Lessons for very young chefs


August 07, 2002|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

The kids are bored and school doesn't start for another few weeks. What can you do? How about teaching them to cook?

Emeril Lagasse, the one chef the kids have probably heard of and maybe even watch, introduces them to cooking in Emeril's There's a Chef in My Soup: Recipes for the Kid in Everyone (Harper- Collins Children's Books, 2002, $22.99).

The 75 recipes in this book are not necessarily easy (there's one on how to make pretzels, for example), but they tend to be the kind of fare kids like to eat: pizza, corn dogs, spaghetti. And because he is Lagasse, he puts his own mark on the recipes, including "Baby Bam" seasoning and instructions to "kick them up a notch."

With nearly all of the recipes in this book, adult supervision is needed. Lagasse cautions his young followers to be careful, to always ask permission before starting to cook, and to enlist an adult's help when needed. Each recipe comes with symbols indicating the risks involved, such as sharp knives, electric appliances and hot stoves.

In an introductory chapter for grown-ups, Lagasse explains the benefits of teaching kids to cook: It allows them to be creative, it teaches practical skills like following instructions and basic math, and it helps them learn about nutrition and good eating habits.

I enlisted my 5-year-old to help create his favorite meal, chicken nuggets. I cut the chicken breasts into cubes, he added the seasonings and smashed the cornflakes for the nugget coating with gusto.

The results of our efforts were chicken nuggets and a dipping sauce that everyone in the family rated superior to those offered by the fast-food restaurants.

Maybe my son will turn into a celebrated TV chef one day.

Chicken Nuggets With Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce

4 servings

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 tablespoons barbecue sauce

2 teaspoons Baby Bam (recipe follows)

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 cups (4 ounces) cornflakes

Position oven rack in center and preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cover a large baking sheet with alumnium foil and set aside.

Place the chicken breasts on a cutting board and cut into 1-inch cubes. Transfer the chicken pieces to a large mixing bowl. Wash your hands, the knife and the cutting board well with warm, soapy water before proceeding.

Add the barbecue sauce, Baby Bam, garlic powder and salt to the bowl with the chicken and stir with a spoon to coat well. Pour the cornflakes into a large resealable plastic bag. Let as much air out of the bag as possible, then seal it. Place it on a counter top and crush the cornflakes into small pieces with your hands by pressing down hard.

Place the chicken pieces in the bag with the cornflakes. Reseal the bag and toss to coat. Arrange the coated chicken pieces on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until crispy and golden-brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Using oven mitts or potholders, remove the sheet from the oven and serve the chicken with the Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce.

Honey-Mustard Dipping Sauce

Yields about 3/4 cup

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons creole mustard or other hot whole-grain mustard

Put all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir well with a spoon to combine. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Baby Bam

Yield about 3/4 cup

3 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons dried parsley

2 teaspoons onion powder

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

Place all ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stir well to combine, using a wooden spoon. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

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