My Spring Semester Cooking Class this year was really one for the books. It included mostly 6 and 7-year-old girls, among them the daughter of a former gourmet food magazine editor. My student informed me that she liked five things: chocolate, bacon, pizza, plain pasta, and chocolate chip muffins.
Let’s pause for a moment and really let that sink in: chocolate chip muffins. The food aversions(or perhaps I should say “neuroses”) were rampant in this group.
“I don’t eat fruit!” Apparently, my daughter is not alone in this. Who knew?
“I ONLY eat fruit.”
“I won’t eat hummus if it has touched a carrot.”
“I only like mozzarella cheese.”
“I will ONLY eat parmesan cheese.”
“I hate cheese. It’s disgusting.”
“Cheese is the only food I will eat. If it doesn’t have cheese, then I’m not trying it.”
Ay yi yi. It is important to note that there were wonderful, life-affirming exceptions to those who would not eat or even try most of what we cooked over the semester. I have to admit that I am deeply grateful for the few students who ate with gusto and, even when they did not end up liking something, did try it before they made that decision.
In addition to all of the food hoopla it had, our class had what might be called a behavior free-for-all in cooking. Despite usually being one of the sweetest, most well-behaved and generally delightful group of children I have ever experienced when its individuals were over at our place for play dates or when its members were on school field trips, etc., they really caught me off guard with their antics.
Go in the bathroom, strip down, and start running a bath for yourself? Check. Decide it is a great idea to shriek at the top of your lungs and even have a contest to see who could shriek loudest, shrillest, and longest? Check. Go in Mama Cate and Mister Sean’s bedroom under the guise of needing to go to the bathroom, and go through a few of their things and hide under the bed till someone had to go look for you. Deep breath. Check. Pout? Check. Cry? Check. Call a therapist because you are going to need several years of therapy? Check. Oh wait, that last one might not have been a mini-chef.
But, there we all were, and something had to be done, and something had to be cooked. After all, they did like to cook. Later posts will describe how it all turned out (so much better thanks to a little help from a friend). For now I would like to share one of the recipes that our class made and actually ate, for the most part at least, and that I would never have made without their particular inspiration and/or without adding about thirty different vegetables or something like that. Here is our humble and humbling straight up, delicious mac-and-cheese:
Mac and Cheese with a Crunchy Cornflake Crust
- one pound elbow macaroni, or penne, or any long tube pasta, cooked according to the directions on the box
- 1 c. corn flakes
- 4 cups mild cheddar cheese, shredded
- 3 cups gruyere cheese, shredded
- 1/2 c. parmesan cheese, freshly grated
- 1 c. heavy cream
- 1 c. whole milk
- black pepper, to taste
- optional: cooked bacon bits, rosemary, the usual: cooked broccoli, peas, carrots, greens, anything you can stuff in there
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Set out a 9 x 11 baking dish or several individual ramekins (about 12).
- Over medium-low heat, warm the milk and cream together.
- Add the cheddar and the gruyere, whisking till it melts, and immediately take it off the heat.
- Stir in the black pepper, and fold the pasta gently into the cheese mixture.
- Fold in any other ingredients that suit your fancy.
- Pour the mixture into the baking dish(es). If you are using ramekins, place them on a rimmed baking sheet.
- Pour the corn flakes into a plastic zipper bag and, using a rolling pin, smash them up very well.
- Sprinkle the cornflakes and the parmesan cheese over the top.
- Bake till the cheese and cornflakes make a golden brown crust, about 15-30 minutes depending on the baking dish you are using.