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Well, today wrapped up the last of this semester’s regularly scheduled cooking club meetings at school.  The theme for today was Chinese food…not authentic, mind you, but close enough for the age 5-10 crowd.  I warned everyone beforehand that I had never attempted any of these dishes before, and with little energy or spare time this week, I don’t think I planned out my plan of attack adequately.  However, a good time was had by all, and no sprinklers were set off.

More on that in a bit.

The menu for today included stir-fried pork with vegetables, lo-mein noodles, and pot-stickers.  I found all three recipes online, and they all seemed to be within my comfort range. However, the timing of these three dishes required precision I was not remotely able to carry out.

Suffice it to say, there will be no restaurant named Crowder’s Lucky Happy Mandarin Wok Dragon 88 coming anytime soon.

Let me just summarize one component of our meal, the pot-stickers.  We browned our pork-cabbage-onion mixture and set it aside.  Next, I gave each kid four wonton wrappers on a paper plate.  My indispensable parent-assistant, Michael, assisted with the younger kids.  I owe him big time for all his help this semester.  Anyway, once everything was in place I began to demonstrate the ancient art of the pot sticker.

I explained it was like a Chinese ravioli.  You would put the filling on the inside, then wet down the edges of the wrapper and fold it into little triangles which you would seal shut.  The website I used suggested crimping the edges with a fork.  I did this with little success, and ended up just pressing down the edges firmly with my fingers.

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So, off we went.  Most kids had some pretty good looking pot stickers but there were a few rips or tears here or there.  My son wet his entire wonton wrappers with water…and wanted to eat it like a taco.

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Now for the cooking.  The directions say to fry them in oil for 2-3 minutes, before adding water to the pan and letting them boil for an additional 3 minutes or so.

Obviously, being a careful adult, I was going to do this myself, with the kids watching to the side.  So I sent the younger ones out to set the table and then play in the gym while a group of 3rd-5th graders watched my cooking magic.

Frying went well…oohh, brown on the bottom.  Looking good!

Adding water…carefully now…

AND FLAMES LEAP FROM THE GAS COOKTOP!  3rd through 5th graders gawk then in exclaim in amazement!

“Whoooah…”

“Is that supposed to happen?”

“Coooolll!”

“THIS IS THE BEST COOKING CLUB EVER!”

I, meanwhile, am somewhat freaked.  We have a full commercial kitchen and the children are well away from the stove, yet FIRE IS FIRE.  On the other hand, I have their attention.

So we go on to make the second batch of pot stickers…Looking back I should have removed the pan from the burner when adding the water.  But, I didn’t.  So this time, there was another flare up.  One of the astute children commented:

“Mr. Crowder, there’s smoke.”

Yes, yes there was.  Smoke in the kitchen.  Visions of fire alarms going off.  Local volunteer fire department showing up.  Me explaining, “I was just making pot stickers.”  Sprinklers going off all over the gym.  However, another astute student said, “Turn on the fan!”  I had not noticed the switch for the fan above the stove, and promptly switched it on.

Commercial fans are powerful, and crisis was averted.

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Overall, it was more adventure than I was up for this week.  When all was said and done, I would say about 25% of our potstickers stayed together.  Many came unglued during cooking…and the kids were not impressed with the taste.

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The pork tenderloin stir fry saved the day (Is there anything pork tenderloin and soy sauce can’t do?).

I’m not sure what parents will hear at home, but I will say, I think the kids have at least learned that cooking is interesting, and it can be a learning process for everyone.

So good readers, I’ll ask, what was your biggest misadventure in the kitchen.  Tonight wasn’t my biggest, but it was certainly public.  Let me know!

Xie Xie (Thank you) for reading!

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