Not too long ago we went to a new restaurant. We ordered, sat down, and started eating when Little Chef C said “Mom, did Chef Robert come here?” I had to laugh. “Did he change this place to make it look nice?” I asked. “No, he didn’t come here, this is a new restaurant.” It has only been open for a few months if I remember correctly. It still had a “new” look to it. It was very bright with the lights, the huge windows and the colors were vibrant. No wonder she thought Chef Robert fixed this restaurant!
Whenever Little Chef C thinks I’m turning on the television she says “Chef Robert” as a subtle hint for me to turn on Restaurant Impossible. I’m not sure why she became attached to him and this show in particular. I starting watching Dinner Impossible years ago but that was after the Little Chefs had gone to bed. When Restaurant Impossible started I would turn it on a recorded episode during the day. This must have been when she was exposed to Chef Robert. She will watch the episodes over and over.
The recipe Little Chef C chose to make was Seared Mahi-Mahi with Mango Sauce and Fragrant Rice. Just shopping for the ingredients was a lesson in product. The store had green onions labeled (which we bought) but no scallions (as the recipe calls for). We have used jasmine rice before and the Little Chefs all LOVE the dish we make with it, so that wasn’t new. We can’t have too many new ingredients at once. If so, how do you know which one you like and which one you don’t? Sure a seasoned chef would say if you had a good palate you could discern each ingredient but we are just Five Little Chefs having fun in the kitchen. Grapeseed oil (which I have never even heard of) and mahi mahi were the two new ingredients we were trying. First the ingredients were gathered.
Little Chef C started the rice in the rice cooker. Maybe that is cheating because the recipe says to cook it in a pan. I can’t tell the difference in taste, then again I have never thought about the taste difference. Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t, as previously stated we are just having fun, not declaring an amazing palate. Little Chef C then gathered and measured out all the ingredients. It is so much easier to cook once all the prep work is done! She used a flat vegetable peeler to peel the outside skin, then I cut around the pit.
Afterward, Little Chef C used a small knife to dice the mango. This proved very difficult with her lack of skill (this was her first time cutting). She was so unsure I jumped in to help, my hand on top of hers guiding the knife while discussing why I wanted her to curl the fingers under from the other hand. (To not cut them.)
In a large bowl she poured in the vinegar then needed to juice the lime. I think Little Chef C loved using the reamer the best. She laughed every time the juice squirted all over the place, not just in the bowl! (Isn’t it funny how the little things are the best, and most remembered.) I then showed her how she could use the wisk in one hand while the other hand could pour in the oil. She did mighty well with that complicated maneuver.
The salt and pepper was added, though in the cooking world full of recipes and measurements reading “season with salt and pepper” doesn’t evoke confidence for the novice chef. Little Chef C kept asking if her 10 flakes of salt and pepper would be enough. I definitely knew from watching Restaurant Impossible that Chef Robert seasons his components with a GENEROUS sprinkling of salt and pepper. More generous then I ever would have thought! The mango (little-ish and semi uniform), cilantro, garlic and ginger were added.
Chopping the cilantro and green onions were quite a task. The green onions Little Chef C was able to figure out. Some of the pieces weren’t cut all the was through, so she finished the cut by tearing them apart. Whatever works! The cilantro on the other hand was awful. She was not at all successful. She tried a couple different knives, I tried sharpening the knife to see if that would help, but still no success. I got out the hand chopper to give that a shot. Another failed attempt. Finally, I cut the cilantro with a big knife for her. I kept thinking there must be a way for her to accomplish this task. Then the light bulb went off. What about kitchen shears, that should work. I am going to get some and try it out. Little Chef C could have snipped the cilantro and perhaps the green onions as well, not only to have uniform sizes (let’s be honest, nothing we are cutting is uniform!) but to actually do the cutting or rather snipping herself.
We then moved over to the oven. On a plate Little Chef C places the mahi-mahi and rubbed them with oil. She didn’t want to touch anything after the first fillet and realizing her hands were very yucky. But she oiled them all, washed her hands, then applied salt and pepper. I find it funny how Little Chefs want to hold the salt and pepper shakers as close to the ingredient as possible. I showed her how if you hold it up higher the salt and pepper can get it all over a larger area. Also funny, I had to tell
her to actually look at the fish and see where the salt and pepper was and where else she needed to shake because there wasn’t any!
Little Chef C thought I was crazy to tell her to put the fish in the saute pan with her hands instead of the spatula. But, after showing her how to do it she was willing to give it a try. She did well flipping the fish over after 4 minutes, after being reminded to scrape the pan with the spatula so she would get all the fish, not just the top part. The fish was done, the rice (having been done for a while) was still warm. Since the pan it was cooked in was still a little hot I transferred it to a bowl. She added in the cilanto, green onions and salt.
Everything was ready. The table was set by the other Little Chefs, we were ready to eat. Little Chef C wanted to compose everyone’s plates, but they thought it looked like fun as well so she did Mom and Dad’s. Little Chef C taught everyone; the rice goes on the bottom, followed by the fish on top, then the mango sauce, and (her favorite part) get some of the juice from the bottom of the sauce bowl and pour it carefully around the entire plate.
I should have counted how many times she said “Raise your hand if you like this.” “Raise your hand if you want to make this again.” “Who likes the chicken?” (We do eat fish, maybe once a month, but even with her choosing the recipe and cooking the fish she still couldn’t remember it was FISH.) “Who likes the pineapple sauce?” (Again, she confused pineapple with mango. We eat fresh mangoes more then fresh pineapple.) You would think she was just fishing for compliments, but no, she was SO proud of her accomplishment she wanted everyone else to love it just as much as she did. She ate her plate of food without any complaints.
Little Chef A wasn’t a fan of the mango and I would have to agree. It wasn’t as ripe as it could have been. It was a little firm and not as sweet as the summer mangoes we usually eat. After I explained that to her she said “oh, I like this meal then.” I thoroughly enjoyed this meal. I can’t say the grapeseed oil was a highlight because I’m not sure I tasted it. I couldn’t pick it out. Perhaps in another recipe. I have read a lot of Chef Robert’s recipes and he loves using grapeseed oil. I am not one who likes to mix my food, but I am trying to be daring with this challenge and I mixed. I ate some rice, fish, and mango sauce all in one bite. I have to say I enjoyed it seperately, but it was much better as a whole. Some of my Little Chefs have the no mixing food rule as well so it was hard to convince Little Chef A in particular to try everything at the same time. She loves eating one thing, like the rice, until it is done and leaving her favorite part to dine on last. Sure nothing was uniform in size, some were large and some were larger, but this recipe was a success. We all tried something new and loved it!
- 1 cup jasmine rice
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 2 scallions, green parts only, chopped
- Mango Sauce:
- 1 mango
- 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
- 1 lime, juiced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 clove garlic, quartered
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
- 4 mahi-mahi fillets
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 scallions, chopped, for garnish
- For the rice: Combine the rice and water together in a large saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook the rice for 20 minutes.
- For the sauce: Peel the mango and slice the flesh off the pit. Dice the mango flesh.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the mango, cilantro, garlic, and ginger. Set aside.
- Heat a large, nonstick saute pan over medium-high heat.
- Rub the fish fillets with the oil, salt, and pepper. Place in the hot pan and sear until golden on 1 side, 3 to 4 minutes.
- Turn the fish over and cook until cooked through, another 3 to 4 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the fish. You'll know the fish is done when the flesh springs back. Remove the fish to a plate.
- When the rice is cooked, fluff it with a fork and gently stir in the cilantro and scallions. Season with salt, to taste.
- Place a mound of rice on each plate. Top with mahi-mahi. Spoon the mango sauce over each fillet and top with chopped scallions. Drizzle the liquid from the mango sauce around the rice.