Once in a while I just don't feel like cooking, and my wife Lisa has been working a bit late, so we opt for a simple salad for dinner or call for take-out pizza or Chinese food. But last night was different. Our boy Lucas said he wanted to make dinner! Now he's helped us both before on our recipes, he is great at making fresh pasta, and his knife skills are getting better and better all the time. And since he was little (he's almost 14 now), he's had an amazing affinity for spices, often making his own spice mixes for pasta, popcorn, corn on the cob and the like. Well, this time, he set out to make a proper meal for us...
Before I knew it he was printing out my recipe for Amalfi Lemon and Chicken Pasta. When I heard what he wanted to make, I warned him that we didn't have any fresh chicken out--only frozen (and it was 1/2 before our normal dinner time). Instantly, he improvised and pulled out the small Boars Head Oven Gold Turkey loaf that I had recently bought. When we looked for white wine, we had none... so after advising him on the things we had that might make a similar base for a sauce, he substituted 1 cup of Prosecco. In place of the red pepper flakes he did a very fine dice of some flame colored bell pepper... and I might add that his knife skills were superb! His dice was even and very small... perhaps 1/8"! Bravo, Lucas!
I played the role of his Sous Chef only--putting on the large pot of water for pasta, helping him mise en place his ingredients, measuring out the sherry, etc. I did take over doing the lemon zest when he nicked his knuckle a bit when using the micro-plane, but after all, it was his first time using that tool. He did all the rest of the prep and cooking himself.
He started by browning pieces of turkey in a saute pan, then added the peppers, lemon zest, sherry, spices and then the Half & Half and turned the flame to high to reduce the sauce.
Toward the end of cooking, I coached him about reducing the sauce and how to tell if the sauce was thick enough by dragging his wooden spoon along the bottom of the pan until it left a clear wake in its path.
I drained his pasta for him (he chose a mix of two types of tricolor farfalle) and poured it into a large pasta bowl. Then he put the completed sauce on top, added a couple of handfuls of Parmigiano Reggiano and mixed.
The final dish was incredibly good! The sherry worked great in the sauce, the turkey was flavorful from the browning, and the lemon juice and zest brought us right back to the Amalfi Coast. It was one of the best meals we had in a while! When Lisa asked if it was as good as the Chicken Lasagna she made for us on the weekend, I had to confess--it was.
When I think back at myself at the same age, I was heating up cans of Chef Boyardee, cooking packets of Lipton Noodle Soup, throwing some frozen fish sticks or fish cakes into a fry pan or making grilled cheese... wow! Some difference. This boy can really cook!
--Jerry Finzi <--- the Proud Babbo