I made brownies tonight for one of my favorite Valentines, Jamesy. I have another Valentine, his daddy, who heard about my brownies when he came to pick me up for our second date and met my family for the very first time. My entire family. I had moved back to Fort Lauderdale from Atlanta and was living at home. Let me make this perfectly clear. I had no problem moving back home. It was great! No rent and I could do whatever I wanted. For our first date we had met for lunch and had the time of our lives. We finished THAT date at the Parrot shooting melonballs with vodka floaters all afternoon and making out. Hard to believe, but I really was a “nice girl”. Anyway, on our second date Jimmy was to pick me up at home and, by default, he met my family. Being a nice girl I had been taught “always make them wait”. Okay. In my bedroom, Pamela and I were messing around with makeup, maybe a little shoe chat was involved. But OUTSIDE my bedroom, it was a whole different story. Jimmy knocked on the front door and my older sister, Cynthia, answered. She’s somewhat soft-spoken, incredibly gentle and super sweet. With big eyes and a huge smile on her face, she swung open the door and murmured serenely, “Hi! You must be Jim! Come on in!” And HE thought, “What do you mean?? What’s wrong with her? She on drugs??”. He stepped into the house and halfway through the living room encountered my little brother, Tommy, who had just scarfed down the latest batch of brownies I was tinkering with. I believe they were chocolate with peppermint patties in the middle. Tommy was ecstatic! “Hey, Jim! I’m Tommy! Man! Have you ever tasted Alicia’s brownies? Oh, my gosh! They’re out of this world! You gotta try her cooking! She’s the best!” And Jimmy’s thinking, “Is there something wrong with her? Jesus. What, are they trying to marry her off? This is starting to get weird.” He crossed the room, when Dad came barreling out of the kitchen, knife in left hand, right hand cupped with something wet and red, dripping all over the floor. “Yeah! Good to meet you! Jack Wattley! I’d shake your hand, but mine’s covered in BLOODWORMS.” Yup. That’s what he fed the tropical fish he bred. Bloody, runny, squirmy bloodworms. Dripping from his hand. I was told later, Jimmy went white in the face. Jimmy doesn’t do yucky, on any level. After a quick recovery, he sat down in the Florida room, where my mother was seated, arms crossed, teeth clenched. In her heavy Spanish accent, her first words ever to him were, “So! What are your politics??” Can you imagine? WHAT ARE YOUR POLITICS? Right about that time, Pamela came bouncing out of the bedroom and said, “Hey, Jimmy! You here to pick up Yaya?” He said he almost bolted. He said he almost got up and walked out, thinking, “Goddamnit. I’m 35 years old. I don’t need this shit. Picking up her up and I have to meet her parents?? And they call her YAYA?” Yaya is my nickname, the name Tommy and Pamela gave me as babies unable to pronounce “AH-lee-cee-AH”. Unbeknown to us, Yaya in Greek is either Grandmother or old woman. And, remember, Jimmy’s 100% Greek. That totally rattled him. How, I don’t know, but somehow, we made it. Here we are 22 years later, still together after all the ups and downs and all the wild rides. Happy Valentine’s Day, my Sweeties!
I’ve made countless brownies over the years but I feel the most perfect ones are Ina Garten’s Outrageous Brownies. When you take a look at the ingredients you’ll see why. Past decadent but unbelievably sublime. The only changes I’ve made to her recipe is in the procedure of putting them together. Oh, and no nuts…Jamesy ain’t a nut man. Because they are so incredibly rich I cut them into smaller portions. Also, know this recipe makes quite a few. Oh, and they ship really well, just make sure you pack them tightly in their shipping container. I filled gaps in care packages with boxes of Conversation Hearts, little heart-shaped Red Hots and one, big plastic heart with silly Valentine phrases stamped on it. So, let’s kiss, sweet talk, love ya, text me, URA star, #1fan, and be mine, my baby!
- 1 pound unsalted butter
- 1 pound, plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, Hershey’s works great
- 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
- 6 extra-large eggs
- 3 tablespoons instant coffee powder or granules, I use instant espresso, Pilon or whatever you have on hand
- 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups chopped walnuts, purely optional
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Line a 12 X 18 X 1-inch baking sheet with tin foil and spray with non-stick spray.
- Melt together the butter, the 1 pound chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. (I do my butter chocolate mixture in the microwave in 1 to 2 minute increments, stirring often. Up to you)
- Allow to cool slightly.
- In a large bowl, stir, do not beat, together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar.
- Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool.
- Sift 1 cup of flour, the baking powder and salt and add to cooled chocolate mixture. Don’t mix quite yet.
- Toss the 12 ounces of chocolate chips in the remaining 1/4 cup of flour, add walnuts if using.
- Add floured chips to chocolate batter and mix until just combined.
- Pour onto baking sheet.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until brownies come away from edge of pan. Do not overbake. You want a toothpick to come out clean when testing for doneness.
- Cool thoroughly, refrigerate, then cut into squares.