Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chef Boy-R-We

My six year old has said since he was 4 that he wants to be a chef when he grows up.  He has never swayed from this idea.  I believe he may be one of the rare few who has already found his purpose in life.  The boy has always been passionate about food.  It isn't just about eating it.  He is interested in all aspects of food.

"Is this healthy for me mom?"  he often asks before dipping a nugget into ketchup.


"What about this?" he'll ask wielding a carrot like a sword.

When we cook together he likes to smell each spice before adding it in.  He of course likes to taste along the way.  He recently asked me if he and I could take a trip to Paris, France one day.  He wants to see where the great chefs are.

We once had a pet Rosy Wolf Snail named Gary.  Rosy Wolves are unique in that they eat other snails.  About this time the boys were also really into the show Man vs. Wild.  Drew was most fascinated that the host of the show, Bear Grylls, would often eat various bugs.

"Mom, do people really eat bugs?"

"Yes, they do.  In some places it's considered a delicacy."

"What's a delicacy?"

"Something very special.  In fact some people even eat snails!"  I said tapping Gary's bowl.

"Ew!  Are you SERIOUS?!"

"Yep.  It's called escargot."

"Can I have escargot?"

I did not want to pay high dollar for my 5 year old to have escargot but seeing how most kids won't even try a floret of broccoli I was not going to deny his request.  I decided the cheapest way to meet the needs of his adventurous palette was to make it ourselves. 

After Pre-School one day we took a field trip to Hubble and Hudson; a local gourmet grocery store.  Up stairs in the grocery is a culinary school.  Drew always liked to walk by it and talk about when he will take classes there one day.  Down in the grocery there were ready made meals in the deli section.  Behind the counter were chefs preparing food. 

"Excuse me," I called to them.

"Excuse me!"  Drew called in his booming voice.  A gentleman approached.

"How can we help you?"

"My name is Drew and I'm 5 years old," he said holding up a pudgy hand with all five fingers splayed.  "I'm going to be a chef when I grow up and today I want to make escargot.  Escargot is snails."

The man's eyes grew wide in surprise and an amused grin fanned across his face.

"Do you know there is a school for chefs here in this store?" he asked Drew.

"Yep.  I'm going to go there one day."

"Would you like to meet the head chef?" 

Now it was Drew's eyes that grew wide.  "Oh yes please!" 

The kind man called the head chef over and told him all that Drew had said.  He then came around the counter to lift Drew up to watch the head chef prepare something.  (I wish I could remember what it was.  Something I had never heard of or had.)  Drew and I sampled it.  We thanked him for the sample and demonstration.  He did not stay long.  Head chefs are very busy. 

The other fellow though took us to where we could find escargot.  He agreed with me that making it ourselves would be far cheaper then buying it at a restaurant.  He then explained to us how to prepare it.  I was not too thrilled to learn that the snails came separate from the shells.  Ug-oh.  He suggested that we buy pre-seasoned garlic butter to cook the snails in.

Drew and I thanked him and the head chef again, promising to return to share how our experiment went.  We then headed to Drew's other favorite store Sur la Table.  Sur la Table is a cooking supply store much like Williams Sanoma.  Drew loves to look at all of the different tools.  On this trip he decided he wanted a pasta maker and a manual mixer.  However this visit we were only there to get the scoop for the butter.  (We were told to scoop out a knob of butter.)

At home Drew had a fabulous time!  The snails came canned so the first job was to rinse them.  Next we rinsed all of the shells.  Then Drew put a knob of garlic butter into the shell followed by the snail.  He had to kind of stuff it in.  (So glad I did not have to do that!  *gag*)  He sealed off each shell with a second knob of garlic butter.  The stuffed shells were put into a pan and baked.  I don't recall the temperature or for how long.  We served the escargot along with pizza from our freezer and a salad.

Here's how that went:

Drew eats escargot!! (My apologies that it's sideways.  For some reason Facebook can't fix it...)
Drew has accumulated quite a few cooking supplies over the past few years.  He finally got his manual mixer for Valentines this year and especially loves to make pancakes with it.  We have also decided that every Sunday night he would make dinner.  This past Sunday Drew made spaghetti.  After dinner he wanted to watch cooking videos on YouTube while I cleared the table.  He watched one show on Creme Brule, something he's had an interest in since seeing the torch at Sur la Table.  Drew followed that up with two different videos on Tiramisu. 

One morning he made this with my  neighbor, Caren, a former Personal Chef.  He watched two videos because one of them the guy did not make it quite like Caren.  When he found the one that did he said, "Mom, write this down on your grocery list:  I need mascarpone cheese, lady fingers and cocoa powder.  Wait...do we have cocoa powder?"

In two of the videos we watched the men had accents, one French and one Italian.  Drew would laugh and try to mimic them.

"Mom, what countries have the best chefs?"

"Well, probably France and Italy, like these guys.  Though, I know there are great chefs in New York as well."

"Yeah...I still want to go to France with you."

While running errands with Caren today I told her about Drew's YouTube quest for her tiramisu recipe.  She took me to where she buys the lady fingers and mascarpone.  When Drew got off the bus I told him what we had bought.

"Ms. Caren!  Can I please come and make tiramisu?" 

"Use this for your motivation to get him to finish his biography project..." Caren whispered to me.  Genius. 

As soon as Drew finished he gathered his ingredients and ran over to Caren's for another tiramisu lesson.  I stopped by half way through and watched as Drew and Caren's daughter dipped each lady finger into a bowl of coffee and then layer a glass dish with the soaked cookies.  Then they spread a cream, that they made before I got there, over the top.  Using a Parmesan cheese grater, they shaved chocolate over the cream and then repeated the process a second time right over the top of it all. 

"Thank you for teaching me to make tiramisu, Ms. Caren."  Drew said as he gave her a hug.

"Wait Drew.  You have to pay me."


"You have to let me have a little pinch of each of your earlobes," Caren said.   (Drew has these amazing thick, floppy earlobes.)  Drew obediently stood still for Caren and allowed her to get a squeeze of those fabulous lobes!

The dessert was a great motivator tonight to get everyone to finish all of their salads.  Drew was so proud of it!

"Will it be good?"  Gabriel tentatively asked.

"Yee-eah!" Drew exclaimed sounding like Gabriel was absurd to even ask.  "Who doesn't like tiramisu?!" 

(Click on my Recipe tab for the escargot and tiramisu recipes.)

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