For the Chocolate Pecan Skillet Cookie:
I am…proud? Embarrassed?…to say that a friend and I were the first in our “friend group” to be confronted by a skillet cookie, years ago. We were up near the NY/MA/VT border, so I’m not even sure what state we were in, let alone the name of the restaurant, and for that matter who knows if it’s still around.
I saw it on the menu and ordered it for myself. As a huge fan of stovetop skillet cooking I assumed it would be, you know, a reasonably sized cookie. It was not. The server said, “It’s really meant to be shared. It’s made in a skillet.” “OK, well let’s get one for the both of us.”
So out came the skillet with this huge cookie taking up its entire volume that had obviously been baked in an oven. The server anticipated this and said, “And at the end I’ll wrap it for you and you can take the rest home.”
“Mattie, you have to make this. Just for novelty sake.”
Little did I realize that skillet cookies would soon grace restaurant and dinner tables from coast to coast. But I did indeed serve this and beat the Skillet Cookie Craze to the punch, no one except my travel companion had ever seen one before, but probably only by a few weeks.
I didn’t save the recipe I used, I might have made it up by instinct, but here’s one from Taste of Home that is, from memory, pretty much what I made.
1 cup (!) butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking chips (or use whatever you prefer: I can’t remember what I used)
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (I can’t remember if I toasted the pecans but I probably did)
Vanilla ice cream, optional
Preheat oven to 350°. In a 12-in. cast-iron skillet, heat butter in oven as it preheats. (I did my usual and melted the butter in the skillet on the stovetop. I’m pretty sure I didn’t use an entire cup though.) Meanwhile, in a large bowl, stir together sugar and brown sugar. When butter is almost melted, remove skillet from oven and swirl butter until completely melted. Stir butter into sugar mixture; set skillet aside.
Beat eggs and vanilla into sugar mixture. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into sugar mixture. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Spread mixture into buttered skillet.
Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs and top is golden brown, 35-40 minutes (I bet in my oven it went faster but I can’t remember). Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream if desired.
The problems with serving the skillet cookie are two: First, it can be tough to wrangle slices out of the skillet, which is time-consuming and frustrating. So you can scoop it out but that makes for a kind of messy presentation. Second, if you don’t eat it warm it hardens, as cookies do, and a little 2” diameter chocolate chip cookie is one thing, but a half- or quarter-skillet-size one is quite another.
For Dear Abby’s Penuche Fudge:
I made this during my All-Star Celebrity Cookathon Weekend. It didn’t really merit its own FYCE so I thought I’d lump it in with the skillet cookie. Combined, you can think of this as Cousin Matthew’s Onset of Diabetes Menu.
I felt confident making this because Dear Abby used to have a readership in the tens of millions and I’m sure this was taste-tested many times before it saw the light of day. Did you know that penuche is actually only fudge-adjacent because it uses brown sugar, whereas fudge only uses white? It is my favorite of all the fudges so I jumped at the chance to make this simple version and it turned out great.
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup light cream
1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnut pieces
Butter a 9-inch square baking dish. Butter the sides of a heavy 2-quart saucepan.
Combine sugars, cream, milk and butter in saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugars dissolve and mixture comes to a boil. Cook to soft ball stage (238 degrees F. on candy thermometer), stirring only if necessary. Immediately remove from heat and cool to lukewarm (110 degrees F.) Do not stir.
Add vanilla extract and beat vigorously until mixture is very thick and starts to lose its gloss. Quickly stir in nuts and spread into prepared baking dish. Score while warm [so, make cutting guidelines but don’t cut yet], and cut when firm. Makes 3 dozen 1 1/2-inch squares. [Glutton that I am I made fewer, larger squares.]