In Good Taste: Healthy at Home
Chef Marc Collins and wife Jennifer get an early start on cooking smart with their kids
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.
ENTRÉE & SIDE
“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...)
- 16 oz. fresh edamame pods (frozen can be substituted)
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt
Set up a bamboo steamer with two trays over a pot of boiling water. Place bean pods on steamer trays in even layers and steam, covered, for four to five minutes, or until tender. Once steamed, toss in a bowl, sprinkling with sea salt. Serve immediately.
- 2 Tbs. cornstarch
- 2 Tbs. water
- 2 cups no- or low-sodium chicken stock
- 5 Tbs. light soy sauce(Kikkoman recommended)
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 dried bay leaves
- 1 medium head broccoli, cut into florets and stems peeled and cut into sticks
- 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sliced at an angle into 1/4-inch pieces
- Sea salt & fresh black pepper, if desired
Whisk cornstarch into water in a bowl. Put chicken stock, soy sauce, crushed garlic, and bay leaves in a small pot and bring to a boil. The moment stock boils, whisk in cornstarch mixture. Return to a boil. Reduce heat to low and lightly simmer for about three minutes, or until volume has reduced slightly. Turn off heat but keep warm.
Set up bamboo steamer with two trays over pot of boiling water. Arrange broccoli evenly in first tray. Cover with steamer lid. Steam broccoli for two minutes, so that it begins to cook and broccoli and chicken will be ready at the same time.
Arrange chicken in second tray. Place over broccoli and steam for four to six minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked and no pink color remains. Combine chicken and broccoli on a platter, season with salt and pepper if desired, and drizzle with garlic soy sauce or light soy sauce. Serve immediately with rice.
- 1 cup brown rice
- 4 cups water
- 1 tsp. salt
Rinse rice in a strainer under cold running water for 30 seconds. In a large pot over high heat, bring four cups water to a boil. Once boiling, add rice and stir once. Reduce heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, rice should be almost tender but still have a little bite. Strain rice over the sink. Let drain for 10 seconds, then return rice to pot. Do not place it back on the heat. Immediately cover pot with tight-fitting lid and set aside to allow the rice to steam for 10 minutes. Once ready, uncover rice, fluff with a fork, and season with salt to taste.
- 4 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into half-inch chunks
- 1 cup fresh or frozen cherries, pitted
- 3/4 cup apple juice
- 1 Tbs. sugar
Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring
- 2 egg whites
- 1/2 tsp. each vanilla & almond extracts
- 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
- Pinch salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 Tbs. water
Preheat oven to 300°F. Whisk egg whites, extracts, and oil until frothy but not stiff. Add remaining ingredients and mix until smooth.
Spoon batter by the tablespoon onto a lightly greased baking sheet and spread into rounds. Bake 11 to 12 minutes, or until edges are lightly browned. Working quickly, remove hot cookies one at a time from the baking sheet and fold (instructions below). Continue until all batter has been used.
- 2 ½ cups milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 Tbs. cornstarch
- 1/2 cup orange juice
Place two cups of milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Scrape seeds of vanilla bean into saucepan and add pod in as well. When milk begins to simmer, remove from stove.
Whisk sugar and cornstarch together in a bowl. Add remaining half-cup milk and orange juice and mix well. Add to vanilla milk. Place over medium heat, stirring until thickened, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and chill overnight.