Mother's Day Meal

"What ex­act­ly are we making here?" asked my son Tim as the blend­er whirred with liq­uid neon. "It looks like green sludge."

"It’s Petits Pois Sauce, a love­ly spring­time ac­com­pa­ni­ment made with, well, lit­tle peas," I told him. "It’s French."

We had only just begun the cooking en­deav­or: teaching my kids a rec­i­pe they could pre­pare on Mother’s Day. And al­ready I was getting, shall we say, gen­tle re­sis­tance.

"Who do you think is going to eat this stuff, re­al­ly, Mom?" he continued.

"Well," I answered, "me."

That was sort of the whole point.

Rather than braving crowds at res­tau­rants, or giving up and cooking my­self, I had decided to be pro­ac­tive this year. I would give my kids a rec­i­pe and a cooking les­son, the idea be­ing that they could then make a nice meal for me every year!

The truth is, I am al­ways looking for excuses to get my kids in the kitch­en cooking. And I am not above using guilt to get them there. Like so many young adults, they do not cook many of their own meals; in­stead, they rely on take-out or res­tau­rant meals.

Sal­ly, 25, began cooking more since we started the blog "My Daugh­ter’s Kitchen." Tim, 27, is open to cooking more and may start post­ing his results on the blog as well.

Both of them agreed to come home for the les­son. Our 20-year-old son, Jon­a­than, was off the hook as he is still burdened with col­lege studies (or he is the spoiled baby, depending on your point of view).

In­stead of going with my first in­stinct and teaching them how to make fajitas, a meal they love, I had upped the stakes, opting for more el­e­gant fare, some­thing they could eas­i­ly re-cre­ate, not only for me on Mother’s Day, but may­be for some­one else they wanted to im­press.

I decided on a love­ly meal that took a lit­tle ef­fort, but was to­tal­ly do­able: Miso-Mar­i­nat­ed Cod with Petits Pois Sauce and Mush­room Ri­sot­to.

(The rec­i­pe orig­i­nal­ly called for Chil­ean sea bass, but with that fish on the "Avoid" list, we opted for cod, a flaky white fish, wild caught, and rea­son­ably priced at $12.99 a pound).

Some of the oth­er rec­i­pe ingredients — like Jap­a­nese miso and Viet­nam­ese chile paste — once required a trip to an Asian mar­ket, but they are now avail­able at many groceries. So, a sin­gle trip to the su­per­mar­ket and we had every­thing we needed.

The first step, mar­i­nat­ing the fish, was as sim­ple as could be. (The rec­i­pe suggests mar­i­nat­ing over­night, but a cou­ple of hours will do the trick.) Just mix all the ingredients, lay the fish in a 9-by-13 Pyrex dish, and spoon the mix­ture over it. Turn the fish, to make sure the mar­i­nade coats both sides, and cov­er with clear plas­tic wrap.

Af­ter the fish had a cou­ple of hours in the fridge, we began work­ing our way through the prep­a­ra­tion of the three recipes, the fish, the sauce, and the ri­sot­to, with me trying to give mini-lessons along the way.

We started with the sauce, which required simmering the peas in stock, prompting a de­bate over the def­i­ni­tion of simmering. Sal­ly contended simmering required bubbles. Tim insisted bubbles meant boil­ing. Les­son One: A few tiny bubbles rising to the sur­face is simmering. The whole pot rolling with bubbles is boil­ing. Moving right along!

Next, the peas and stock were added to a blend­er with spin­ach to cre­ate the French sauce, the stuff prompting continued de­ri­sion from my son.

"We should have done the fajitas," said Tim. "Hon­est­ly, it is looking like sew­age, Mom."

"It is a weird con­sis­ten­cy," put in Sal­ly.

"What do you ex­pect: It’s made of leaves," said Tim.

"That would be spin­ach, Tim," I said.

As the af­ter­noon wore on, I could see, in a rath­er sweet and sen­ti­men­tal way, the res­o­nance of the same traits I saw when these two were growing up in this kitch­en.

Sal­ly, who al­ways wanted to fol­low the rules, required very spe­cif­ic instructions and wanted to do every­thing per­fect­ly: "Mom, shouldn’t we read through the whole rec­i­pe first?" and "Do I mince or slice the scallions?"

Tim­my wanted to get it done and move on.

"OK, the but­ter is absorbed. Mis­sion ac­com­plished," he said. "Can I watch the Flyers now?"

When I explained that the ri­sot­to was going to re­quire a lot more stirring to ab­sorb a lot more liq­uid, Sal­ly piped up: "Can I stir?"

Even as a lit­tle girl, she al­ways wanted the most im­por­tant job, the hardest job … un­til she didn’t.

Tim, still as easy­go­ing as he was as a child, was more than will­ing to let her have a go.

"Wow, this is re­al­ly looking like ri­sot­to, Mom!" said Sal­ly, al­ways anx­ious to learn some­thing new, al­ways full of en­thu­si­asm. "This is exciting. We’re making our own ri­sot­to!"

As she stirred away at the stove, adding more stock and wine, waiting for it to be absorbed, Tim got the fish out of the fridge, turned on the broil­er, and when it was hot, stuck the cod un­der the heat. Again, he was ready to re­tire to the hock­ey game.

"You have to keep an eye on the fish, Tim," I warned. "It will burn pret­ty quick."

Af­ter about two minutes, it was browning up nice­ly, and he took it out, turned the oven down and, fi­nal­ly, put the fish in to let it bake for the last 15 minutes.

"How is the ri­sot­to coming, Sal?" I asked.

I’m still stirring — it takes for-flipping-ever," she said glum­ly.

"It is a pain," I conceded. "That is why it is such a good gift."

"Do you want me to stir?" offered Tim. He is usu­al­ly will­ing to bail out his sis­ter, but not with­out giving her grief.

"OK," he said, as she relinquished the spoon. "We’re bringing in the closer … Now it’s coming to­geth­er, now that I’m stirring. It’s all in the wrist ac­tion, Sal."

"Well, sor­ry, Tim. Not all of us are lifting weights every day in the gym," she retorted.

The ri­sot­to fi­nal­ly absorbed all the liq­uid; the mushrooms, scallions, and grated cheese were stirred in; and it was time to take the fish out of the oven.

A lit­tle swoosh of the Petits Pois sauce was spooned on the plate, the love­ly browned cod was posed on top, and the mush­room ri­sot­to was served on the side.

With clas­sic timing, my hus­band appeared just in time to pour the wine. Fi­nal­ly, we all sat down to eat.

"Very nice job," I praised. "I am impressed."

"I re­al­ly like it," said Sal­ly.

"I’ve got to hand it to you, Mom, it is a good rec­i­pe," said Tim. "I didn’t think it would be, but it is re­al­ly good."

"So do you think you guys could make this again, on your own?" I asked.

"Yeah, it re­al­ly wasn’t that hard, hon­est­ly," said Tim.

"I def­i­nite­ly could," said Sal­ly.

"So, would you still rath­er have had fajitas?" I asked.

"Are you kidding, Mom?" said Tim. "Of course we would."

While it would be nice, I’m not holding my breath for a re-cre­a­tion of this meal on Sun­day. I think I may soon be doing an­oth­er les­son: How to make fajitas.











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