Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What's for Lunch: Cajun Chicken

Ed Bruske
aka The Slow Cook

Chartwells calls this "Cajun chicken" at its menu website. It's bone-in chicken that arrives seasoned, cooked and frozen. It simply needs to be reheated to serve. On the left is "bayou brown rice with beans," which means rice cooked in the school kitchen's steamer, then tossed with canned black beans and seasonings.

In the upper left is "fresh vegetable medley with carrots, broccoli and locally grown zucchini." The carrots and broccoli arrive already cut into pieces and refrigerated in plastic bags. They and the zucchini are then cooked in the steamer. The kitchen crew did a good job with this: the zucchini was still al dente, meaning not cooked to death. But there wasn't much seasoning to taste.

Unfortunately, the kids who chose the vegetable option didn't really eat it. Knowing how much adults think vegetables are the solution to the obesity epidemic, it's a shame to see them tossed into the trash. But maybe the kids learn something by seeing freshly cooked produce on their trays. Or maybe they could use a little coaching....

The menu also called for "carrot sticks." Obviously, not all of the kids chose the carrot sticks, and as you can see, what was served was actually "sanded" carrots packed in plastic with a side of Kraft Italian dressing. Also affectionately known as "baby" carrots, these carrots are nothing of the kind. They are in fact mature carrots that have been mechanically "sanded," or ground down to look like baby carrots. A California carrot farmer thought of this: just the thing to catch kids' interest, right? Sanded carrots are now a huge business.

Finally, this was the alternate lunch on Thursday, what Chartwells calls "grilled chicken Caesar salad with croutons and light Italian dressing.

Caesar salad with Italian dressing?
Anyway, the "grilled" chicken is actually diced chicken that arrives cooked and frozen. Once thawed, it's easy to toss this into a salad. But look: real Romaine lettuce, I think, not that iceberg mix. And croutons, too.

Unlike much of the fruit D.C. schools have been serving this year, the pear apparently is not local. However, it is very close to ripe and the kids really like it.


  1. I'm curious, did the kids eat the beans and rice together, or pick the beans out of the rice? My kids love beans and rice but are only just beginning to acknowledge that one might be able to touch the other and still taste ok. Most young kids really don't like too many contrasting textures in the same dish.

  2. Vegetable "coaching" - I like that term

    Working on it :)