In Good Taste: Happy Meal
Carrie Morey of Callie’s Biscuits passes down a love for cooking to her three foodies-in-training
Even though there are three young aspiring cooks in the Morey household, there’s not an Easy-Bake oven in sight. No, these daughters of Callie’s Biscuits owner Carrie Morey—Caroline (age seven), Cate (four), and Sarah (three)—spend time in the kitchen with their mom doing the real deal, measuring, stirring, and even sautéing. “The more you expose children to cooking, the more they jump in,” says Carrie, whose culinary appetite was inspired by her own mother, noted Charleston caterer Callie White.
But it’s not just biscuits and other Southern fare that these little ones have a taste for. This Asian menu of marinated five-spiced whole flounder with assemble-it-yourself accompaniments is a family favorite. “My girls love this dish because they actually connect with what they are eating,” says Carrie. “As a parent, you can’t easily demonstrate that with beef or chicken—with the whole fish, they get it. The fish usually gets a name and lots of TLC before we start cooking.
“The concept for this dinner is definitely family style,” Carrie continues. “Bring the whole fish to the table so that everyone can build her own masterpiece. The foundation can be lettuce cups for wraps, wontons for a crispy crunch, or jasmine rice. Then build upon it with fish, green beans, cucumbers, onions, herbs, and cilantro-lime nuts. You get a salad, rice, and a crunchy cracker option, which is my girls’ favorite.”
Carrie’s philosophy is that little hands and palates learn early. “I spend every afternoon with my girls. If we need to go to the grocery store, they each get to pick one item from the food groups: starch, fruit, vegetable, and meat,” she explains. “Then we come home, do homework during the school year, and prepare dinner together.”
Having taught the girls the basics in kitchen safety and sanitation, Carrie assigns duties based on skill level. While everyone has a hand in washing and peeling ingredients, Caroline is the event planner of the family. “She sets the table and combs the neighborhood for flowers to decorate it, while Cate and Sarah love measuring ingredients and small tasks like picking and washing herbs.”
Beyond the hands-on instruction, her daughters are learning to try new flavors at least once. “We only serve one meal—the same for all of us,” Carrie continues. “When we sit down to dinner, they get a little of everything. They don’t have to eat anything, but if they want seconds of something, they have to eat what’s on their plate first. It’s their choice.” It seems the girls have learned the ground rules as they chime in: “You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit.”
Of course, it helps that Mom always uses some of the ingredients she knows her daughters love, in this case the wonton crisps and nuts. “If they hesitate at first, usually after the third time we cook something, they’ll eat it.”
For the Flounder
3 1/2 lb. head-on flounder, scaled and cleaned
3 green onions, green part cut into three-inch pieces
1 tsp. five-spice powder
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 cup Asian marinade (recipe follows)
For the Asian marinade:
6 cloves garlic
3 Tbs. fish sauce
Juice of 2 limes
3 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
2 Tbs. ketchup
1 walnut-size piece fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
11/2 cups vegetable oil
For the Marinade
Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and blend well.
For the Flounder
Line a shallow roasting pan with foil and place flounder in the pan. If the fish is longer than the pan, make a ball of foil to support the fish’s head. Cut three or four diagonal slits in the fish. Put two or three pieces of green onions in the slits. Pour one cup of the Asian marinade over the flounder. Refrigerate for one hour.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Mix together the five-spice powder with the brown sugar and press the mixture into the fish. Roast the fish for 20 minutes, then broil it for five minutes on high. The fish should be firm, and its flesh should flake around the edges.
1 lb. green beans, washed and tips removed
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1/2 Tbs. sesame oil
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Place the green beans in a cast-iron skillet, toss them in the soy sauce and sesame oil, and roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until just crispy.
Cucumbers and Onions
1 seedless cucumber washed, halved lengthwise, and sliced into strips
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
For the dressing:
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbs. fish sauce
1 1/2 Tbs. sesame oil
Whisk dressing ingredients together and pour over vegetables. They will soak up the dressing and be cool, juicy, and crunchy on top of the fish, rice, wontons, or lettuce cups. Set out leftover sauce to spoon over the dish.
1 cup mixed peanuts and cashews
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Place the nuts in a cast-iron skillet and toss them with the soy sauce and sesame oil. Roast them for 12 minutes, or until candied. Add the cilantro and lime juice and toss. Serve warm or at room temperature.
2 cups water
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 1/2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
1 walnut-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1/4 cup sesame seeds
Place the appropriate amount of water in the bottom of rice steamer. Place two cups water, oil, rice, and ginger in the top of the steamer. Let the rice steam for approximately 20 minutes, or until tender. Remove the ginger and fluff the rice with a fork.
Meanwhile, toast the sesame seeds in a cast-iron skillet in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes, giving the pan a shake halfway through and being careful not to let them burn. Toss the sesame seeds with steamed rice and fluff again with a fork.
1 (1-lb.) package wonton wrappers
3 cups peanut oil
Kosher or sea salt
Heat the peanut oil in a two-quart saucepan on stove until oil reaches 350°F. Working in batches so as not to crowd the pan, fry the wonton wrappers for approximately 20 seconds, or until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with kosher or sea salt.
Red and green butter lettuce cups
Thinly sliced green onions
Leaves of mint, basil, and cilantro
Bring the whole fish to the table—alongside the vegetables, rice, condiments, and accoutrements—and pick apart with a fork. Use lettuce to create wraps, or make the wontons or rice the foundation. Then layer on fish, green beans, cucumbers and onions, herbs, and nuts.