I have a tremendous crush on Matt Armendariz. It’s awkward, I know. I’m married, he’s married; I have a kid, he has dog children. It’s okay, my husband knows. He took a picture of Matt with his shirt half off a couple years ago, so I think we’re even. Fortunately for those who are now reading this uncomfortably at home, hoping this conversation ends quickly, my crush is more of a talent crush: Matt is a former graphic designer and art director and currently a food photographer, author and the man behind the Matt Bites blog. His photography is amazing, all natural light and unfussy, but what I find more addictive than anything else is his outlook, his energy for life. It’s hard to spend 5 minutes with him without getting hooked on his enthusiasm for family, good friends, great food and a life well lived with lots of travel to far-flung places. Seriously, he even went to Avery Island, Louisiana to learn how Tabasco is made. And didn’t take my husband with him. Alex is almost over it.
And now he is a cookbook author too. [Amusingly, I think Matt and I signed our cookbook deals the same week except his book is in my hands right now and my book is … OH LOOK! Manhattanhenge! Did you catch it?] On A Stick! — yes, in which every recipe is speared or skewered or threaded on a handheld food device — is truly an exaltation of summer. It’s State Fairs and street fairs, frozen beach treats and the stuff picnics and backyard barbecues are made of: skewered salads, grilled marinated kebabs, melon with spices and fried pickles. Even unfathomable things get adorably impaled, like fried chicken and waffles, meatballs and spaghetti, potato chips (!) oh, and pizza too. It’s lighthearted, but there’s no skimping on the cooking: coconut shrimp, Chinese meatballs, pork belly and sweet and sour lollipops. Are you drooling yet?
Back on the home front, Wee Jacob is spending a few days at Camp Grandparents — splashing in a backyard kiddie pool, getting over his City Boy fear of lawns and perfecting the art of tie-dying a t-shirt with watermelon juice — so I can
get some sleep make great strides on my imminently due cookbook and I miss him terribly. It’s only three days but never has the apartment felt so dull when devoid of my curly-haired sidekick’s glockenspiel practice. It turns out that cooking is a lot less fun when there’s no risk of someone riding his trike over your toes in the kitchen. It turns out that once you get one decent night’s sleep, you’re all caught up and looking for excuses to go back to the playground again. And so I made him fudge popsicles from Matt’s book as a welcome-back treat.
I admit, I had my doubts. It felt like there was so little chocolate in them, how could they be fudgy? Fudge popsicles must be fudgy. And chewy. And chocolaty. There are rules and you just can’t go and change the way fudge popsicles are supposed to taste. And so I had to audition one. And then Alex too. And now I’m going to have to welcome my kid back with a lie, and tell him that the recipe only made two popsicles. I should have known better than to doubt Matt’s cooking instincts.
One year ago: Root Beer Float Cupcakes
Two years ago: Graham Crackers and Pesto Potato Salad with Green Beans
Three years ago: Smore Pie
Four years ago: Black Bottomed Cupcakes (Totally amused that almost without fail, I use the first week of June to make something chocolate and childish. I love June!)
Adapted, just a bit, from On A Stick!
Makes 4 standard-sized popsicles (3 ounces each) or 6 in my tiny* popsicle molds (which were 2 ounces each)
2 tablespoons (21 grams or 3/4 ounce) semisweet chocolate chips or chopped semisweet chocolate
1/3 cup (67 grams or 2 1/3 ounce) sugar
1 tablespoon (7 grams or 1/4 ounce) cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons (8 grams or 1/4 ounce) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) whole milk
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon (3 ml) vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon (7 grams or 1/4 ounce) unsalted butter
In the bottom of a medium saucepan over very low heat, gently melt the chocolate chips, stirring constantly until smooth. Stir in sugar, cornstarch, cocoa powder, milk and salt and raise heat to medium. Cook mixture, stirring frequently until it thickens, anywhere between 5 minutes (for me) and 10 (suggested in the book). Remove from heat, add vanilla and butter and stir until combined.
Set aside to cool slightly then pour into popsicle molds. Freeze 30 minutes, then insert popsicle sticks. Freeze the rest of the way before serving.
* I’ll jump ahead of the question someone usually asks and tell you that I bought popsicle molds intended for feeding babies. I liked that they were tiny as I was pretty sure my one year-old doesn’t need to be eating an adult-sized popsicle this summer. Nor do I need to be washing it out of his clothes. :) The popsicle maker works just fine, but because it’s in one piece, it’s best to unmold them all together (dipping the base in warm water). From there, you can spread them out on a tray in the freezer until they firm up again, then store them in a freezer bag for the long term. I didn’t use the sticks they provide; I remember from my own childhood that they get all chewed up and easily lost when you are sent outside with your drippy sticky treat. I instead bought disposable popsicle sticks, though I’m sure they’re even cheaper from a crafts store.