Valentine's Day is one of my favorite holidays. I love hearts, flowers, chocolate, and almost anything red and pink, and I particularly appreciate this reminder to let my loved ones - romantic or not - know that they are special. The best way I know to express this is always with something homemade.
For years I have been looking for a really great chocolate chip cookie recipe. Recently, I was going through my cookbooks as part of a kitchen de-clutter challenge from professional organizer Melissa Schmalenberger, aka Ms. Simplicity, to Forum readers.
I wasn't very good at this part of the challenge, because I have a tendency to become easily distracted by cookbooks - an occupational hazard. I came across a cookbook called "Cooking Adventures from the Clipper Galley," and an hour later I was still taking a trip down Memory Lane.
Tony and I both began, and ended, our shipboard careers with Clipper Cruise Line, a small, luxury-expedition line known for its destination-focused itineraries, friendly crew, relaxed atmosphere and amazing food. Everything on board a Clipper ship was made from scratch and inspired by the regions we visited. There were many dishes that became passenger favorites.
Clipper had a generous policy of sharing their recipes with our guests upon request, and one recipe was requested more than any other, and even featured in Bon Appetit magazine: the decadent, amazing Clipper Chipper.
When I stumbled upon this recipe I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before. Now no longer in existence, Clipper Cruise Line once owned and operated five vessels with diverse itineraries including America's Coastal Waterways, Alaska's Inside Passage, Western Medieval Europe, Scandinavia and the Baltic, the Norwegian High Arctic, Jungle Rivers of South America, and even the Antarctic Peninsula.
But it didn't matter which ship we were on, or where in the world we were - every afternoon at 4:30, the pastry chef would appear in the forward observation lounge with a heaping tray of warm Clipper Chippers.
Finding this recipe reminded me of the special times Tony and I shared together aboard those ships, and the excellent, dedicated professionals we were blessed to know as colleagues.
"Cooking Adventures" was the creation of Chef Robert (Bobby) Colosimo, who was the director of food service for the line during our tenure. Bobby was a wonderful mentor, the kind who made you strive to exceed his impossibly high standards, but almost always with a kind word and a smile.
With ingredients including two bags of milk chocolate chips, two different liqueurs (Frangelico and Tia Maria), and three different kinds of nuts, these are no ordinary chocolate chip cookies. But they are worth the investment - every bite is filled with what Giovanni calls "rich chocolate nuttiness." Enjoy them with your favorite cordial or liqueur, or my drink of choice - a nice, cold glass of milk.
One Clipper Chipper is never enough, so I use my smallest ice cream scoop to drop the cookies and end up with about five dozen. The dough is refrigerated overnight, which allows the liqueurs to infuse the cookies with flavor and tenderness. It can also be prepared and refrigerated several days in advance, and freezes well for future use.
Just the smell of these cookies baking in my home brought the memories flooding back, reminding Tony and me of a time when we were young, adventurous, carefree and oh so in love. I knew immediately that I had not only found my go-to chocolate chip cookie, but also my gift idea for this Valentine's Day.
The Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies from Clipper Cruise Line, as featured in the cookbook "Cooking Adventures from the Clipper Galley."
Makes 3-4 dozen medium cookies or 5 dozen small cookies.
1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon Frangelico liqueur
1 tablespoon Tia Maria liqueur (Kahlua may be substituted)
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups milk chocolate chips
1 cup walnut halves (optional)
½ cup pecan halves (optional)
½ cup macadamia nuts (optional)
With an electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar, vanilla, Frangelico and Tia Maria until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well.
Combine the flour, baking soda and salt (in a separate bowl). Gradually stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture using a large kitchen spoon. Carefully fold in the chocolate chips and nuts. Mix well with a large kitchen spoon. Place in storage container and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Scoop one teaspoon of cookie dough for each cookie onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for approximately 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Cool slightly and serve while still warm.
The dough may be refrigerated up to several days in advance. It also freezes well for future use.
Home with the Lost Italian is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owns Sarello's restaurant in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their 9-year-old son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org. All previous recipes can be found at http://thelostitalian.areavoices.com