Kids are sometimes tough to feed; or at least, they can be, if you actually care what they're eating. With a toddler it's all too tempting to cook a nice meal for the adults and throw a hot dog and some tater tots onto a plate next to a pool of ketchup and call it day. (And make no mistake, some nights, that's exactly what happens, much to the joy of all parties involved.) The other side of the coin, though, is that we want our daughter to eat well. Not just healthy, but hopefully to learn early the difference between good food and bad. We're not exactly actively trying to turn her into a foodie, but on the other hand there are too many kids who don't have the privilege of a home cooked meal, of fresh ingredients, prepared with some degree of skill (he says modestly), to let her eat crap all the time, just because it's easier.
I was spoiled from an early age - my own Mother was an avid Organic Gardener (long before it was cool) and my Father was a Gastronome of some repute among his friends. The rule at Mom's house during the summer was that if we were good, and if we ate our dinner, only then would she let my sisters and me go out into the garden to pick, shell and eat the sugar snap peas for dessert. The rule at Dad's house was that he only offered "the good stuff" every so often. So, if, prior to serving his guests, he offered to let you try the steamed mussels with wine, butter, and garlic, you quickly learned to jump on the opportunity, lest you be denied another chance after it became apparent the adults were enjoying something special. In that vein, there are some habits that both the wife and I feel are good to establish early. It's the usual stuff: "You have to try one bite, but if you don't like it, you can stop", and "No you can't have dessert until you've finished some vegetables.", etc.
Sometimes this tact pays off in spades. Last night I prepared three salmon filets (mostly) following this excellent recipe from Eric Ripert. Basically it's a filet brushed with dijon mustard and then top-coated with panko breadcrumbs, but watch the video - it's enlightening in it's simplicity. My failure to purchase all the ingredients forced a small improvisation - I substituted some fresh Lemon Thyme from the herb garden for the Chives in the Creme Fraiche-based sauce, but it was a change that worked well.
The filets were served alongside a long-grain and wild rice pilaf (our daughter's favorite) and roasted asparagus (not her favorite these days). I admit, my plating here isn't as elegant as that of Chef Ripert. Our daughter's favorite cafeteria-style tray isn't exactly refined, but the cool summer evening breeze and outdoor setting wasn't bad. We started her with about six ounces of salmon and put just a small dollop of the sauce on a separate part of the tray, just for her to try. The result?
Yeah, that's six ounces of salmon gone in about six minutes. The sauce was also hugely successful as she insisted on dipping every bite.
I wish I could say she wolfed down the asparagus too, but that'll be a taste for another day. For now, I just have to say that Chef Ripert has done us a great service by sharing a wonderfully simple recipe packed with so much great flavor.