Good Food Blog
How to cook with kidsPosted at 10:02AM, 05 July 2011 by Nick Coffer - Food writer
Nick Coffer, author of My Daddy Cooks, road tests our most popular chicken recipe with his young sous chef, Archie...
Cooking with kids as young as Archie (he is a little over three and a half) is all about making compromises and leaving any desire for perfection (and tidiness) at the kitchen door.
At that age, children only have a certain attention span, so corners often have to be cut. The end results may not necessarily win awards for authenticity but that's not what cooking on a busy midweek day with your little helpers is about. It's about fun, quality time, creativity, learning (in an informal way) and building healthy relationships around food. Plus, put it this way - chicken, onions, bacon, tomatoes and rosemary should never taste bad, no matter how you put them together.
It's about fun, quality time, creativity, learning and building healthy relationships around food.
Sarah Cook's Chicken Cacciatore is lovely. A big part of its loveliness comes from carefully and separately browning the chicken, frying off the bacon and then frying the onions, before putting it all back together and adding the tomatoes and stock.
Sadly, there is no way Archie's concentration span could survive so many stages to putting a dish together, so compromises had to be made. But where?
How we did it...
By my reckoning, the onions still needed to be cooked and softened (undercooked onions are just acidic, unpleasant and do not enhance a dish) and the bacon still needed to be fried, to add flavour and also make it less fatty.
Limit the browning
However, I felt we could limit the chicken browning part of the process. I was aware this would mean the skin wouldn't be crispy in the final dish and also knew it could affect the final taste slightly. But, with the addition of a good quality liquid stock, I wasn't too concerned about the dish not having a good chicken flavour.
Combine the frying
We fried off the onions and the bacon together, rather than separately as in the original recipe, for 6 or 7 minutes and then left them in the pan before throwing in the chicken for a further 4 minutes or so, just to seal. With the onions and bacon already in the pan, there was no chance of the skin becoming crispy at this stage.
Leave to simmer
Then it was just a case of throwing in all the remaining ingredients, covering the pan and leaving it to simmer. As my sauce seemed a touch liquid, I took the lid off for the last 15 minutes, helping it reduce down further.
Was it as good as Sarah's original recipe? Not quite, but it was a close call. Only the soft chicken skin let it down slightly but the compromises definitely worked. If I were to cook it again with Archie, I may use skinless chicken legs and thighs and possibly use only one tin of tomatoes.
This was a dish, which Archie really enjoyed putting together with me. We served it on couscous, to absorb more of the sauce, and it was a huge hit. Archie adores bacon, he loves chicken and, as is nearly always the case when we cook together, his pride in his dish ensured our supper got his all-important seal of approval.