In addition to mixing, chopping, grating and measuring, Bayard Taylor’s chefs have learned that they are happiest in Cooking Club when they have a lot to do. In Week 5 they were very, very happy, because there was LOTS and LOTS to do making cornbread and clam chowder.
The New England Clam Chowder was the most complex recipe they had tackled yet, and the cheesy cornbread required careful measuring, whisking and timing to get it in the oven before the chowder came together.
All our chefs had had homemade soup before, but none had had New England Clam Chowder. They were surprised to learn Mr. Peter had grown up in New England and had loved clam chowder because the clams were chewy like gum.
Since this recipe involves four fresh vegetables as well as clams, the chefs jumped right in to practice chopping to a “medium diced” size. JoshLynn Hill and Angela Darden wanted to tackle the onions this time, and like many chefs before them, they struggled with tears. They soldiered through, however, and soon had the two onions ready for the sauté pan. Jomarys Vega Santos and Mayalee Ramos, meanwhile, were getting their first experience chopping potatoes and quickly mastered the safe technique of cutting them in half to provide a flat surface for a base. Joel Rodriguez took care of the celery and everyone divided up the carrots to peel and prepare them, as they had done the week before.
After everything was chopped, Joel tumbled the vegetables into the sauté pan, and Madeline Rookwood took charge of the stirring to make sure they didn’t stick or burn on the bottom.
With that under control, Madeline and Angela moved to a counter at the other side of the kitchen to hone their baking skills.
Cornbread is an easy recipe to make, but it requires a lot of careful measuring in cups, tablespoons and teaspoons. It’s like a science experiment, really, and the portions have to be exact to turn batter into cake in the oven.
With the cornbread cooking, everyone turned their attention to the final steps for the chowder. Making a French “roux” mix with melted butter and flour was especially interesting, since no one had ever made the concoction before (including teachers!). Angela and Madeline closely watched over the whisking to keep the mixture smooth, and Jomarys was so interested she took photos with her phone of each step. Everyone was surprised how the roux (pronounced ROO) thickened the chowder, even when the milk and clams were added.
By dividing up jobs, the class successfully managed to have the cornbread and chowder ready at the same time.
And how did our chefs like their first taste? Everyone liked the cornbread, but opinions varied on the chowder. Joel didn’t care for it, but Madeline enthused “This is sooooo good,” after her first taste. JoshLynn was somewhere in the middle. “It looks disgusting, but it smells good,” she said. “I give it four thumbs up.” How was that possible, since she only has two thumbs? “It’s four because I’m counting my toes,” she explained.
Mayalee, who always chooses her adjectives carefully, didn’t give her reaction immediately. “I need the right word,” she said. Then after a pause, she added, “I think it’s exquisite.”