One of the highlights of my life in Paris was my daughter’s Garderie, preschool in French.
For what is worth, to secure a spot in a French preschool, an expectant parent should start the admission process of her soon-to-be-born child as early as the six month of pregnancy.
In this context, we got our fetus on the waiting list, and by the time she was born and turned 11 months old, we received the long-awaited letter from the city. Our child was finally admitted to our neighborhood public preschool. The thrill was nothing short than getting her accepted into Harvard. This is how elaborate and laborious the whole admission process was. That said, it was well worth it.
Infamous for being too strict, French preschools have their deeply rooted regulations. One among many is that parents are prohibited to send any food with their kids. They simply reject any interference with the early gastronomic exposure of the kid to fine French food.
The food served at the preschool was simple, but obviously designed for sure-to-be foodies. It offered diverse textures and a celebrated multitude of flavors that awaken kids’ senses and sharpen their palates. Here is an example of a weekday menu served to toddlers that deeply dented my memory: turkey breast with basil cream sauce and rosemary roasted potatoes. And the dessert was a gooey chestnut-chocolate fondent. No news about bland, mashed potatoes or plain applesauce on the menu. The message was clear — educating a palate is part of the French education system itself.
When we left Paris, I was determined to build on the French foundation of taste. I steered away from boring baby food and went the extra mile to transform plain ingredients into a playful combination of flavors.
Mushrooms, however, my kids adamantly refused. My last resort was a recipe from an Italian cookbook. I tweaked the recipe slightly to their liking, and I am glad I did. They gave me thumbs up. The only downside of this recipe is the deep frying, which I am not crazy about. That said, there is a way to circumvent this. You can shallow fry the mushrooms and then roast them in a 200° preheated oven.
The oregano gives the crunchy coat an edge, and the crunchy crust counterbalances the rubbery texture of the mushrooms. The Aioli dip is the perfect match. It is creamy and zesty, with a pungent garlic bite that is enlivened by fresh parsley.
When my kids approved the addition of this new dish to our repertoire, I went ahead and served it at a cocktail party, and I was pleasantly surprised how popular it was. Call it a vegetarian version of chicken nuggets and give it a try.
Recipe of Fried Mushrooms & Herbed Mayo
Recipe is adapted from “Tutto L’ano Con La Cucina Italiana”
Serves 4-6 people
- 500 grams of white button mushrooms
- 2 eggs, lightly wiped, preferably free range eggs
- 1 cup Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon dry oregano
- Oil for frying
Herbed Mayo Dip
- 1 whole egg
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- salt and pepper
- To clean the mushrooms, wipe the mushrooms with a damp towel and set them aside.
- To prepare the panko mix, add the oregano, salt, pepper to the panko.
- To fry the mushrroms, dip the mushrooms whole, halved or sliced in eggs first, dredge them in Panko and and then in hot frying oil. Remove the mushrooms from the hot oil with a slotted spoon when they are coated with a golden puffy crust. Let the fried mushrooms rest on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
- Serve the fried mushrooms next the mayo dip.
- Add the whole egg, glove of garlic, mustard, lemon juice to a blender. Blitz few times until the ingredients are well incorporated.
- While the machine is running on low speed, add gradually the oil in a fine stream. When the mayo starts to thicken, stop the blender. Mix in the chopped parsley.
- Adjust the salt and pepper and serve next to the fried mushrooms.