Last summer I got to spend many days cooking, teaching and hanging out with one of my favorite kids. The best part is it was all under the guise of cooking school or Camp Culinary, as I called it. Noah is a freckle-faced 11 year old boy that you will usually find in some sort of team t-shirt and matching everything else. Sports are Noah’s thing. Cooking is his other thing. He asked for a cooking play set for his 3rd birthday and even though it wasn’t with me, this summer he continued his culinary education with more classes.
Mom gave me carte blanche. Noah gave me challenges that upped my game. I suggested we decorate cupcakes and make macaroni and cheese and maybe pasta al la checca. He said “What about Mother Sauces?”.
This kid is amazing. We started with mayonnaise, hollandaise and veloute. Did I mention he made me sharpen my skills? It is very hot here in Southern California and my mayonnaise got way too thin, too fast and my hollandaise got overcooked. He loved it, not because I messed up and he could giggle (which he did), but because it gave him another opportunity to learn. We remade both and they were great! Noah found heaven when dipping a piece of broccoli in the hollandaise, complete with eye roll and tummy rub.
Our first field trip took us to Grand Central Market in Downtown Los Angeles. Noah had been to L.A.’s famed Farmer’s Market and his local farmer’s markets but never to Grand Central Market. The child that sat in my backseat peppered me with questions like he was on his way to Disneyland. How long will it take us to get there? What stand would we go to first? Did I think he would be able to hold a butcher’s cleaver? The questions continued the whole way. I don’t even think he noticed the traffic we were in. I told him our first visit would be to Bel Campo Meats.
I was so pleased at the time each of the vendors took to talk to my young charge and teach him. As promised, first stop was Bel Campo Meats. The butcher took the time to show Noah his meat cleaver and talk about the ways you can cut meat. Did you know that Japan has 200 MORE cuts of the same cow than America? We cut our meat much bigger and have a lot more waste. We learned that cuts, such as the Hangar, used to be used in ground meat or hot dogs. This is because there is only ONE Hangar on each cow. Often it can be cut into two portions but because it is not the tenderest cut it didn’t use to be so popular. The American palette has developed and now we demand flavor as much as the tenderness, so cuts like the Hangar, Flap and Skirt are becoming a lot more popular. After learning all about the different cuts, we decided on a Bavette Steak.
After the butcher, we learned about seven different kinds of mole and the differences between double cream, triple cream and hard cheeses. We ordered noodles for lunch at the Chinese place and learned that meant soup! We went to the candy stand and the juice bar. Each vendor was another ride, without the long lines.
By the time we got back in the car, we were both exhausted but so satisfied. Before we ever left the parking garage, my little Noah was asleep. It really was a day at Disneyland for him. He was excited to get home and share his experiences and couldn’t wait for our next culinary adventure. It was truly one of my most memorable summer experiences.
Here is a great way to prepare Bavette Steak. If you can’t find Bavette you can use skirt or flap steak too.