In Florida, kids start school tomorrow, August 18th. It's a little earlier than the rest of the country tends to start, but they also got out a little earlier in the Spring, so I guess it all evens out. So, for the last supper before school starts, our guest chefs Andy (11) and Colin (7) picked the meals they wanted to cook. Colin wanted his favorite meal, soft tacos. Andy wanted his favorite side-dish, cheese fries. And here we go!
Andy's recipe came from the Rachael Ray 30-minute Meals for Kids Cookbook. Ray does a bang-up job with 6th grade cuisine. Colin collaborated with me with my keenly-honed taco recipe.
Andy was up first, as the side dish actually took longer than the main course. But first, the chefs must pose:
The frozen fries must be placed carefully on a cookie sheet so that they don't touch and get soggy. Normally, they go into a 450 degree oven, but since the oven was in use for a baking project at 350, they just cooked a little longer.
After consulting the cookbook, Chef Andy starts a modified Mornay/Aurore sauce. Start with a couple tablespoons of butter, melted in a saucepan, with a couple tablespoons of flour added to make a roux.
Next, milk is added to make a béchamel, one of the French mother sauces. After the roux thickens the milk, cheddar cheese is added, which turns the béchamel into a mornay sauce.
At this point, Rachael Ray slyly adds a secret ingredient. We are not allowed to divulge the secret ingredient we must squirt into the sauce, even if someone guesses what condiment often goes with fries. Buy the book to find out for sure!
Normally, sauce aurore is a béchamel with tomato paste. Since this sauce has cheese as well, it's not technically a mornay or an aurore. I'm tempted to say, well, it's Rachael Ray, not August Escoffier. Except it's hauntingly similar to derivative sauces I've made, kicked down a couple notches to kid-level, so either Ray has a good ghost writer, or I have to give her some credit for experimentation.
Anyway, the cheese sauce now sits on a low burner until the tacos are ready, and the fries finish baking.
Enter Chef Colin. We start with my taco mix. 1/2 tablespoon of kosher salt (use half this amount if using table salt). 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder. 1/2 tablespoon of garlic powder. 1/2 tablespoon of chili powder. 1/2 tablespoon of cumin. 1/2 teaspoon (not tablespoon) of red/cayenne pepper. Mix, and smile for the camera (Colin lost a tooth yesterday, but it's hidden by his lower lip)
Once the spice is thoroughly mixed, it's time to cook the beef over medium heat. A little over a pound of beef is divided in half, one will be unspiced for the kids (Andy likes his hamburger meat plain, Colin likes to add his own seasoning after cooking). The other half, for the grownups, is spiced while cooking to blend in the flavor.
Once cooked from red to brown, the meat is removed to cool, as the grownup chops some lettuce.
Four tortillas are stacked on the center of three paper towels. The tortillas are wrapped, the outer layer of paper towels is sprinkled with a tablespoon of water, and the towels/tortillas are heated in the microwave for 30 seconds, until soft.
The fries are plated, the cheese sauce is drizzled over the top (or served on the side for dipping -- the preferred delivery method of 11 year olds) and the tacos are constructed next to them (or, the tortilla, meat (with sprinkled spice mix), cheese, and lettuce are placed on their own designated corners of the plate and eaten separately -- the preferred deconstructed-taco method of 7 year olds).
Post Mortem: What can I say? It was the perfect back-to-school meal.