Monday, April 18, 2011
Winning Hearts with Cookies
People stopped and watched J walk down the rural streets of Mexico. The first time we went to El Potero Chico for a climbing trip the glances naturally caught us a bit off guard. Flattering but weird. Then someone shed some light, J has a bright and firey red beard, which was similar trait as mythical hero in their culture. Kind of suiting I thought. He even had the school girls swooning which was oddly cute. The strong sense of confidence in his stride, easy smile and fluent grasp of the native language makes him the perfect travel companion in Mexico. I have a mythical warrior at my side.
When we moved to the Tri Cities, J and I were both drawn to Pasco and the cities prevalent Hispanic heritage. J found a little restaurant, El Asadero (the grill), known for their grilled meats. We fell in love the moment we walked into the humble restaurant that shares a building with an independent auto parts store. The husband cooks and the wife is the face of the restaurant, the kids are always at a table politely doing homework or outside playing in the warm evenings. Predictable and consistent style has surprisingly captivated our dining experience. The restaurant wins my heart in so many ways.
J warmed up to the owner the minute we walked in. Me I probably tripped, pushed my wild blond curls from my face while giggling, I stood no chance, a common theme these days.
The food at El Asadero is out of this world. I cannot get enough as much as I try. I order guacamole every time and when no one is looking I eat it with a spoon. I love their simple presentation, reasonable portions and never will you see your plate swimming in a pool of orange cheddar cheese rather a light sprinkle of fresh cojita and a tortilla chip thoughtfully standing up in a scoop of guacamole. We always wash it down with a cold Negro Modelo in a frosty glass that is priced at a whopping $2.50. Greasy meat and refried beans need to be washed down with cold beer. We always leave satisfied and never feel over charged, a magical combination that keeps us in the ranks of regulars.
When company comes to town we drive them across the Columbia River that dissects these three sprawling cities via big blue bridge, we nearly park in the Taco Bell parking lot and on the weekend pass the spit that sets up on the weekends for grilling pastor, a welcome addition to any entree. Everyone seems to like it or just go along with our enthusiasm as J goes over the menu explaining what he likes.
Week after week we warm the doors of El Asadero at least once but more than we would sometimes admit. She relieves me warming the skillet and the TV in the background blaring Spanish soap operas is a welcome distraction from our apartment.
I had to aid in my cause because I will be occupying a chair in her restaurant until the day we flee this desert. Cookies, I thought, cookies can cure anything. I did it, I showed up Saturday afternoon with perfect snickerdoodle cookies packaged and tied with a ribbon.
She actually smiled.
She gave me chips and guacamole and my eyes got big and shiny.
Perfect ending to a story.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen Martha Stewart
These cookies are great gifts because of their beautiful cinnamon and sugar crust the cracks as it bakes. A great snickerdoodle will manage to be both crisp at the edges and soft nearly to the point of cakiness in the middle. J even smiled and nodded as he came back for a second cookie. Make a batch and take half to a person that you have been meaning to make smile.
Makes three dozen 3 to 4-inch cookies. Your mileage will vary by the size scoop you use.
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
16 tablespoons (2 stick or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar, plus more if needed
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, plus more if needed
2 large eggs
Preheat the oven to 400°, with one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.
Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine.
Chill the dough for an hours to ease the shaping process.
Once dough has chilled, in a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the ground cinnamon. Use a small ice-cream scoop to form balls of the dough, and roll in cinnamon sugar. Place about two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until the cookies are set in center and begin to crack (they will not brown), about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after five minutes. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool about five minutes before transferring the cookies to the rack. In theory, they can be stored in an airtight container up to one week.