Rich Cocoa Brownies

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup all-purpose flour


Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325?F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8?8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don?t fret ? it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack. (Deb suggests putting the cooled pan in the fridge or freezer for a while, which helps if you want clean lines when cutting the brownies.)

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Bok Choy with Hoisin Sauce

1 pound (16 to 18) bok choy or petite Shanghai cabbages, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 or 5 scallions, white and light-green parts, cut crosswise into thin slices (1/4 cup)
1-inch piece peeled ginger root, finely chopped or minced (1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons bourbon, whiskey or dry sherry
1 cup low-sodium or homemade chicken broth
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar, or more to taste
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold water
1 to 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds, for garnish


Position a steamer over several inches of water in a saucepan or wok and heat over medium-high heat. When the water comes to a boil, add the cabbages, cover and steam for 3 to 4 minutes, until they are brightly colored and just tender. You will probably need to do that in batches so the cabbages are not crowded in the steamer. As the cabbages are done, transfer them to a large platter, arranging them in a single layer.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the scallions and ginger; cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring, until the scallions start to soften. Add the bourbon, whiskey or sherry and cook for 30 seconds. Add the broth, toasted sesame oil, sugar and hoisin sauce. Stir to combine, and bring to a boil.

Whisk together the cornstarch and water in a small bowl until well incorporated, then add the mixture to the skillet. Once the mixture returns to a boil, cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until it has thickened. Remove from the heat. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as desired.

Pour the sauce over the steamed cabbages. Garnish with sesame seeds to taste, if using. Serve hot or at room temperature.

NOTE: Toast the sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring or shaking them frequently, just until fragrant and lightly browned.