Thursday, March 11, 2010

Feel like ch-ch-ch-ch-chicken toniiiite!

For the second lesson of the second semester, I stuck to the recipes and format (see this post for the gory details) but ran the class a lot smoother, ending on time for the second week in a row. We started with the question: what is cooking? It is applying heat to food to change it's nature. Last week we were chopping, mixing, blending, all preparation. That's legit, and there can not be cooking without preparation, but it is not cooking. Last week we prepared. Today, we step up and cook!

But not before preparing. These kids still have no knife skills, so first thing was to whip out 20 lbs of russets and have them cube them off (rather than peel), then make small cubes. Once that was done, I took a few kids to be on potato duty, while the others did soup-chop on a selection of vegetables for stock. The potatoes were boiled, drained, spread on a sheet and baked for a minute to make them perfectly dry, run through a food mill then mixed with an obscene amount of cream, milk, butter and salt. I stopped the class, had everyone come over and had them taste it without salt. Then I seasoned and made them taste it again. I got the "AH HA!" moment I was looking for in the smoothies last week. Loose, creamy and outta sight!

The stock pot got full, covered with cold water and set to boil. After 20 minutes, I showed the class how to make a sachet d'espices (parsley, thyme, bay leaf, cracked peppercorn in a tied-off cheese clothe) and added it to the stock. Last time, I attempted to make vegetable soup in the same session but there wasn't enough time. This time, the stock went into the freezer right after.

Ten heads of Swiss chard were deveined, cleaned and chopped up. I took four students, assigned them one fat (chicken fat, butter, sesame oil and peanut oil) and had them slow saute onion half-moons to soft, then slightly brown. The chard got boiled for a minutes, drained, thrown in ice water for blanching and shocking. Once the onions looked right, we through in the chard, chopped up kalamata olives and adjusted with salt.

It was only 5pm! I made a promise if the kids were to hustle and clean up and we had time, I would show them how to bread and fry chicken breasts properly. I really expected to not do this, but these kids did not have to be ridden to clean up. Once they had finished their tasks, they started cleaning every time. So I busted out 8 breasts, sliced each one in half at a 33 degree angle to kinda keep the thicknesses even. I set up the SBP -- standard breading procedure. First bowl, AP flour. Second, egg wash with whole egg and milk. Third, the breading, in this case wholewheat panko breadcrumbs, AP flour and salt. In a preheated rondeau, dumped about 1/4 of an inch of peanut oil. Once the chicken got dipped in each bowl, using alternate hands to prevent the creation of a batter mitt, the chicken went straight into the oil. Flipped after about 5 minutes, when the first came out I asked them how do you know it's done? Ya take a small knife, make a slit on the underside and you peek into the middle! It looked fully white, but still juicy. One student insisted in looked slightly pink, but it was JUST right. It was probably pink 30 seconds before, but in this state it was still very juicy.

So the meal was pretty complete -- crunchy panko chicken breast, Swiss chard with onion, and whipped potatoes. As we did last week with the time, we went around the table after the main feed was done and said what we liked most and what we liked least about class. Most said the best part was eating. Some kids says there was no bad, which is nice, a few said tasting the kalamata olives were the worst, or the cutting of onions, or wot-not. Compliments all around about the chicken, which was nice. Makes me think I should make something like that, simple but interesting, at home more often.

Next week is salads, both mixed and composed, as well as some additional things, as we'll be cooking for Thursday's PTA conferences, too!