Tonight is the 6th grade parent orientation at my son's middle school. The powers that be decided to make it a pot luck type gathering to encourage visiting and chatting and general mirth. I think they decided on a more social gathering to take the edge off the abject terror felt by most of the 6th grade parents sending their babies off into the dreaded "middle school". Ok, I'm all for a little social eating but I'm busy and don't know how many people are coming and, oh heck, it's a culinary stress moment for me.
Because I cook, there's always a little pressure, self induced no doubt, to present something worthy at gatherings where people eat. Since I don't know how many people, what the deal is and don't want to take anything fussy that people need to serve up, it's back to a solid "go to", saltine candy. It's old school, quick, easy and it doesn't matter in the slightest how many people show up to any given event, you can simply break the crackers smaller! Voila! twice as many for the late comers.
Preheat the oven to 400.
You need a sleeve of saltine crackers, 1 cup of butter, 1 cup of brown sugar and a little vanilla. Top it with some chocolate and nuts and you are a star!!
Line a pan with parchment paper (you will thank me for this step!) and lay out a sleeve or more of saltines, you want to cover the whole thing evenly.
Boil the sugar and butter like crazy for about 4 minutes, it'll get thicker and foamy and basically you want the sugar to be completely disolved. Remove it from the heat and add a capful of vanilla. Stir it in and carefully pour the mixture over the saltines, try to be even but it will level out in the oven.
Bake it for about 5 minutes or until it's evenly bubbly.
After it comes out of the oven, sprinkle it with chopped chocolate or chips. I'm impatient so I put it back in the oven (open) for a moment or two to help the chips melt faster.
Spread the melted chocolate and sprinkle with nuts if you'd like, leave to cool (hardest part!) and cut it up into pieces or break it into shards. Your call, either way is delicious and looks fabulous and you can feed as many people as arrive.
You can do this using graham crackers but it really doesn't have the same impact as the salty crackers under the sweet caramel and slightly bitter chocolate. It really is a surprising combination and always a big hit.
The parents tonight can take a big piece or a small one to sample and not need a knife, fork or plate. They can mingle with the comfort of something chocolaty and chat to the other wide eyed parents of first time middle schoolers. They can murmur sweet supportive things to each other, all the while horrified at the realization their babies (and mine!) have officially entered the realm of the pre-teen and short of selling up, moving to the wilds of Montana and starting a commune, there's not a single thing we can do to stop it.
Make the candy, it's easy, it's yummy and everyone will invite you back.