Thursday, February 5, 2009

Gastronomy: Fishing for Ideas

My youngest son is always a little hesitant to try new dishes, but, since he lives with a bunch of foodies, he’s often forced into different and unusual dining experiences—both in restaurants and at home. A parent can read endless hours of discussion about forcing your child to eat something he doesn’t like—is it right or wrong, enriching or harmful? What I’ve learned through my son, however, is that sharing the history of a meal or culture, accompanying a new food with an old standby, or simply having fun in the kitchen has made him much more open to and excited about new food experiences.

As a gift for Christmas one year, he received Robin Davis and Frankie Frankeny’s cookbook, The Star Wars Cookbook: Wookiee Cookies and other Galactic Recipes. If you’ve never seen this book, each recipe has a corresponding photograph that includes the completed dish surrounded by Star Wars' action figures. It’s hilarious and completely addicting. For many days following, we worked through the book and, although we had a great time, I wasn’t ready to weave any of these new taste sensations into my own recipe rotation. So, to keep the momentum going, we decided to invent our own!

I set out to first target the dishes that I had created by tweaking and gleaning parts of others’ recipes. I hadn’t had a chance to write them down yet, and this would force me to think more precisely about quantity and time. Secondly, these were some of the meals my son was not always thrilled about. My reasoning behind this choice was that by giving this dish a creative name and an accompanying photograph, he could picture an exciting Star Wars or Lord of the Rings scene during his meal. Suddenly dinnertime wouldn’t be quite so disappointing!

In the Davis and Frankeny style, we painstakingly set-up our first photo shoot—Naboo Fish Stew. My fish soup recipe uses The Joy of Cooking entry as a backbone to my own experiments—it’s a light, but buttery cream broth that sports tender chunks of flakey, white fish. The scene surrounding the bowl are Star Wars' characters from Naboo, a planet that houses underwater cities—a truly winning combination. Although my son has never been all-that-crazy about soup, he always gets a huge smile on his face when I announce that I'm serving Naboo Fish Stew for dinner. And, like a real inter-galactic hero, he sits down to the table tall, proud, and prepared to lick that platter clean.

Naboo Fish Stew Recipe

2 lbs boneless, skinless fish fillets (cod, tilapia, etc.), cleaned
3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
4 t butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
1 t fresh thyme, chopped
3 large boiling potatoes, peeled, and cut into small cubes
3 c fish, chicken, or vegetable stock
1 c heavy cream
1 c skim milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 t fresh parsley, chopped

In a large soup pot, cook bacon over low heat, 10 to 15 minutes, or until crisp. Add butter, onion, bay leaves, and thyme; cook until onions are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in potatoes and stock; bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in milk and cream; remove bay leaves. Add fish filets; simmer until fish is cooked through and beginning to flake, 10 to 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with chopped, fresh parsley. Serves 4.

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About Mod City Mom

After becoming mothers, sisters Sarah Romine and Leah Weyandt wanted to marry the activities and interests that they experienced before motherhood with their new found lives with children. This was not always an easy task—traveling to obscure places, shopping at off-beat boutiques, and sipping lazy-afternoon cocktails doesn't always fit neatly with parenthood. Stemming from their frustration, they meticulously searched, and continue to search, for activities, establishments, and entertainment that they take pleasure in and their families benefit from. The result? Mod City Mom.

About Sarah

Sarah is a passionate cook, fashionista, writer, actor, and mother. Like all actors, she ended up working at many-a-restaurant to make ends meet and shopping at countless bargain boutiques to maintain her sense of personal style. Her culinary journey, love affair with fashion, and desire to remain true to herself after becoming a mother are the inspirations for this site. Sarah lives with her husband and two sons in Chicago.

About Leah

A polymath wannabe, Leah loves books, films, music, cooking, and travel. After co-starting a writing and editing shop in 2002, Leah has spent her spare time frequenting her favorite cities, hangouts, and haunts. Her obsession with finding the new, innovative, and quirky is the impetus behind this site. Leah lives with her two sons and husband in North San Diego County.
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