Mother's Day meal to remember

May 12, 2013

Not yet 5 p.m. as I begin to write this on Mother’s Day 2013, and we’ve just finished a most delicious dinner to honor Erin.

“A lovely meal,” she said, finishing the last of the molten chocolate cake that I’d drizzled with the homemade grenadine and topped with sliced strawberries that Oliver and I had picked after work on Friday.

Earlier, we’d sent Erin away for a massage and time to shop on her own. While Oliver and Malia watched a show, and Anna rested (she was away all yesterday on a band trip to Carowinds amusement park), I sat on the back porch drinking tea and reading the delightful Cooking in the Moment, by Lantern chef Andrea Reusing. (Andrea, an award-winning chef, had crafted a most memorable evening for our Long Table dinner with Michael Ruhlman in November 2011.) Cooking in the Moment is filled with really nice essays on food and farmers and friends and family. I especially like the way she writes about involving her daughter and other children in the process of gathering produce and cooking and eating.

As it happened, one of the reasons we’d sent Erin away was because Anna and Malia, my daughters, were going to cook with me today, following Mark Bittman’s Operation: Mother’s Day. Before we set to doing that, though, I followed an inspiration from Andrea and made ginger syrup. When Erin got home, I handed her a cocktail with muddled strawberries (the same fresh batch picked by Oliver), lime juice, vodka and the ginger syrup. “Oh, this is good,” she said after the first sip.

Soon after, we were seated around the dining room table, marveling at the deliciousness of the roasted-beet salad with goat cheese (beets and chevre purchased yesterday at the Carrboro Farmers Market, and lettuce picked from our backyard garden boxes this afternoon), the braised chicken with tomatoes, olives and capers, and that molten chocolate cake (made in ramekins borrowed from a neighbor in exchange for a jar of the ginger syrup). There wasn’t a single complaint from the kids.

Indeed, Anna and Malia both said that each dish was tasty. I’m sure that having helped over the course of a few hours to prepare and plate this meal, they appreciated the good food in front of them. Anna and I had learned how to separate a whole chicken into eight pieces, Malia learned how to melt bittersweet chocolate into melted butter, and together we practiced separating egg yolks from their whites. For a while, at least, we also followed the ‘clean as you cook’ rule to keep the kitchen tidy. A quick glance over at the counter now tells me we have room to improve. Still, a fantastic cooking experience today.

So, thank you, Anna and Malia, for working beside me in the kitchen, and a hearty thanks to Mark Bittman and Andrea Reusing for their inspiration and guidance.

And, thank you, Erin, for being the amazing, beautiful, loving, patient and generous mother to our children.

Anton Zuiker

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