Thursday, August 30

Culinary Arts, Take 1

Tonight began the culinary arts adventure at JIFF (the after school program at Centenary United Methodist on Thursday nights). Five young men from grades 3-5 joined me in the kitchen to learn how to make Macaroni and Cheese from scratch. We were joined by my sister and sous chef (well, she has potential!) Denise.

The first thing we discussed was how many things in a kitchen could hurt you. Should have included Denise. I think she wanted to smack them back on to their kitchen stools a few times. I had no notion that they would sit angelically upon their stools listening intently to my every word. So I was not disappointed!

They really did a nice job. I was surprised to find that they had so little experience doing simple tasks, like measuring 6 cups of water - or reading directions on a box of mac and cheese. We prepared a box of Kraft to compare with our homemade version...and I think that even that would have been impossible without my help. We even had to learn the difference between Tsp and Tbsp!

But they were VERY eager to assist in the whole process. Whenever I started the phrase "would someone like to..." I always had at least two volunteers.

After choosing our pasta shape (the boys went with Rotini - a spiral pasta) and getting the water headed to a boil - we began to make a Roux. Which I explained was the beginning of every cream sauce or cream soup they could think of. We figured out that a stick of butter equaled a half cup of flour (roux is equal parts flour and fat) and after the butter was melted a couple of the boys took turns constantly stirring the paste on the stove. Denise helped get 4 cups of milk measured and heated in the microwave. Then once the roux was a golden blonde (you keep cooking the paste until you get the right color for the dish you're making. Gumbo would be all the way to brick-colored) we added the warmed milk and the whisking continued without fail.

Finally the water for both the rotini and the box macaroni was boiling. I set the other three boys to the task of grating cheese. They wanted to grate all the cheese I had bought for two weeks of classes!

After a few minutes of cooking the white sauce (bechamel) had thickened to the point that it would coat a spoon so it came off the heat and the cheese was added one handful at a time. They boys were all excited to have a chance to make a batch of cheese disappear! A little salt, pepper and ground mustard made the cheese sauce complete.

Since this was going to be our entree - we diced up a ham steak (the cheese graters moved up the ham dicers) and had it ready to add to our deluxe mac and cheese. Once the pasta was cooked - we drained it and I added the butter, milk and cheese powder for the box batch. The boys stirred it up and boy did it look lame!

Then we added our cheese sauce to the drained rotini and added our diced ham! Boy did it look tasty! Thanks to denise, we had a big pitcher of lemonade and dished up some of each mac and cheese.

Although at the beginning of the night there had been grumbles about not having pizza and "having to eat mac and cheese" of the boys commented (and they all agreed) that this was much better. They want to come back next week! (Of course my next group would be upset...)

We got to have second helping and they decided that the box stuff was okay if you mixed it in with the made-from-scratch. They even experimented with adding a little cayenne or chili powder to kick up the heat. And there were even leftovers for each young man to take home. (Not much - but a little bit to show off to their family!)

No, they weren't angels. And the only person who hung on my every word was Denise. But I think it sparked an interest and I believe they'll be looking forward to their next cooking adventure!

And I need some more "takeout" containers - so send me your butter/sour cream/cottage cheese containers, okay?

And somebody get Denise a Valium for next Thursday.

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