Sunday, March 27, 2011

Pesto Chicken Melts

When I first set out to teach my kids to cook, I immediately ruled out spaghetti and meatballs as one of the meals they would master.  Why would I rule out a super simple meal that is loved by children throughout the country?  It just seemed like a cop-out.  Besides, as one of the very few 15 minute meals I have in my repertoire, it has been over done at my house.  I still love the other kid-friendly meals in my mental recipe box, like tacos, macaroni and cheese, sausages and potatoes, and hamburgers and fries, but lately, spaghetti has been putting me in a dieting mood.  This growing distaste of spaghetti combined with my evaluation from last week caused me to take a slightly different tack when I went to ask Abby what she would like for dinner on Saturday.  Instead of asking her what she wanted to eat, I gave her one of my cooking magazines and told her to find something she would like to try to make.  Her eyes took on an unexpected sparkle and she opened up into a huge smile.  She didn't even sit down.  She opened up the magazine to the first page and said, "I want to make this!"  I was skeptical at first, wondering if this was laziness in disguise, but when I saw the picture I had to admit it did look really good.  It was settled, we would make Pesto Chicken Melts for dinner on Saturday.

By some great stroke of luck, she picked something that was going to be really easy to make.  The recipe came out of a Cuisine at Home magazine and they were basically open-faced sandwiches.  Shred some cooked chicken and mix it with sun-dried tomato pesto and slivered red onion.  Then, halve a ciabatta or kaiser roll, spread a little mayonnaise on it, layer a couple slices of tomato and bacon, top with the chicken mixture and broil for a few minutes until heated through.  Add a sprinkling of shredded swiss or gruyere cheese, broil again until melted, and serve.  Yummy!  Circumstances led us to make a few minor changes.  For one thing, the thought of heated mayonnaise sends shivers up and down my spine.  It just seems yucky.  Also, the only tomatoes we had were grape tomatoes.  I didn't want to deal with a whole bunch of grape sized tomato slices, so I just chopped them up and added them to the chicken.  Lastly, my kids prefer the mild taste of cheddar over gruyere.  For any cheese lover worth their salt, substituting cheddar cheese for gruyere seems wrong on many levels.  I can only apologize and hope that their tastes mature with time.

I discovered bread making during my third pregnancy and found what may turn out to be a life-long love affair.  Ciabatta is one of my favorite breads to make, so on Friday I made some ciabatta rolls for Abby's dinner debut.  There was shredded chicken left over from some enchiladas which will make their way into a future post, and since those little kiddie knives don't do well with the delicate layers of an onion, I slivered one for her.   So, when the time came to bring her in to prepare her dinner, there wasn't much left to do.  I took a moment to explain how all of the measuring cups in my drawer are related; pointing out that the lower number of the fraction indicated the number of times that particular cup could dump something into the 1 cup measuring cup.  I'm not sure if the information sunk in, but at least I felt like I was teaching her something mathish.  I then guided her through the directions of the recipe, gave her a 1/4 cup for the pesto, crossed my fingers and stood back and watched.    She very carefully spooned the pesto into the measuring cup and leveled it off and then dumped it into the bowl with the chicken and onion.  Once it was all mixed together, we both decided that another hefty spoonful of pesto was required.

Quite awhile back, I learned from Eric that making bacon in the oven rather than on a griddle or in a pan is easier and less messy.  There is no safe way for a kid to make bacon.  It would be like asking my six year old to man a fryer at a shady diner.  Hot grease splatters and can burn severely.  So, in the spirit of keeping my daughter safe and burn free, I only had her lay out the bacon on the baking sheet and then gave her a little narrative on the rest of the process.  I could tell that, "400 degree oven" and, "pour off the excess rendered fat" pretty much flew right over her head, since she had that look of sleeping with her eyes open when I turned around to see if she was paying attention.  Oh well.  While the bacon was cooking, I pulled out the cheese and grater.  I gave her a quick tutorial on how to properly use a grater, informed her that no one likes finger nails, skin or blood in their cheese, and then handed her a small block of cheddar.  I was so afraid she was going to grate her knuckles I just pretended to do dishes instead of watch.  I shouldn't have worried.  She grated that little block of cheese all the way down to nothing without even a scratch.  Once the bacon was ready, the only thing left to do was assemble the sandwiches and put them under the broiler. 

Ten minutes later, we sat down to dinner with anticipation.  The first bite took my breath away.  I don't know if it was pride or the pesto, but those sandwiches were delicious!  As I was telling my daughter how much I loved them, my heart sank.  I saw her struggling to take her first bite.  It never occured to me that these sandwiches would be hard to eat if you didn't have your two front teeth.  She did manage to eat hers by mostly picking it apart and said that she really liked them.  The real testiment came from her brothers, who silently devoured every last crumb.  I'm thrilled to be able to add another 15 minute meal to my recipe box, but I'll wait for those teeth to come in before making it again.

1 comment:

  1. What is with Cuisine at Home and bacon?