Q: I had the best cookies at our company party this year. They were chocolate and crisp on the outside but soft and cake-like in the middle. They also had white chocolate chips. They didn’t look like much, but everyone who had them went back for another.
I asked for the recipe, but my coworker keeps telling me she forgot to bring it. She told another person the secret ingredient was chocolate pudding. Can you help?
Sarah , Miami
A: I do have the recipe, and it is no secret — I think in one form or another it has appeared on pudding boxes. For those who enjoy doctoring cake mixes and building from convenience foods, this is an easy recipe with nearly limitless flavor combinations.
I will never forsake cookbooks for Internet recipes as long as there are people who not only can cook but can write evocatively about food. Calvin Trillin, Johnny Apple, Edna Lewis, M.F.K. Fisher, Gael Greene, Anthony Bourdain, John McPhee and James Villas are among my favorites.
So when I sat down with a copy of Villas’ new cookbook, Southern Fried (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $29.99), I knew I’d not only learn to fight my fear of frying but also would enjoy the anecdotes and descriptive prose that are hallmarks of his writing.
The beautifully flavored turkey hash recipe is a wonderful way to use holiday leftovers. Villas says he was inspired by hash cakes he was served in the coastal Carolina low country many years ago. He suggests adding other ingredients such as minced capers, olives, crumbled bacon and herbs and spices.
My take was to add heat from chopped green chiles and use cornbread crumbs. Next time I think I’ll add some dried cranberries or chopped apples – or both! The cakes do not absorb much fat during the frying, “so there’s no need to lose the wonderful buttery flavor by draining them,” Villas writes.
I’m always on the lookout for a new glaze for my New Year’s Day ham, and I love the tropical flavors in the recipe here, from the Caribbean Shopping Channel website, which sells Caribbean products and globally respected brands, including harder-to-find ingredients, spices, convenience foods and recipes from Caribbean nations.
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