Friday, 23 January 2015

Kids in the Kitchen

Ham and Cheese sandwich ready to eat
This past week, my 12 year old son had to cook a croque monsieur at home, and take pictures to hand in to his food tech teacher at school. With perhaps a bit of reluctance, I let him loose in the kitchen and took charge of the camera to take photos.

What is a croque monsieur?
In very simple terms, it's a grilled ham cheese sandwich with a b├ęchamel sauce. Thankfully, the kids were told they could leave the sauce off.

Melting butter in SKK saute pan
He was supposed to include details on safety issues when cooking under a grill within his written work, but aswe don't have a grill, he and I discussed safety issues when cooking on the hob instead.

1. Never leave a heating pan unsupervised.
2. Turn handles in towards the side or back of the cooker, but not so that they overhang another burner.
3. Don't touch a burner, or pan on the burner, with bare hands.
4. Adjust the heating so that it is appropriate for the food which is being cooked. In this case, I recommended he use a med-high heat so that the bread would brown without burning while the cheese melted.

Slicing cheddar cheese
Slicing ham
I suggested he use the serrated knife and not the ceramic chef's knife for preparing ingredients. The serrated knife is better suited for slicing cheese, and also a bit more forgiving of heavy-handed pre-teenage boys.

For his cheese, he selected a mature cheddar. The ham came from a small pre-cooked gammon joint, which tasted loads better than processed ham as well as being less expensive.

Assembled ingredients and tools

Time to put everything together
Ingredients assembled and prepared, he began putting his ham and cheese sandwich together.

I did make one suggestion here, that he not place the two halves of the bread together until after the cheese had a chance to melt on each side.

Slowly cooking
Pan heated, he carefuly placed both halves into the pan and let them cook.

He noticed the cheese was not melting very well, and realised that he could have sliced it thinner.

Because he doesn't like sauces or butter, both are noticably absent from this sandwich as well. The bit of butter in the pan was a token gesture, made only because I suggested the sandwich would brown better if he used it.

It's nearly ready
After the cheese was melted, my son checked the bottom of one half of the sandwich to see if it was browned enough. He decided it was nearly ready, and very carefully used a spatula to flip one half on top of the other.

While the sandwich continued to cook, he and his younger brother created a second croque monsieur in the background, this time using a gluten-free bread thin.

My older son had his ham and cheese toastie by itself,while his younger brother decided to have his as an accompaniment with a bowl of soup. I also ate mine by itself, but did have some fresh fruit after.

Final verdict: He liked the sandwich, but prefers plain ham without the cheese.

I believe that cooking is a skill that all children need to learn, and I am glad that cooking skills are being taught in secondary school. I may just suggest to my son that he make his croque monsieur at home more often now that he and I both know he can do it.

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