It Only Sounds Like a Dirty Word

The week following Thanksgiving, I was having lunch with a friend at our favorite Chinese restaurant. As we poked our chopsticks into the sesame chicken, I asked her if she had a good Thanksgiving. She said her Thanksgiving had been nice, not the least because she had a total of two – count ‘em – two complete Thanksgiving dinners. The first dinner was good, she admitted, but the second, ahhhh, the second.

She spatchcocked the turkey, my friend told me with reverence.

It’s an understatement to say that I was impressed. I was certainly impressed that the woman had spatchcocked a turkey. But I was mostly impressed that I knew what the word spatchcocked meant.

I frankly don’t know exactly how I knew what it meant. Perhaps it’s having watched Food Network since its very beginning when Emeril Lagasse was getting applause from his studio audience every time he added more garlic or wine to whatever dish he was making (and perhaps spatchcocking). What I do know for certain is that I didn’t learn the term from my mother, who never spatchcocked a thing in her life. She may or may not have butterflied a chicken, but I believe she died without having ever heard the word spatchcock.

Not to wander too far from the point of this blog post (on the off-chance there is, in fact, a point), I looked up the word to see if I could learn its etymology. Here is what Wikipedia says about the word’s origin:

The word comes from “dispatch cock”, that is, a fowl that is dispatched quickly, and is first attested in 1785.

So there.

But as I read on in the article, Wikipedia suggested I also see blood eagle. Foolishly, I clicked on the link (as I often do on Wikipedia which then takes me off into a link-clicking route that may end up explaining the history of crochet stitches). It seems blood eagle is a type of human execution in which the victim lies prone on a table, his/her ribs are severed from the spine with a sharp tool, and the lungs are pulled through the opening to create a pair of “wings.” I’m telling you, those ancient Brits knew how to torture.

But back to spatchcocking, which is simply another word for butterflying. In other words, you use your kitchen shears or poultry shears and cut out the backbone of some kind of poultry, thereby allowing the bird to lie flat and roast or grill more quickly. The result is a crispier skin.

And, my friends, with chicken, it’s all about the skin.

My mother used to make Cornish game hens. She did not spatchcock them. Instead, she stuffed them with wild rice, slathered them with butter, sprinkled on salt and pepper, and roasted them in the oven. They were heavenly.

One day a year or so ago, I invited Addie, Alastair, Dagny, and Maggie Faith to dinner. I was serving Cornish game hens.  They were thrilled at the prospect. As excited as they were for dinner, they were equally disappointed when instead of little tiny hens lying on their plate, there were spatchcocked hens. Cut in half, no less. They would have been more impressed with KFC.

Ever since that lunch in which I was reminded about spatchcocking, I have been itching to get my hands on something to spatchcock. So last night, I made Cornish game hens, and as you can see, I got my chance…..



I mixed up about a half stick of butter with a couple of cloves of minced garlic, 1 t. chopped fresh rosemary, and 1 t. dried thyme (which came from my summer garden). I didn’t have any lemons, but lemon zest would have been good too. I salted and peppered the hens on both sides. I then put some of the butter under the skin, and (like my mother) slathered the remaining butter all over. I roasted them at 375 degrees for about an hour. I let them sit for about 10 minutes to rest……


For kicks, you could drink a shot of Fireball Whiskey every time you read the word spatchcock in this blog post.

Thursday Thoughts

Brown Thumb
So a while back, I mentioned – bragged, actually – that I had purchased some herb plants and since this is AZ and the weather is so mild, I was going to plant them and feast on fresh herbs from my own herb garden while my friends in colder weather were eating herbs from (gack) the grocery store. Well. While the thyme and the parsley have fared quite well, and though the lettuce is thriving to such an extent that I used it for my burger bar last Sunday, the basil has taken a turn for the worse, and cannot be saved at this point. I am therefore waiting until I know the nighttime temperatures won’t get into the 40s, and then I will purchase a new plant and put it in the warm ground……

Good plant - left; current plant - right

Plant when new – left; What I’ve done to it – right



I finally went Tuesday for a pedicure. I hadn’t had one done since November, and my feet were sorely in need of some tender loving care. I warned the nail technician before I even took off my shoes. She seemed to take it all in stride, not even saying one Vietnamese word to the technician sitting next to her. As usual, two things occurred: 1) It felt really good. I mean reeeeally good; and 2) I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving that I never needed to do pedicures as I simply cannot stand to touch feet. Not even my own, really. It would have been a bad career choice.

Point and Shoot
I continue to learn more and more about my telephone. Last night, as I lay in bed thinking about everything I didn’t know about my phone, it occurred to me that I haven’t seen hide nor hair of a GPS. My old Galaxy 4S had a reasonably good GPS that you could turn on or off. But I hadn’t seen anything vaguely looking like a GPS turn-on button on my iPhone. So I mentioned that to Bill yesterday morning as we took a walk in our neighborhood park. When we got to the car, he poked around a bit, in that Bill-like way, and eventually said that the GPS must be installed because the map program knew where we were. So there’s that. I also am trying to figure out my camera. I know how to point and shoot, but I’m pretty sure it can do trickier things than that, but I’m not quite sure what they are. Baby steps. The first thing I need to do is figure out how to make calls and send texts.

Better Than the Cigars
It has been established that Bill is a big fan of the sandwich, and I am not particularly a fan at all. But when Maggie invited us over for dinner to compensate for babysitting duties I will have tonight (she doesn’t need to do that), and told me she was making us Cuban sandwiches, I thought, “Hmmm. That sounds muy bien.” And man, were they ever! She made the shredded pork in her crock pot using a recipe supplied by Jeff Mauro from Food Network, and lined a hoagie bun with the meat, some Swiss cheese, some ham, pickles, and lots of mustard. She told me that you can buy day-old bread from Jimmy John’s for 50 cents, and that’s what she used for the sandwiches. We wolfed ours down, making yummy noises, and each took a sandwich home for lunch today. Scooooooooooooooore!…..

img_0194 img_0193


Christmas Chaos

At the beginning of every episode of The Pioneer Woman on Food Network, Ree Drummond says, “Here’s what’s happening on the ranch.” Apropos of nothing in this blog post, I love when she says that, because I have a secret desire to live on a ranch. Let me explain something, however. I would be a very, very bad rancher. Considering how many times a day I make my way to the grocery store for one reason or another (like when I realized yesterday that I didn’t have a lemon for my lemon butter chicken just as I was beginning dinner preparation), living in the middle of nowhere simply wouldn’t work for me. Plus, if I was going to live on a ranch, it would be in the Arkansas Valley of Colorado where my ranch would be surrounded by mountains. It certainly wouldn’t be in Oklahoma. I have no beef with Oklahoma (pun intended), but every time Ree Drummond says, “Let’s have a picnic,” she looks like she and everyone picnicking with her are going to blow away. You know, OOOOOOOOOOOOklahoma, where the winds come sweeping down the plain….

Anyhoo, with a wink to the Pioneer Woman, here’s what’s happening at the McLain suburban non-ranch.

It’s been a busy week because, as you know, we leave on Christmas Day for AZ, where we will spend the next four months soaking up sunshine and feeling sorry for all of our Colorado family and friends when the need to shovel snow arises. So in addition to preparing for Christmas – which in my case involves preparing two different meals on two different days – we are also doing the things we need to do to get the house ready for our departure.

This year, there isn’t as much involved in that regard because Allen and his girlfriend Emma are going to stay here and housesit while we are gone. The only reason that’s a panic situation for me is that my house is a mess. I would like to blame it on Christmas, and that certainly has added to the mess. However, I laid on my bed yesterday afternoon and glanced up and noticed about three-quarters of an inch of dust on the ceiling fan, and that can’t be blamed on Christmas. You know what’s really sad about that? That dust will still be there when I get back, because I certainly won’t be dusting ceiling fans any time before we go.

You’ve heard of Murphy’s Law? Well, we are experiencing Murphy’s Second Cousin Once Removed Ernie’s law, which is a step worse than Murphy’s Law. It all started last weekend when the temperature was hovering around 2 degrees and Bill went out to get our mail. Now then, there are lots of things wrong with cold weather, but not the least of these things is the fact that everyone is so clumsy when wearing heavy coats and gloves and hats and scarves. It is almost impossible to move. I always feel like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story. I’m afraid I’m going to fall down and need to yell, “Ralphie! I can’t get up.”

Anyhoo, Bill got our mail, but somewhere between our mailbox and the front porch, he dropped the mailbox key into the snow. It was 2 degrees, the snow was five or six inches deep, and it was almost dark. And there was poor Bill digging in the snow trying to find the key. The key which, to date, has not yet been found. Thankfully our kids had a spare, and we were able to make a duplicate key. But you know how those things BUG YOU? Both Bill and I have been out there on numerous occasions this week determined to find the key, and yet unsuccessful.

And then, of course, the toilet backed up. The downstairs toilet which is used in the neighborhood of 75 times a day. It happened the night that Court and the kids were over for dinner. Cole is our prime suspect, though he is wisely admitting to nothing. Bill is tenacious. He is determined to fix it himself, despite the fact that his degree is in law and not plumbing. He even ordered a special tool that was supposed to shoot whatever it is that is blocking to toilet (and only Cole knows for sure) to kingdom come so that the toilet will once again flush.


So far, he has been unsuccessful. Perhaps I will send him to the grocery store and call a plumber while he is gone.

Not to be outdone, my car had to get its last-minute shots in as well. Suddenly the key remote stopped working. Thankfully, it was an easy fix, but Bill was not able to fix it before I sat in the parking lot waiting for Hobby Lobby to open and listening to my car alarm unceasingly screeching for a reason that I haven’t quite figured out, but which had something to do with my car remote not working. When the Hobby Lobby doors finally opened, the clerk looked at me as though I was driving a stolen yellow Bug.

Nevertheless, my presents are wrapped and ready for the weekend festivities. Our daughter Heather and her family arrive this afternoon to spend Christmas. We are warm and safe and healthy and dry, so I really can’t complain.

Even though it’s clear that I do.

And speaking of A Christmas Story, while the photo of Kaiya and Mylee that I shared yesterday is one of my favorites, here is another…….

Austin (on the left) is about as happy with the Christmas pajamas that his Grammie Jen bought him last year as Ralphie was with his pajamas he received from his aunt in the beloved movie.

Talking Turkey

The other day on my blog, I was writing about all of the meals using leftover turkey that follow the main event. Turkey chopped salads. Turkey ala King. Turkey club sandwiches. Turkey tacos. But in the blog post, I specifically mentioned “the inevitable turkey tetrazzini.”

Never being one to be shy, my sister Jen asked me outright on Thanksgiving Day if I really made turkey tetrazzini as one of my Thanksgiving turkey leftovers, or if I was once again using “literary license.” She used air quotes and said it with a bit of a snicker. Literary license, by the way, is my excuse for not always being entirely factual if being a tad, well, not factual is more interesting. Wikipedia calls it artistic license and defines it as distortion of fact… an artist in the name of art. So see? It’s a real thing. It only requires a bit of a stretch of the imagination by calling what I produce “art.”

By the way, saying that my sister snickered was also literary license.

But back to turkey tetrazzini.

I admitted to my sister that I had, in fact, never made turkey tetrazzini using my turkey leftovers. I have made turkey noodle soup. Turkey pot pies are a common post-Thanksgiving meal that I make.  Bill loves when I simply throw the leftover turkey into the leftover gravy, and serve it over a slice of white bread with a side of leftover mashed potatoes.

But no turkey tetrazzini. I mentioned “inevitable turkey tetrazzini” because I always saw it as the leftover turkey meal of choice in Redbook and Good Housekeeping. I think it’s been around for decades. My mom might have even prepared it with leftover turkey. It just has a 1960s feel to it, doesn’t it?

Hold that turkey tetrazzini thought, because I want to digress to something only marginally related. The matter of the turkey carcass.

Somewhere near the end of our Thanksgiving meal, a discussion ensued about what was going to happen to the turkey carcass. Or, in our case, the turkey carcasses. There was a point when I thought we might be moving to the living room to perform feats of strength with the carcasses being the grand prize. Thankfully, Allen and I took the high road and backed away, leaving the carcasses to Court and Alyx’s mom Manith. I suspect that two superb pots of soup have recently been made from those bird skeletons.

But back, once again, to turkey tetrazzini.

A day or so following Thanksgiving, I finally had time to begin perusing my Food Network Magazine that featured their Thanksgiving ideas. Lo, and behold, what should appear but a recipe for turkey tetrazzini. Yes indeed, in something as fancy schmancy as Food Network Magazine.

I took a gander and liked what I saw. This was not your mother’s turkey casserole featuring cream of mushroom soup and cheddar cheese and baked at 350 until the turkey is so dry it gets stuck in your throat. In fact, it didn’t go into the oven at all. And in place of cream of mushroom soup, the recipe called for  — wait for it – a cup-and-a-half of heavy cream. As I perused the recipe, I noticed that I had every single item in my pantry and/or my refrigerator.

I will never again poke fun at turkey tetrazzini, because Bill and I almost licked the pan clean. How do you go wrong with something that includes cream, parmesan cheese, mushrooms, and wine?


Turkey Tetrazzini with Spinach and Mushrooms

Salt for cooking noodles
8 oz. wide egg noodles
3 T. unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
½ small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1 t. chopped fresh thyme
¼ c. dry white wine
1-1/2 c. heavy cream
3 c. chopped leftover turkey or chicken
8 c. baby spinach
½ c. grated parmesan cheese

Cook the noodles in the salted water as the label directs. Reserve ½ c. cooking water, then drain. Toss with 1 T. butter and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 T. butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 3 min. Add the mushrooms, thyme, ½ t. salt and a few grinds of pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are soft and lightly golden, 6-7 min. Add the wine and cook until absorbed, about 1 minute. Add the heavy cream and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, 4-5 min.

Stir the turkey and spinach into the sauce and cook until the turkey is warmed through and the spinach is wilted, about 3 min. Stir in the reserved cooking water and return to a simmer. Remove from the heat, and stir in 1/3 C. parmesan cheese.

Add the noodles to the turkey mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan.


Saturday Smile: Let the Battle Begin

5195med3vzlA couple of weeks ago, Jll sent me the schedule for the kids’ extracurricular activities for the fall. As you might imagine with four kids, it would have been easier to read War and Peace. Soccer. Softball. Cross Country. Church activities. School trips. I would need hired help just to keep it all straight.

But one activity in particular caught my eye. Alastair was participating in an Iron Chef competition for Boy Scouts.

It was held outdoors, so the cooking apparatus was a camp stove. I would like to see the real Iron Chefs prepare a meal on a camp stove. The boys worked in teams. They were given a $20 budget, and two secret ingredients. They had to prepare a main course, a side dish and a dessert. When the leaders said go! two boys from each team ran to the grocery store. And when I say ran, I literally mean they ran on their two legs to the Safeway about a quarter mile away. I would like to see Bobby Flay running to the grocery store.

The secret ingredients? Cantaloupe and waffle cones. Alastair confided in us that their menu was chicken quesadillas, salad with melon, and s’mores inside a waffle cone.

Bill and I were observers, and I would have bet a hundred bucks that Alastair would win. After all, he is known throughout the west and midwest for being the butter carving champion of Iowa.

I started getting nervous when, upon the return of the two running boys, I saw them place four or five whole chicken thighs into a skillet over a measley campstove flame. Hmmmm, I kept thinking. They should have cut up the chicken so that it would cook more quickly.

The boys took turns turning the chicken. And turning the chicken. Though it was getting dark, I could see that the chicken wasn’t cooking quickly. It was all I could do to keep from walking over to them and suggesting they slice the chicken into small pieces. But then Alastair would have gotten a demerit or whatever Boy Scouts get as punishment. Flogged by an Eagle Scout?

As it neared 8 o’clock and it was so dark that they could no longer see their food, Bill and I left, praying that whoever had volunteered to be judge wouldn’t die of salmonella. The next day I texted Jll to find out if Alastair’s team won.

Here is her text back to me: Inedible. Dave says the chicken was raw and they were not allowed to eat it. Third place out of 3. But they liked the dessert.

Don’t give up your plastic butter carving knife, Alastair.


Have a great weekend.

Cooking for Dummies

I feel like I’m not a great cook any more. I’m not horrible, but I feel like I’ve lost the patience necessary to be a tremendous cook. Almost daily I thank my lucky stars that I elected not to do a blog exclusively about cooking. Because some of my most recent failures would not offer a compelling read, unless my blog was entitled Cooking Blunders.

Take Monday night’s dinner, for example. No, seriously. Take it, because it was practically inedible. And God bless Bill because he doesn’t EVER complain about my cooking. So he bit into the pieces of completely charred Italian sausage and said something like, “Food Network would call this carmelized.”

It was such a nice try on his part, but the truth is Food Network would call it a cooking fail.

The recipe was simple. Tiny new potatoes, fresh green beans, sliced pieces of Italian sausage, seasoning, all doused in olive oil and put into a piece of aluminum foil. The foil was closed up to make a package, and cooked for 30 minutes on the grill. Easy, right?

Except that I should have double wrapped it in the foil because it cooked fine on the closed side. However, I turned it so that the part that I had allegedly pinched closed was on the bottom, and unfortunately, it really wasn’t closed. At least not tightly enough.  As a result, the olive oil dripped onto the grill and a rather large fire ensued. A fire of which I was entirely unaware because I was engrossed in a book. I was reminded of a simply hilarious episode of the Bob Newhart Show in which Bob was grilling steaks on his Chicago condo’s patio and unbeknownst to him, the steaks caught fire. Bob was in his living room doing all of the funny conversational things of which Bob Newhart is the master, and in the background the audience watched as the grill was consumed by flames.

That was me on Monday night.

Here’s an interesting fact about moi. I am easily influenced by reading what someone in a book is eating. So if I read a book that takes place in India, I crave Indian food. If Mexican food is mentioned, that’s what I want for dinner. It happens the book that I’m reading (in which I was so engrossed and totally missed out on a grill fire which rivaled the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, minus Mrs. O’Leary’s cow) takes place in Scotland, and the characters routinely eat scones.

Normally I can take or leave scones, but after reading about the characters eating scones with their tea, I simply HAD to have a scone. If I was in Denver, I would simply have walked over to Whole Foods and purchased a peach scone. Despite giving it plenty of thought, I couldn’t think where I could get a scone around our AZ house. (Bec has since reminded me that Starbucks sells scones and there are probably two or three hundred Starbucks in a five mile radius of our house. Oh well.)

So I made my own peach scones. Had I shot video of my endeavor, it would not have made the cut on Next Food Network Star. Perhaps on America’s Worst Cooks. Ina Garten makes the process of making scones look easy (using peaches imported from a small organic and sustainable peach grove in the south of France). She ends up with a beautiful disk of dough that she easily cuts into triangles and bakes until they are a golden brown with sugar crystals glistening on top. I, on the other hand, ended up with a crumbly mess that I pressed into roughly a round disk, all the while frantically patting the crumbs back into the dough.

But it didn’t turn out too bad…..

peach scone disc

And when it was all said and done, the scones were quite delicious, as evidenced by Bill eating two in a row.

Just as an aside, when I’m cooking, Ina Garten often comes to mind. Mostly how she would be horrified to observe me in the kitchen. For example, I thought of her recently when I was making chicken. I had seasoned the chicken, and needed to throw something away. Because I had not yet washed my hands (which were full of whatever it was that I wanted to toss) and didn’t want to touch anything with raw chicken still lurking there, I opened the cabinet door with my feet. While doing so, a couple of thoughts came into my mind: 1) I have never seen Ina Garten open a cabinet with her feet; and 2) I wonder if it is any more sanitary to put your feet on the kitchen cabinet handle than using chicken-laced hands.

Don’t worry, I used an antibacterial cloth to wipe the handle.

Here is the recipe for the peach scones. Despite the crumbly dough, the scones were delicious.

peach scone cut

Peach Scones, courtesy

2 c. plus 2 T. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. brown sugar
1 T baking powder
½ t. salt
½ c. unsalted butter, cubed and cold
1 egg
¼ c. heavy whipping cream, plus more for brushing
¼ c. sour cream
2 t. vanilla extract
½ c. fresh peaches, diced

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Once combined, cut in the butter with a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Whisk together heavy cream, sour cream, egg, and vanilla extract. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Stir in the peaches, and mix until just combined.

On a well-floured surface, turn out the scone dough and pat into a small disk that’s about a half inch thick. Cut into 6-8 slices, and transfer to the baking sheet. Brush each scone with just a bit of heavy cream.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, or just until golden brown. Allow to cool.

Nana’s Notes: Her recipe had a glaze; I chose to sprinkle mine liberally with sugar after brushing on the cream. Also, since I was facing the above-mentioned crumbly mess, I formed my disk right on the baking sheet, and that seemed to work fine. Finally, I didn’t use fresh peaches; instead, I used canned. That made the dough a bit wetter and the resulting scones a bit more moist. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.

Thursday Thoughts

Like Chasing a Rabbit
I’ve had a Fitbit for a couple of years now. Fitbits, as you know, measure your activity. My daily goal is 10,000 steps, and I reach it on the days I work out; other days I have to work a bit harder to reach the goal. One of the incentives is that you compete against others, who agree to compete against you. Bec’s grandchildren got Fitbits for Christmas, and shortly thereafter, they asked me to be on their list of “friends” against whom they compete. I can look at any time and see how I’m faring against the others, and let me tell you, when it comes to Mackenzie and Carter, it isn’t a pretty picture. It’s seriously like competing against Jack Russell Terriers. The numbers are given in 7-day averages, and Carter is always, ALWAYS in the hundred-thousands. How can I possibly compete against someone who has Running Club in the morning and plays soccer every day at recess?  I’ll bet on any given day, he has beaten me by 9 o’clock in the morning. I’m pretty sure he gets up during the night and just runs up and down their hallway for an hour. I wonder if Bill would notice if I did that……

Rich and Famous
I truly wonder how many famous people I have walked past without ever seeing them. When the family was in NYC a number of years ago for Heather’s college graduation, every once in a while as we walked the streets of NY, Allen would say, “Oh look, there’s Yoko Ono,” or “Did you see him? That was Alan Rickman” (the guy who played Hans Gruber in Die Hard (may he rest in peace). In 1995, Bill and I were in the Oak Bar at The Plaza Hotel in NYC having a drink, when Bill said to me, “There’s Marcia Clark.” If you will recall, Marcia Clark had her 15 minutes of fame because she was the prosecuting attorney in the OJ Simpson trial. So it’s of very little surprise that the other night, when we were out to dinner for Bec’s birthday and suddenly there was some commotion at the door, I paid ABSOLUTELY NO ATTENTION. This, despite the fact that a giant of a man accompanied by a bevy of people had entered the Cajun restaurant where we were dining. It was Erik, who actually had his back to the door, who casually said, “Huh, there’s Charles Barkley.” Well, I looked up and confirmed that it actually was the former Phoenix Sun great himself. After getting past being stunned by his sheer size, I made a very quick decision. I grabbed Mackenzie’s and Carter’s hands and briskly led them through the crowded restaurant to his table, just as he was getting ready to sit down. I politely asked him if he would be willing to let me take his picture with my niece and nephew. Now then, that could have gone south very quickly. After all, I was interrupting his private dinner. But it didn’t. See……

Charles Barkley Carter Kenz 1.16

When I’m rich and famous, I’m going to be as nice as Charles Barkley.

Cake Wars Continues
Bill isn’t the only one in this family who can bake. I made some cupcakes from scratch yesterday afternoon, using a wonderful Barefoot Contessa recipe. I changed them up a bit by using leftover icing from Bec’s birthday cake as a filling. I put the icing – a mixture of cream cheese, marshmallow fluff, and powdered sugar – into a squirt bottle and filled the chocolate cupcakes with the cream before icing them.  They were delicious.


Chocolate Cupcakes, courtesy Ina Garten and Food Network

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
2 tablespoons brewed coffee
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Nana’s Notes: The Barefoot Contessa wouldn’t even consider OWNING a plastic squirt bottle, but too bad, her loss. The filling makes the cupcakes good. And, unlike Bill, I used store-bought frosting. So there.