On a warm afternoon, Marc Collins steps into his Summerville kitchen with his sons to whip up supper. Executive chef of the Wentworth Mansion’s four-star, four-diamond restaurant, Circa 1886, Marc is a big believer in introducing his boys to the joys of cooking early on. So when this chef has a night out of his restaurant, evening meal preparation in the Collins’ home becomes a family affair.
Fifth-grader Matthew and first-grader Christian have selected the menu, a combination of dishes that make it obvious that “wholesome” would be a comfortable characterization of the Collins’ cuisine. A quick and easy family fave, steamed chicken and broccoli, will be the centerpiece, accompanied by nutritious sides of brown rice and cherry applesauce.
Matthew has requested edamame to snack on while Dad gives a short demo on slicing and dicing. Popping crunchy young soybeans from salt-sprinkled pods will assuage afternoon hunger. “They taste like green beans,” he says. “I can eat them all day.” Wife Jennifer has a refreshing cool drink ready: Charleston Tea Plantation American Classic tea with a little ginger ale added for sweetness and sparkle.
The whole gang lends a hand in making the cherry applesauce. Christian and Jennifer pit the cherries. Matthew puts in some practice on today’s cooking lesson by dicing the Golden Delicious apples. With the applesauce and rice simmering on the stove and the Chinese steamer set, the boys write messages to go in the after-dinner fortune cookies. Marc keeps everyone focused as they move toward their family’s kind of happy meal—home-cooked and healthy.
“Matthew and Christian enjoy getting Chinese food at various restaurants around Summerville, as well as Thai food in North Charleston,” Marc says, “so steamed chicken and broccoli was naturally one of the first things to teach them and certainly simple enough to cook using a bamboo steamer. It’s now on their top 10 list. I’ve found that brown rice, with the crunchy, nutty texture that the bran imparts, is an acquired taste for children, but its nutritional value makes it well worth using.”
While the boys like light Kikkoman straight from the bottle on their chicken and broccoli, Marc and Jennifer prefer a simple garlic soy sauce, built on a base of chicken stock, that adds a layer of flavor adults can appreciate. In much the same way, adding fresh cherries to the apples elevates the applesauce. The result is appealingly colorful and a little piquant, mildly sweetened by apple juice with only a touch of sugar.
(see recipes below...)
The boys may be developing precocious palates, but they’re still kids. Translation: it’s time for dessert, and these future gourmands want ice cream. Marc turns to gelato, Italy’s lower fat and less caloric variant of our favorite frozen scoop. Flavoring the gelato with orange and vanilla bean yields the low-key flavor profile traditional to Chinese desserts. And by adding make-it-yourself fortune cookies, Marc provides a lesson in baking for the fledgling chefs.
(see recipe below...)