Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday afternoon in the kitchen with Dorie

Spurred by the Dinner at 8 challenge over at Chez Pim, we spent this Sunday afternoon in the kitchen with our kids and three lovely recipes from Dorie Greenspan's New York Times bestselling cookbook, Around My French Table.

A roast loin of pork, an autumnal fruit and vegetable mélange, and a buttery apple cake ("Heaven on a plate," declared the 7-year-old sous-chef).  None of these recipes is difficult, and either of us adults, working alone, probably could have gotten them all to the table in a little under the three hour timeline.  But with the step-by-step instructions laid out in lavish detail on Dinner at 8, I thought this would be a great opportunity to involve the kids in making a real meal, from start to finish.  The meal preparation also became a substantial challenge for us:  to keep the kids engaged throughout the entire preparation, without shooing them out of the kitchen so we could get dinner on the table more efficiently.

Stirring the melted butter for the cake.
Seven, our proficient reader, was in charge of navigating the recipes on dad's iPhone and comparing our progress to the photos on the website.  Five, who always loves to help in the kitchen, stayed right at our elbows demanding a new task no sooner than she finished the last.  (Two was taking his afternoon nap for most of the proceedings--a crucial element to our success.)

The kids learned new skills:  peeling apples, folding cake batter, crushing spices.  They measured, they counted, they whisked and they stirred.  They even paid attention to a short lecture on knife skills.  They discovered endives, leeks and swiss chard, and we discussed why Greek yogurt made a good substitute for crème fraîche.

And I never once heard, "I'm bored!"

Whisking the flour and baking powder.

Apple Peeling 101

Introducing the apples to the batter.

Filling the cake pan.

Prepping the acorn squash for the soup.

Chopping the leeks.

Filling the soup pot.

Preparing the soup garnishes.

How to slice Swiss chard

Starting the stuffing for the pork loin.

Smashing the spices

Two is awake and would like to play with the kitchen twine!

Endive, apples and grapes

After about three hours and 20 minutes (our pork loin was super-sized, and needed to spend some extra time in the oven), dinner was served.  Despite some raised eyebrows and wrinkled noses, everybody tried everything without complaint.  And though they weren't sold on the endive, they ate--even enjoyed!--some of everything else on their plates.  They were so invested in the meal that they set and cleared the table together without their usual squabbles over fork placement and whose turn it was to set the glasses.

Acorn squash soup garnished with toasted hazelnuts and apples

Endives, apples and grapes

Sunday dinner


I probably don't need to mention that the cake was devoured in mere minutes.  Two (who ate his soup with some encouragement from the choo choo train spoon, left the table during the main course, only to return the second he heard the word "cake" from two rooms away) had to be escorted from the table in tears when his cake plate was empty.

We send a huge thank you to Dorie Greenspan for sharing these recipes with us.  I am certain that all three will reappear on our table for many years to come.  And many thanks to Pim Techamuanvivit, whose Dinner at 8 plan inspired us to bring our children into the kitchen to share an afternoon of food and family.


  1. Was this family gathering at your new home? What an outstanding afternoon for the Jerves-Bargher Family. The kiddies are so grown-up. Love the idea, the project, the pictures. Keep playing, cooking, and sending pictures.

    Moments to cherish forever...

    hugs and kisses-
    sarah wolfman

  2. Enjoyed reading your post! Thumbs up for involving the children in the wonderful process of meal making. Job well done! I sure think you and your family should win the Chez Pim Dinner @8 challenge. Good luck!

  3. How lovely that you involved your kids too and that they were game enough to try the endives! The apple cake vanished with the same amount of speed at our table as well, going to recreate it for dinner tonight! ;)