Monday, February 27, 2012

Sunday afternoon cooking school

Late winter, early Lent, and a Sunday with nothing to do. The weather has been breaking out in nice days, but it seems that it does not coincide with the weekends. So I wind up sharing my morning coffee with these guys, who have a bit of natural assets to deal with the newly fallen white stuff
Something about ducks in the snow makes me feel sad. Makes me think of the movie Dr Zivago , and being banished to Siberia
Yes, I am dating myself with that reference. What can I say - I am an old person. Almost. Numerically that is.

So while the ducks wandered across the frozen land and "Somewhere my love" kept filling my head, I started to think about dinner. Chicken was planned, but I wanted to do something a little more exciting. A little more interesting. A little death defying. And then I realized that what I needed was to spend this meal prep time teaching my son some knife cuts and a simple way to garnish. Yes, I know how to do these things, but normally it seems like putting on a string of pearls and a matching sweater set just to step into the laundry room . When no one else is there. At 2 am. It's nice but not nessisary.
We were planning to eat some cucumbers with dill, so it made a very nice medium to teach the three most basic knife cuts- slice ( top left) dice ( bottom two) and julienne  ( top upper  right). Ripe cucumber, sharp knife, basic safety rules like curl your fingers under away from the knife and it makes for a safe, satisfying lesson. He was wowed. Then I moved on and showed him how to make a cucumber look "fancy" with a zester. Run lines down the peel, slice and it looks purty
 My son adores any kind of food that is made to be eye appealing.Garnishes, bento boxes, tomato roses- he gets super excited about . If I teach him how to do any of these , it gets stuck in his memory forever. I was on a roll with these tricks, so I decided to teach him another fun sort of trick- polenta in an artsy way. Polenta is basically broth brought to a boil , and cornmeal whisked into the broth and seasoned with herbs, butter, cheese and so forth. It can be poured in a bowl and topped, poured on a serving platter and topped or poured on a cookie sheet, chilled and cut. Polenta was on the menu , so I decided to show him the last option
Polenta cooling on a cookie sheet
Polenta cut in circles with a biscuit cutter and a few leftover bits cut into squares.

Next came a veggie. Asparagus has been inexpensive here, but it is one veggie he is still not crazy about. I keep telling him that the trick to find how to like a veggie is to investigate different ways to prepare it. He watches a lot of TV cooking shows and was fascinated when some chef used this idea. It's asparagus! It's bacon! It's fancy !

Remove the woody ends from the asparagus stalks, grease a cookie sheet and wrap each stalk in a slice of bacon in a spiral sort of fashion. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes and serve

Put it all together with your favorite recipe for chicken parts, and it makes a nice( and fancy sort of looking) meal
Dinner cooked, lessons taught, bellies full , ready to conquer a new week.

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