Chefs get thumbs down from 6-year-old judge


Everyone’s a critic. Even people who are just 6 years old.

Austin Jackson, who attends Holland Elementary School, recently went to Washington with his mother, Kim Mrkva, to judge the cooking of some of the best chefs in America. The kindergartener was not pleased.

The Toledo family joined with a family from Maryland to sample the cooking of Tom Colicchio, Ming Tsai, Maria Hines, and Holly Smith as part of the Partnership for a Healthier America’s Childhood Obesity Summit. The Partnership for a Healthier America is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s nonpartisan initiative to combat obesity in children.

The challenge for the James Beard Award-winning chefs was to cook a healthy, three-course dinner in just 30 minutes on a Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (food stamps) budget of $10. Or at least that was their initial challenge. Their bigger challenge turned out to be getting past the discriminating palate of Austin.

Mr. Colicchio, the head judge on Top Chef, co-founded the Gramercy Tavern in New York City. At his Colicchio & Sons restaurant, a seven-course tasting menu goes for $120 per person — $190 with wine. But he and Ms. Hines couldn’t get Austin to like their shaved carrot and apple salad or their orange Jell-O and buttermilk panna cotta dessert. Actually, Austin hated the dishes.

Actually, he spat them out into his napkin as soon as he tasted them.

Mr. Tsai and Ms. Smith fared no better with their frisee salad with avocado and shallot dressing or their glazed chicken thighs with sautéed fennel, garlic, mint, chives, and parsley. Nor was Austin a fan of the dessert of yogurt parfait with cinnamon-covered cashews.

The team of Mr. Colicchio and Ms. Hines won the event, no doubt partly due to Austin’s relative appreciation of their beef and broccoli dish. For their participation in the event, which they won in a sweepstakes sponsored by Parents magazine, Ms. Mrkva and Austin get to keep the equipment on which the food was cooked.

The chocolate war

Here at Morsels Central, we don’t like to rush to any conclusions. We live by the mantra of the old City News Bureau of Chicago: If your mother says she loves you, check it out. But we will concede that all indications point to the strong possibility that today is, in fact, Christmas.

And because it is Christmas, reportedly, we have a tidbit about one of the best parts of the holiday season: chocolate.

Actually, we have two tidbits. Consider them nibbles.

The first is that the Christmas season is the biggest time of the year for sales of chocolate, far exceeding Easter and Valentine’s Day.

The second is that milk chocolate is much more popular than dark chocolate. You probably knew that already, just from simple observation, but you might not know just how one-sided the popularity is. Seventy-seven percent of all chocolate sales are milk chocolate, and an astounding 93 percent of all households purchase it.

This information comes from the Ghiradelli Chocolate Co., and was cited in the current issue of the Gourmet Business online magazine. The San Francisco-based Ghiradelli mentioned it as a way of introducing its new line of gourmet milk chocolates (Gourmet Milk Creamy Devotion, Gourmet Milk Sea Salt Symphony, and Gourmet Milk Coconut Rendezvous).

Sigh. Something else to check out. This journalism business is tough.

A usual suspect

Thai Curry One Way? Delicious.

Thai Curry Two Ways? Excellent.

But Thai Curry Three Ways? That can only be superlative.

And it isn’t hard to make, either, especially when you cheat (or sort of cheat) by using a prepared jar of curry sauce.

Chef Roberta Acosta will be making her monthly trip to the Fresh Market on Jan. 14, from 1-4 p.m., to demonstrate how to prepare Thai Curry Three Ways. She will be making the dish continually during the free three-hour demonstration period, so you can drop in at any time and catch the whole thing.

Or you can just make the recipe yourself, which follows — just one of the many holiday services we offer here.

Thai Curry Three Ways

2 teaspoons stir-fry oil

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

1 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into half moons

⅓ cup white wine, such as Chardonnay

1 jar (11½-ounce) curry sauce of your choice

1 cup green pepper, sliced

1 small can cut baby corn, drained

1 small can bamboo shoots, drained

Heat oil in a skillet over high heat until very hot; add chicken and season with salt and pepper. Cook chicken, turning until browned on all sides, approximately 2 minutes. Add zucchini and cook for 2 more minutes. Transfer meat and zucchini to a plate and keep warm. Remove pan from heat and add wine, scraping up any browned bits from the pan.

Turn heat down to medium low and add sauce to the pan. Add bell pepper and simmer over low heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next add corn and bamboo shoots and cook for another 2 minutes. Add chicken and zucchini and bring to a short boil (no more than 2 minutes).

Delicious served over jasmine rice.


2-4 servings

Source: The Fresh Market

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