Cooking with my daughter is much more enjoyable than cooking alone. There are moments of love, conversation, and learning that wouldn’t happen otherwise. We talk about why we’re using a certain process or how many tablespoons make 1 cup. She gently lets me know if she thinks there’s not enough salt.
Her hands are much like mine; always itching to create something in the kitchen.
After the recent hurricane, schools were closed because of power outages and one of those days, with my mother, Alora announced, “I need to make tomato sauce.” With my mom only cutting the onions for her, Alora made the best tomato sauce I’ve ever tasted. I say that with no bias or exaggeration. I do say it with a little jealousy because it was better than any sauce I’ve ever made. She won’t even tell me what was in it. Whatever.
Children are more likely to try and eat things that they helped make so if possible, start them young. The smaller set can pull tails off of cooked shrimp, dump food and spices into a bowl, and squeeze a lemon. As they get older, let them use a butter knife to cut soft items, stir pots, and make their own sandwiches the way they want to (that is turkey, cheese, lettuce, cucumbers, pickles and a little bit of mayo for Alora).
This weekend we set out to make fish in parchment packages. Each of us getting our own little meal, made to order. Alora and I hit the market up for fish, knowing only that she got to pick what looked the best. I’m sure any fish will work in parchment packs – but she wanted the catfish. We also grabbed 6 gigantic shrimp because they were beautiful and asked me nicely to buy them.
When we got home, we preheated the oven to 450 degrees and started chopping vegetables. Anything small or soft works great - I even used my mandolin slicer for paper thin potatoes and onion. You also want some aromatics (herbs, garlic) and acid (citrus, vinegar, wine) involved.
I told her about mise en place and how it makes making dinner so much easier because you don’t have to stop to do anything and clean up is easier. She retorted with some smart-ass remark about how I never do that and it’s why the kitchen is always messy. Ahem.
With her station set up, she artfully crafted her packet, thinking out loud as to what takes the longest to cook with each addition.
Each layer was seasoned with her favorite flavors and paprika “for color.” After getting all three fillets ready, each one was topped with two of the shrimp. I was given the duties of wrapping the packets tightly and placing them in the oven. As much as I trust Alora, she has unfortunately inherited my clumsiness.
After 15 minutes in the hot oven, we all gathered around the table and enjoyed our personalized parcels. The master of the kitchen herself was so pleased with the result that she almost immediately started pondering more meals to make in pouches.
You can practically see the wheels spinning….
I sure do love this girl.