely from the robust garden.

Every other day or so, we went to the outdoor marché to buy only the freshest produce from vendors who has raised the fruits and vegetables themselves. The tomatoes were redder, the haricots verts greener and skinnier than anything I saw in our supermarket back home. And the cheese.

The cheese. It deserves its own paragraph. The stinkier, the better. The fattier, the better. As a girl who had been dancing for years and subject to scrutiny in front of the mirror, this was mind altering. I tried creamy cheeses. Nutty cheeses. Blue cheeses (still not a fan). Rind cheeses. Goat cheeses. I discovered I loved Bucheron, Gruyère and its French cousin Comté, Saint Marcellin, and of course Camembert. We kept le fromage out of le frigo at room temperature in a special cheese cupboard. I could could keep going. But this post isn’t about the cheese.

I had packed in my luggage a bag of chocolate chips and a recipe so I could bake for my French family an American classic that I often made with my mom. Gathering the rest of the ingredients and converting the recipe without measuring cups was a bit of a challenge. We got held up looking for baking soda in the grocery store. Until a bit of creative sleuthing (a halting conversation between me and the  baguette baker) led me to the pharmacy for bicarbonate de soude.

My French famille loved the cookies. So much, in fact, that we made several more batches even after the chocolate chips were gone, and not being able to find pépites de chocolat, bought big blocks of chocolate and chopped them into coupeaux de chocolat. And the grand-mère took to calling them “crokies.” The name stuck.

Chocolate Chip “Crokies”

Makes more than 5 dozen small cookies

I have lost the recipe that I brought with me to France, but this one is pretty close, adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. The rice krispies are an homage to my mom who always threw them in our cookies and I love the crunch they add. These cookies are on the softer side, so if you like them flatter and crispier, add 1-2T water with the wet ingredients.

- 1/2 C softened butter or margarine

- 3/4 C white sugar

- 3/4 C brown sugar

- 2 eggs

- 2C flour

- 1/2 t baking soda

- 1/2 t salt

- 1 t vanilla

- 1 C chocolate chips

- 2 C rice krispies

- 1-2 T water (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Mix. Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until well blended. Add 1-2 T water if desired. Mix flour with baking soda and salt, then add it to the liquid ingredients and mix by hand. Fold in chocolate chips and rice krispies.

Bake. Drop cookies by scant tablespoonfuls onto a silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake 10 minutes until lightly browned. Cool for a few minutes before removing from silpat/parchment and transfer to a rack.

I keep my cookies in the freezer and think they are best eaten cold.

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