Welcome to week 39 of Kitchen Classroom, where America’s Test Kitchen Kids is sharing a weekly kid-tested and kid-approved recipe, hands-on experiment, or activity paired with a Learning Moment that brings learning to life in the kitchen.
This week’s Kitchen Classroom is Cooking for You! This week, kids will be making a Ham and Cheese Panini, a recipe featured in our brand-new cookbook for young chefs, The Complete Cookbook for Young Scientists. Before making their panini, kids will conduct a mini experiment to learn about the awesome browning power of mayonnaise. Then, they’ll apply what they discovered in the experiment as they make their panini. Finally, in Take It Further, it’s an all-out condiment clash! A monumental mayo match!—as kids participate in a near-impossible debate: Team Mayo, or Team May-ew?
Don’t forget to share what your family makes by tagging @testkitchenkids or using #ATKkids on Instagram, or by sending photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit the America’s Test Kitchen Kids website for more culinary content designed especially for kids.
Here’s what’s cooking for the week of September 27th through October 3rd, 2021.
Cooking for You: Ham and Cheese Panini
This cheesy panini gets a little bonus browning thanks to a secret ingredient found on your refrigerator door: mayonnaise. Crusty slices of rustic bread are traditional in a panini, but hearty sandwich bread will also work in this recipe. If you have a nonstick grill pan, you can use it instead of the nonstick skillet—the pan will put grill marks on the sandwich, just like using a panini press! You can swap the cheddar, ham, and pickles for other cheeses, meats, or toppings—see “Food for Thought” at the bottom of the recipe page for ideas.
[GET THE RECIPE]
What You’ll Need
2 (½-inch-thick) slices crusty bread
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (2 ounces)
1 slice deli ham
4–6 pickle chips, optional
Physical Science (Chemical Reactions):
Ask kids: What makes a grilled cheese sandwich or a panini different from toasted bread with melted cheese? What helps make it crusty and golden-brown on the outside? Before making their panini, kids can set up a mini experiment to better understand why they spread mayo on the outside of their sandwich before cooking it.
- Cut an extra slice of crusty bread in half horizontally. Spread ¾ teaspoon of mayo evenly on one side of one slice, leaving the other slice plain.
- Make a prediction: After cooking, do you think the two bread slices will look the same or different? Will they taste the same or different? Why do you think so?
- Place both slices in a 10-inch nonstick skillet, with the mayo-smeared slice placed mayo side down. Heat the skillet over medium heat, and cook for about 4 minutes. (If plain slice begins to burn, transfer to cutting board early.)
- Transfer the toasted bread slices to a cutting board and let them cool for 2 minutes.
- Observe your results: Observe the bread slices, then taste them one at a time, taking sips of water in between bites. How did each slice look? How did they taste?
The mayo-smeared toast should look well-browned on the outside, with a buttery richness. On the other hand, the plain toast will be paler in color with a comparably plain flavor. Why? Bread contains protein and sugars, which undergo the Maillard (“my-YARD”) reaction when heated past 250 degrees. This reaction causes foods to brown and deepens flavors. But mayo contains even MORE proteins (from egg yolks) and sugar, which gives the mayo-smeared toast a Maillard one-two punch. Talk about a powerhouse condiment!
Take It Further
English Language Arts (Speaking and Listening, Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas):
Mayonnaise lies at the heart of countless dishes, dressings, and more—from this panini to Ranch dressing, potato salad, some cake (!) recipes, and beyond. And when it comes to mayo, you either love it on (or in) everything, or you can’t stand the mere sight of it. Kids can settle the argument once and for all by setting up a mayo debate among friends or family members. First, group debaters into two teams: pro-mayo and anti-mayo. Then, pick a judge to oversee the debate (this is a good job for a grown-up). Both sides should take five minutes to prepare their arguments and think about rebuttals, or attempts to defend the opposing arguments. Team members should also decide on which members will speak in the debate and when. Remind debaters not to interrupt each other throughout the debate. Finally, the debate can begin!
- The pro-mayo team presents its case. (3 minutes)
- The anti-mayo team presents its case. (3 minutes)
- Both teams prepare their rebuttals and summaries. (3 minutes)
- The anti-mayo team presents its rebuttal and summary. (2 minutes)
- The pro-mayo team presents its rebuttal and summary. (2 minutes)
After the debate, the judge will decide which team presented the best case. That team is deemed the winner! All participants can debrief post-debate to discuss how the debate went, add additional opinions, ask questions, reflect on performances, and seek feedback.