It’s somewhat ironic that I love to cook and entertain the way I do, because my mother has a string of embarrassing-yet-humorous stories centered around food and dining. There was the time that she was chatting with Lee Iacocca at a cocktail party and helped herself to a coconut shrimp on a toothpick from a passing waiter; en route to her mouth, the shrimp fell off the toothpick onto the floor (the upshot of this story is that Iacocca, without missing a beat or calling attention to it, kicked the slipped shrimp under a nearby table). Another time, she and my father hosted a fondue party in which the cheese fondue separated into a layer of stringy swiss covered by four inches of white wine, making for a less than stellar presentation–“although it tasted fine,” Mom is quick to add whenever she tells the story. And once, while they were having dinner with my father’s boss and his wife at a rather exclusive restaurant, my dad mortified my mom by pulling a Bounce dryer sheet out of the sleeve of his dress shirt.
My mom did have one foolproof culinary trick up her–uh, well, in her repertoire, however. Hot fudge sundaes. Whether they were hosting friends for dinner, or had been invited to another couple’s home, or were attending a potluck, my mom could always count on wowing the crowd when she brought a gallon of French vanilla ice cream, a container of Spanish peanuts, and this all-American hot fudge sauce. It’s easy, impressive, unbelievably delicious and guaranteed to absolve you of any food-related faux pas.
Homemade Hot Fudge Sauce
Combine 1 cup sugar and 4 tablespoons cocoa powder in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir until mixture is warm, but not melted.
Add 3 tablespoons butter and stir until combined. Add 7/8 cup* evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed, unless you want the diabeetus) and stir until blended. Stirring constantly and scraping bottom of pan with a heatproof spatula, bring sauce to a boil; boil hard for one minute.
Remove from heat. Serve immediately or chill–sauce will be thin at first (“although it tastes fine”) and will thicken as it stands, and especially if it is chilled.
*Yes, I know 7/8 cup is a bizarre measurement, and chances are good that if you use an entire cup, the sauce will turn out just fine. But this is the way my mother handed down the recipe to me, and how her mother handed it down to her, so I’m sticking with 7/8 for the sake of matrilineal tradition.