While waiting for the DVR to queue up some random food program a few days ago, the kids and I watched as Sandra Lee closed out the last two minutes of one of her shows. Her lemon chiffon dress matched the lemon chiffon set and the lemon chiffon cake. There were polka dots on the cake and polka dots on the curtains, and I think she even had something in her hair that matched, like, a puppy's leash or the bikini on a goldfish.
OK, fine, so I'm making up a few scattered details since my memory stinks, but my basic recollection is pretty solid: everything was all matchy match, and if it didn't take 12 stylists and prop gurus and key grips to put this whole scene together, you can call me Harold. Just before the credits rolled, Lee delivered what I gather to be her routine kicker: "Keep it smart, keep it sweet, keep it simple, and always keep it semi-homemade."
And then we all spontaneously keeled over and cracked up.
We weren't laughing at Sandra Lee, at least not directly. She's too easy a target, and that's just not who I am. We were laughing at the complete and utter lie of the word "simple." Why the pretendiness? Why the fabrication? Sure, maybe her food is simple because it relies, in part, on boxed cake mixes, but if I were to choose 6,000 words to describe what I saw on the screen in that last 2 minute shot, I can assure you that "simple" wouldn't make the cut.
So let's just call a spade a spade.
These little dessert thingies above really are pretty simple and straightforward, but this assumes you can make a decent brownie and that the word ganache doesn't close up your throat. Because that's all these are. They're just brownies, spread with a 2-ingredient ganache. I even made them a week ahead of time, froze them in a solid sheet (before cutting, and before frosting), and defrosted them overnight the day before the party. On party day, I just slipped ganache over the top. Those picks? $2.49 for a 50 pack at Cost Plus. Those cheapass picks would make anything look fancy, including hairy cubes of moldy liverwurst. I'm telling you, put a party pick in anything at all, and its fancy-factor multiplies tenfold.
So keep it smart, keep it sweet, keep it simple -- and cut stuff small. And always, always keep party picks on hand for hairy liverwurst cubes or brownies.
Recipe for Party-Ready Mint Brownie Bites, with ganache
I had to make a ton of bite-sized desserts for a big party last weekend, but I knew I would be out of town until just before the event. So I made these two-bite mint brownies before I left. Once they'd cooled completely, I wrapped them (uncut) first in plastic wrap and then in a tight layer of aluminum foil. The day before the party, I let them defrost on the counter overnight, then cut them into 1" squares.
For the ganache:
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 ounces dark or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
In a medium saucepan, bring the heavy cream just to a simmer. Add the chocolate, remove from the heat, and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir with a heatproof spatula, slowly and patiently, until completely smooth. Let cool slightly, then apply like icing to the top of the brownies.
Skewer the brownies (look for inexpensive picks, and when you find ones you like, buy a ton), and arrange on a decent platter.
Makes 60 to 70 one-inch brownies