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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

S'mores... Dapper and Dreamy but also quite messy!

There are some things that are so simple, so basic, that we sometimes forget just how perfectly wonderful they are.  Case in point...  the classic S'more.

Now, I want to be very clear here.  I am talking about the classic edition, the real deal.  I know there are a thousand and one derivations out there...  shortbread cookies, handmade graham crackers, peanut butter cups, Snickers, very expensive chocolate, artisan marshmallows, flavored marshmallows, even!  While I appreciate the desire to create, to experiment and to follow new and uncharted paths, some things are better left untouched.

My recipe for the perfect S'more?  Honeymaid Honey Graham Crackers.  Hershey's Milk Chocolate Bars.  Jet-Puffed Marshmallows.  In the final words of the Madeline cartoon's theme song, "That's it!  There isn't any more..."

There are many cooking techniques for the S'more, as well.  The classic - toasting the marshmallow over an open fire, can't be beat for the fullest S'more experience.  However, outdoor cooking can be impractical in the dead of winter in suburbia.  There is the option of the microwave, but this I eschew.  Yes, it's fun to watch your marshmallow expand to many times its original size, but once out of the micro, it becomes a hardened shadow of what it could have been.  My method of choice?  The trusty broiler.  Placing the graham cracker half on the baking sheet, followed by one-fourth of a regular-sized (or even better, King-sized) Hershey bar and, finally, two (yes, two...  I'm a glutton) pristine, white marshmallows, placed side by side.  Place under the broiler until the marshmallows reach the perfect mahogany shade of brown (there should be a little smoke rising at this point) and remove quickly.  At this point, the second half of the graham cracker should be placed atop the toasty mallow, and gently pressed down.  What could be easier?

S'mores aren't the kind of thing you'd want to eat in polite company, of course.  If you come to the end of your crunchy, gooey, melty treat without any oozing of chocolate or stickiness of marshmallow on your fingers, you really must be doing something wrong.  Part of the fun of eating a S'more is looking at your normally pristine wife/husband and seeing a melted chocolate mustache or strings of marshmallow falling from their chin.

S'mores are also tied up with lots of happy associations for me.  They were a favored Saturday night treat when I was growing up.  A couple of S'mores and a tall glass of very cold milk made for a very happy boy.  And, now, with my own children, I have some fond S'more moments to recall.  My favorite happened a couple of summers ago.  Deciding to take a picnic to the coast on a warm afternoon, we weren't satisfied with our visit to our usual haunts, so we headed South.  This is rare for us, because all of the familiar beaches are the other way.  But, I am so glad we did!  On the very southern end of the Oregon coast is a place called Ophir Beach.  It's a very flat expanse, almost level with the road.  It reminds me of a California beach and, as you know from reading this blog, that's a point in its favor.  It was a tremendously windy day, and it was past 5:00 in the evening.  We didn't care, we had supplies for S'mores!  We had a couple of Presto logs to get us started, we had S'more sticks, we had...  Wait.  We DIDN'T have matches!  There was no longer a lighter in the car...  We were doomed.  Or were we?  We did find that one of our little boys had his flint.  After gathering lots of very dry beach grass and several clean Kleenex, we got to work.  It took us forever...  wind, a flint and facial tissue are not ideal companions in the art of fire-starting.  But, once we had that fire roaring and those marshmallows toasting, nothing could have been better.  For some reason, this stands out as one of my favorite family trips ever.

So, if you want to take a trip back to your childhood, or are just craving something sweet, yummy and very easy, nothing could be better than the quintessentially American, and totally delicious S'more!

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