Monday, February 27, 2006

Matenos, mingos, chowder, and grilled Matt Dillon

The little man's vocabulary keeps expanding but his pronunciation is atrocious and shows no sign of improving. Tomatoes are "matenos," spatula is a "spatulala," humidifier is a "doofayah," igloo is "ikalulu," flamingos are "flingo-mingos," or more often just "mingos." He can say restaurant but it is pretty much untranscribable. We sometimes wonder if the daycare staff who look after him a couple of days a week have any clue what he's trying to tell them.

His table manners are basically what you would expect of a two year-old and we try to be amused rather than annoyed by his shenanigans. The other night at a restaurant he insisted on dipping his--well, E's-- French fries in ketchup and then in water. We tried to stop this at first but he clearly prefers his ketchup wet so we left it alone. After he was done eating the wet fries, he drank the ketchup water. "Is that good?" He nodded in the affirmative.

He has become an avid cook's helper. On Saturday he requested that we bake a cake for a birthday party (for whose birthday he didn't say). He went to the pantry and lurched up at the shelves chanting, "powder, powder," for baking powder. He likes to dump the ingredients I give him into the mixing bowl when I'm throwing together pancakes or corn bread and he insists on stirring. The second the batter hits the griddle he demands that I flip the pancakes and keeps demanding it until it's time. If he's in the kitchen when I'm cooking, he demands, "see it," and I lift him up so that he can take in what's on the stove. He likes to add pinches of salt to pasta water, after which I encourage him to lick his fingers and make a face.

One day last week after his nap, he went over to the pans hanging on the wall and said, "cooking." So I heated a pan up and had him help me wash and dry some mushrooms. While I sliced them, he moved them from a cutting board to a bowl. Then after he dumped them in the pan with some butter, he stirred and stirred until they were done. They cooled down for a minute, he put three slices in his mouth, chewed, waited a moment, and spit them out into my hands. He wanted to cook, not eat.


This is a sort of Thai shrimp chowder that I made for lunch the other day and garnished with diced avocado and bacon bits. It's not too different from something I saw last week at Toast, which is a steady source of good ideas. Most basically, chowder is made with pork fat, fish or seafood, and dairy. I substituted coconut milk for regular milk or cream and added a finely minced Thai bird chile along with the onions and garlic. Coconut milk is an excellent substitute for dairy in many recipes. It has several virtues aside from its tropical flavor. It keeps a long time in the pantry and is easier than milk or cream on many people's digestion. I use it in rice pudding (with vanilla sugar, a big winner that I will write about one of these days) and it's on my long list of things to put in ice cream.

To make this soup I made a shrimp stock out of shrimp shells and threw in a leftover boiled potato and some frozen corn. Some chowder recipes call for flour to thicken but if you add cooked potatoes or let your raw potatoes cook a long time, the starch will thicken the chowder a bit.

two strips of bacon, cut into small strips
one onion, chopped
two cloves of garlic, minced
one green Thai bird chile, seeded and minced
shrimp stock made from about the shells of about a pound of shrimp and a few cups of water
one can coconut milk, Chaokoh brand is the one I like
a handful of frozen corn
one large Russet potato, boiled ahead of time
about three quarters of a pound of medium shrimp, brined in salt and sugar for about fifteen minutes
an avocado
salt and white pepper

Cook the bacon over medium heat until it has rendered its drippings and gotten crisp. Reserve the bits as garnish and leave the fat in the pan. Add the onions, garlic, and chile and stir over medium-low heat to soften. Add the potatoes, corn, and shrimp stock and bring to a boil. Then add the coconut milk, stir well to mix it all together, and add salt and white pepper to taste. Add the shrimp, bring to a boil, and then turn the heat off and cover the pan. After five or ten minutes, it should be ready. Garnish with diced avocado and bacon.

We ate this with saltines but oyster crackers would be good too. E thought that the avocados were the better garnish. I would prefer not to have to choose one or the other.


Spell with flickr:



Read blogs!

Slaves of Academe is bitchy, clever, and inside-scoopy. I can't stop reading it.

And Fesser has tips for how to prepare the Oscar nominees, beginning with the supporting actors. On cooking Matt Dillon: "He'll never be Timberlake-tender, but grilled and served Tucscan-style with plenty of garlic, he offers a hearty treat." Dee Lish. I am eager to see how the other noms will be served. Do you fancy Judi Dench in a cassoulet? Rachel Weisz tartare? Paul Haggis haggis? Keep your eyes on the Cod.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This looks really good. I also am a rice pudding fanatic and am looking forward to that post.

9:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fun ideas for cooking with toddlers:
- cookie-cutter cookies are great because you can't overwork sugar cookie or gingerbread dough
- while they don't eat the mushrooms, they're great to start with because you can cut them with a dull knife
- Tofu is also good
- Try a plastic serated knife so they can understand only to use the plastic knives, also so that you can easily tell which side is the sharp side (nothing better than watching a child maul food with the back end of a knife)
- An apple corer/slicer is great fun too
- If you've ever caught your toddler peeling all the paper off an entire box of crayons he/she is ready to peel garlic. This is great because I hate this tedious fussy task.
- Making gnochi is another great task that's tedious in a way toddlers love... plus messy
- I know they're gross, but we buy all our condiments in squeeze bottles (they even make mayo now!) and set her to work making her own dipping sauce for veggies

10:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The french fry, ketchup and water narrative had me laughing aloud. Snappy prose there.

7:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason's three-year-old is fascinated by the food processor and the microwave. She helped me make beanburgers by standing on the stepstool and watching the food go around and around in the processor (oh, and occasionally throwing a piece of something in the chute).

Preschoolers make great "scrap helpers." She shuttled a lot of odds and ends to the trash and to the sink.

We now have a ritual. She grabs the stepstool and watches intently as I pour some carrot or tomato soup from its aseptic, shelf-stable packaging into a bowl. I put it in the microwave, and she immediately asks if she can push the button when it dings. I nod.

It dings, and she pushes the button. The door flies open.

Problem is, my microwave is right at her level. So the door smacks her in the head. Every time. She looks indignant for a few seconds, as though her dignity, rather than her scalp, is wounded...and then she asks if she can do it again.

7:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, and one more:

She is eternally my "tomato paste helper." I told her once she could hold the tomato paste in the supermarket (after determining that being my "bread helper" was a bad idea). Now, every time we're in the market, she wants to be my tomato paste helper. We were in Koppa's this weekend, and we wandered the aisles, and she'd ask about the things at her level: "Do we need pizza? Do we need ice? Do we need...what are these things?" And when we got to the sauce aisle, she exlaimed loudly: "DO WE NEED TOMATO PASTE?!?!" The clerk, restocking shelves, was tickled by the idea of a three-year-old who knew what tomato paste was.

Alas, we didn't need tomato paste. (And she accepted that we didn't need gummy bears, either.)

7:57 AM  

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