Cooking With (and For) Kids
In the French Kitchen with Kids
When I was a kid, fancy food = French food. There were no other options in Toronto. Not all French food is fancy of course. In France, they eat French food pretty much every day. But even if haute cuisine has fallen out of favour, butter makes everything better. Have you ever tried a Nadege croissant? Learning classic techniques is also a great way to learn the fundamentals of cooking. Lucky for us, Toronto’s own Mardi Michels has recently published a book that makes French cooking accessible for everyone.
Mardi Michels is a teacher and blogger who runs French cooking classes for kids. While her book is focused on cooking with and for children, the recipes will work for anyone. No French classic is left behind. A recipe for “quick” croissants is included as part of breakfast. While somewhat of a project, it is less so than regular croissants. For lunch, recipes include quiche, croque monsieur and grated carrot salad. For snack, financiers (little almond cakes) and palmier cookies, as well as simpler yogurt cake. For dinner, steak frites, roast chicken, ratatouille and of course, scalloped potatoes. For dessert, crème brulee, crème caramel, profiteroles, eclairs and a very yummy looking Coeur a la crème, even a chocolate version.
To test these recipes, I needed to borrow a newbie. I found a willing guinea pig in Noah, my friend Dan’s 10 year-old son. We made the shepherd’s pie (or hachis parmentier, which sounds much fancier) and mixed berry galettes (petites galettes rustiques aux fruits rouges). Both were easy to make with great results. The shepherd’s pie had a base of ground beef which was very savoury and spicy after I snuck in a not-French jalapeno pepper from my garden. Mashed potatoes are always good and we especially loved the lid of crispy gruyere cheese. It’s a great do-ahead recipe. The galettes were also a hit. Mardi’s recipe for sweet shortcrust pastry worked well and the berry filling was dead simple. We had to make small adjustments here and there, but that’s part of learning to read a recipe. If it’s bland for your taste, add salt and pepper. If there aren’t enough berries to fill the tarts, add more berries.
Noah was a great helper and very interested in the results, particularly dessert (shocking). Dan told me after the fact that Noah had no cooking experience, which was evident from little things like the way that he held the spoon and the way he measured ingredients. When you know how to cook, it’s interesting to realize how many things need to be learned. It’s a process and it takes more than one day. That’s why it’s good to have a book like this, so that you can take the time to review and discuss the recipes, and work through them with someone special. Or you can just whip up something delicious, children optional. It’s a no-lose proposition. Pinkies up!
Naomi Bussin is a lawyer, mother of three and accomplished cook. Food is her favourite subject and she reads cookbooks in her spare time.