If you’ve been reading my posts, you know that my 13-year old son has taken over dinner duty as part of our Coronatimes lifestyle adjustments (We lost our cleaning lady and we eat at home 24/7, so too much work for mommy). He tried lots of chores and they were all torture (especially dishes). But cooking delights him and he has a knack for it. He’s mastered many meats—crispy crust/ tender flesh—and his veggies sparkle with herb-infused butter or oil. It occurred to me that he might be able to inspire you or your kids to cook more and get creative in the kitchen. If you have kids, try motivating them with some of his videos :-).
Last night was in many ways like other nights….a quick meeting in the kitchen to discuss the menu followed by my disappearing act, followed (much later) by Chef Sizzle-Snap calling the family to dinner. When I returned to the scene, he was arranging his masterpieces. It occurred to me that I should have documented the process, but it wasn’t too late—before tearing into dinner he presented his creations and techniques for the camera.
Here’s the line-up:
- Local pastured chicken from Smith & Smith farms
- roasted okra, carrot, celery, and onion with lemon slices, Wheatsville co-op.
- Sweet potato from my local CSA. They were covered in dirt so the Chef peeled them. I prefer scrubbing them because the skin is so healthy and adds great texture and crunch.
- Spaghetti squash from Bernhardt farms
A new technique he explored was to place the chicken on a rack directly above the veggies so that its juices would drip down and flavor them. The best way to make veggies mouth-watering is by using leftover juices from cooking meat (or to cook them together). Artisanal pastured butter also makes veggies divine. If you’re vegan, olive oil and garden herbs pack a punch.
Cooking is an adventure.
My ambitious young chef does not get everything right. But he is fearless about experimenting, and the path of discovery inevitably leads to surprises and successes. Two nights ago I challenged him with a halibut stew, a new offering from Vital Choice. Also on the menu: eggplant, asparagus, and beets. It’s tricky to coordinate a dinner with lots of disparate ingredients and cooking requirements. Just as a conductor needs to have an intimate understanding of all the instruments in an orchestra and their range of possibilities, an accomplished chef understands the range of possibilities presented by his ingredients. And this takes time and experience.
Navigate the challenges, celebrate the triumphs
The plan was further complicated by partially frozen fish that mommy didn’t defrost on time, but that didn’t deter the Chef—he decided to marinate it, then stir-fry it with fresh herbs. We sat down to a platter of rosemary halibut cubes. The oil-drizzled beets emerged from the oven sweet and succulent about an hour later, and the asparagus arrived last, roasted perfectly. So we ate in stages. At the end we realized that the eggplant was still soaking in water (to remove bitterness) and no one felt like egging or cooking it. Dinner was a bit disjointed, but totally yummy. Anyway, you figure out what works as you go…and we saved the eggplant for tonight.
Timing a dinner takes practice! Encourage your kids to try cooking one dish. Let them experiment. They can follow a printed recipe, a YouTube video or just use their intuition (like me). Remember to congratulate their efforts, regardless of the results, and encourage their curiosity, their creativity, their perseverance.
Back to the four-course meal.
The dishes were photographed hastily in terrible light, but hopefully you get the picture. It was all delicious and it got me thinking about Thanksgiving. This year we will not be celebrating with our East-Coast family, except maybe by Zoom. But it’ll be an opportunity to re-envision some of holiday’s staples and to create some new and delicious updated traditions that work just for our family.
Stay tuned for healthy and hearty Thanksgiving recommendations!