Sweet & salty, or salty & sweet?

“Hey, Mom, can I ask you something?”

I’d been waiting for this moment.  A few days before Christmas break he came home asking if he could watch LOST on Netflix.  A girl in his class, one whose friendship I wanted to encourage, was telling him about the show and how much she thought he would enjoy it.  He’s both young and old enough to talk to me when he’s uncertain about something, so I gave the green light and let him run with it.  In the first few days his comments were basic:  what do you think is in the hatch? wonder why Locke can walk again?

But this is my metaphysical child, the one who picks up the subtlest frequencies of human interaction.  Sooner or later, I knew a big question would be heading my way.  Do you think they’re really alive?  Is this what fate means for all of us?  Something of that nature.  Since he was two, he’s been that child, so I was ready.

“Sure, buddy, what’s on your mind?”

“Sawyer or Jack?”

Never saw this one coming.  I put on my thinking face, hoping he would take it as my weighing the answer instead of weighing whether or not to tell him my answer.  Was it time to talk about how each of us decides what qualities are important in the people we draw close?  Primer on basic laws of attraction?  Maybe I should take the moment to say that people in real life are far more complex than characters on TV.  And, just for added contemplation, how much relentless teasing would I be in for if my husband overheard this conversation? What would the parenting books, the ones I never read, suggest I do?  There were so many opportunities for discussion.  I took none of them.

“Sawyer,” I said; and I walked back into the kitchen to start dinner.


Salted chile toffee

And speaking of flavors and character:

Every Christmas I make toffee for friends and neighbors.  I typically freewheel it instead of using a recipe, so it differs greatly from year to year.  This year I decided it would be worth the time and effort to test different ratios of butter and sugar, document the results, and commit to a long-term formula that could deliver consistent deliciousness.  My husband was the tester, and it didn’t take long to know when we got it right.  As I was starting the last test batch, the one to confirm our decision, Bernard offered a suggestion:  “why don’t you add some chile powder, you know, to make it like that cayenne dark chocolate stuff you like?”  For no explicable reason, the man is always right about these things, so I gave it a whirl.  Truly, it was magnificent.  A dozen batches later, I decided this was the one to keep, forever.

Hot Chile Salted Toffee

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons hot water
  • 2 teaspoons New Mexico extra hot chile powder (ours came directly from the source, but you can get it at Whole Foods or Trader Joes)

Combine all ingredients in a heavy bottomed 2 quart saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, whisking regularly, until candy thermometer reached 305 degrees.  Pour onto buttered parchment paper, or a buttered baking sheet, or buttered parchment paper that’s lining a baking sheet.  Let cool for a minute, then sprinkle with Fleur de Sel or other flaky salt (not kosher, it’s too chunky).  Let cool completely, then crack into large pieces, divide into bags, and share.  One batch makes 3-4 gift bags.  You can double the recipe if you’re in a super hurry, but it’s really better if you make one batch at a time.  Don’t know why.  Is what it is.