Four and Two Mouths

When I test new recipes, the Four Mouths come into my kitchen at work, grab stools and moan because they know when they leave their brains will be buzzing with a sugary, ice cream high for the rest of the  afternoon. To get one usable recipe I usually make about 20 different versions of the same thing, but by the time the Mouths get to the first cutting I have narrowed their choices to five or six options. They talk, roll their eyes, groan, get excited and sometimes light up like they have just tasted “the one!”. I describe ingredients, take notes, listen and imagine the next step of making the desserts they like operational.

The Mouths rank their favorites, abandoning what they think will sell to let what tastes really good win, at least in this round. I take those rankings, find commonalities and start to work the recipes for the next cutting, usually a few weeks later. As we continue to narrow down the list, a winner starts to emerge, a winner based on taste for sure, but one that has won more because we think it will sell, our frontline teams can execute it and it has a good food cost. My own favorites are usually long gone by this point.

Last week I tried this at home, or something like it. Emptying out lunch boxes at the end of the day provoked a “lunch box dinner”. I have been stumped by lunch for a couple months and it is clear by the remnants at the end of the day that my kids are bored out of their gourds by what I am packing. My experience with the Four Mouths is that when you involve other minds and taste buds in the recipe development process and when decisions are made collaboratively there is a shared buy in to the recipe.  So I tried it at home.

I made eight different lunch box items and put them on the table all at once. I let them grab and taste and I watched and took notes. They sometimes asked what was in something but mostly they just jumped in. I made them rank their top four, and while there were some commonalities on both lists, they clearly have very different palates. Differences that I am willing to accommodate to get empty lunch boxes home at the end of the day.  Here are the #1s on each list.

Turkey Roll Ups
Spread ripe avacado on a tortilla. Put a couple slices of roasted turkey (roast it yourself if you can) and salt and pepper. Roll it up and cut it in disks. If you slice the avocado in half, take out the pit but keep it in the skin you can slice out sections for spreading. Keep the remaining avocado in a plastic container. Put a couple slices of lemon on the top of it to keep it green as you use it all week. Store covered in the fridge.

Pizza Rolls
Purchase or make puff pastry. Roll it out to about 11×17 inches. Mix a box of tomato puree with salt, pepper and oregano to make pizza sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning. Lightly spread the sauce on the puff pastry all the way to the edges. You can freeze the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with shredded or thin slices of fresh mozzarella. Add thinly sliced meat if you want or basil leaves at this time. Roll the pastry up the long way, wrap in plastic wrap and cool in the fridge overnight or at least an hour. Unwrap, slice into 1/4 inch rounds and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned at 350 degrees. When cool, place in a covered container. They can sit at room temp for a few days.

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Author: Eileen O'Toole

A quick service restaurant vet who loves food, teaching, learning and being a single Mom. Believes that waking up each day with a positive attitude and a smile on your face can change the world.

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