Covering more than just the tip of getting the right kitchen knives to adequately prepare foods in any setting. “Go purchase quality knives!” is what is often said… Let me just cut to the chase, that statement alone can be subject to a variety of personal interpretations. Here I’ll provide slices of basic information founded in my own beliefs and opinions.
How many knives? Three (3)
Which specific knives?
French/Cooks/Chefs or santoku knife 6 or 8 inch. These knives are the workhorses! I have found the 8 inch to be best suited to my personal needs in both professional and home settings. Jenna uses an 8 inch as well.
Pairing/Utility Knife: a good solid handled 4 inch blade paring knife for fine detail work, tourne, peeling, and shaping. Back in the day, before fancy machinery, we used this to make potato or turnip roses for parties of 200 – 800 servings (3 roses per person) almost daily.
Boning Knife: A six inch semi-flexible curved boning knife. Great all purpose boning knife that is short, direct, and maneuverable.
TANG: Not the breakfast drink of NASA: A knife handle is just as important as the knife itself. Go for full tang! What that (tang) means is that the knife blade portion that extends into the handle. The tang of a quality knife should be fully integrated into the handle and riveted or completely part of the handle.
Comfort is most important:
How does the knife feel in your hand? This is a very integral part of a knife. It is, in essence, the extension of you.
Materials of the handle: stabilized wood (epoxy/laminate/resinwood), molded or composition plastic, fibrox enhanced rubberized grip, smooth polished wood.
Should feel good in your hand, should not pose safety issues, and should be resistant to abrasions.
The shape of the handle, how it fits and feels in your hand. A knife should feel natural in your hand, it should not put any undue stress on hands or wrists when cutting for lengths of time.
The “balance” of a knife refers to where the weight is in a knife. Is it blade heavy or handle heavy? It should be evenly balanced especially with knives that are specifically used for multiple actions such as slicing/dicing. Again you will be able to “feel” this in your hand as you hold a knife.
Stainless- not a good option, these tend to be very hard to sharpen and used by most that don’t care to tend to knives.
High Carbon Stainless Steel-most commonly used for knives holds a good edge but will need sharpening/honing frequently, resistant to tarnish/rust.
High Carbon Steel-Old school standby used by chefs that know how to take care of them. These hold a great edge but will tarnish/rust if proper care is not taken.
Damascus is for show and shine: an expensive knife that is fashioned from a variety of steels layered together. A finishing touch is an acid etch that exposes lines in the surface of the steel giving it a artistic appearance. It is a tough blade with good edge quality.
Porcelain/Ceramic – Need I even say…the fact that it will shatter (in the kitchen!) if dropped counts this one as not usable in my book.
Remember… a more expensive knife does not mean that the user’s cutting ability will be any better. A knife must be cared for, used properly and feel comfortable while in use. In my next post, I’ll speak to the points of sharpening, as well honing your fine piece of cutlery.
My favorite knives over the years, what feels good in my hand, are as follows:
French Knife 6” or 8“ Henkel (I have an engraved 8″ from my opening team Chef Enrique Rodriguez and Chef Mike Mr-Kenny 1999 Houstonian and Shadow Hawk Golf Courses in Richmond, TX)
The two types of meat aging methods associated with beef are wet and dry. Both methods yield the same end goal which is to make meat more tender, however, the end result is significantly different. In this post I shed light as to the differences and why one is more expensive than the other, how flavor differs, and why one is marketed more than the other.
All scientific jargon aside, both wet and dry aging, in layman’s terms is…controlled rotting. Rotting you say?!?! Yes!!! A very naturally occurring process… in a positive way.
Most beef sold has typically been wet aged and is really not marketed as much as dry. Wet age is just not as exciting and there is not all that much to it. There is simply nothing sexy about vacuum sealed meat resting in refrigerated temperatures. Bring on the beefcake with dry aging and you now have yourself a sexy hunk of meat!
To simplify some of the basics…
A piece of meat (most common are whole boneless roasts or individual steak cuts) is vacuum sealed in a bag and kept free from air.
Kept at 35 – 40 degrees for upwards of 14 days.
At 14 days tenderizing has reached its peak.
There is a natural enzymatic softening (tenderizing) of the muscle fibers that takes place, thus making the fresh meat more tender.
There is minimal, if any, noticeable flavor difference/change.
There isn’t much, if any loss from moisture or trimming.
Not much marketing goes into this, as this is how the majority of consumer and wholesale beef is packaged, stored and handled.
Wet aging is much less expensive to produce (less loss, less time, easier to control).
Colorado's Best Beef All Natural Charolais 14 - 21 Day Dry Aged Carcasses
Dry aging is applied to larger cuts such as full carcasses or sides of beef, full primal cuts or large whole bone in or boneless roasts. Often times rib roasts (rib-eye steaks), short loins (where t-bones and porterhouse are cut from) and strip loins (KC and NY strip steaks).
The meat hangs in a temperature controlled room of about 38 degrees F for upwards of 35 days.
The RH (relative humidity) is between 50 – 60%
The exterior of the meat surfaces is exposed to air and adequate air flow, no two pieces of meat touch. This is important as if two surfaces touch it creates a moisture pocket which would contribute to really bad bacterial growth.
What takes place, as in wet aging process, is enzymatic muscular fiber breakdown, thus tenderizing the meat.
There is a loss of moisture, and with this loss along with the “controlled rotting” a significant deepening of flavors takes place. Beefy, meaty, rich and deep notes takes hold.
Lastly before the meat is sold to you the consumer, the exterior that has dried (rotted) gets trimmed off as it is too pungent as well not good nor pleasant to eat. This excess trimming and loss also contributes to the much higher cost of the dry aged.
There is upwards of 21% loss from the original weight of the beef cut that is dry aged.
A concentration of flavors due to the moisture loss in the dry aging process is what gives it it’s deep, rich and beefy flavor.
Hopefully this simplifies aged beef.
There are many restaurants that practice dry aging in wooden rooms, Himalayan pink salt rock rooms, even so much as airport restaurants and even now some Whole Foods locations.
Summer is here, and that means cocktails. Margaritas. Mojitos. Mexican beer with lime.
I always like it when we get the citrus in a large 25# box for drinks we make at the restaurant… there is a funny little drawing on the side of the lime box showing how to cut the limes to get the most juice. Strangely enough, hardly anyone ever does it.
Cut the lime like this… (but you’ll cut it all the way through)
I think the best thing about cutting it like this at home is that the edges are perfect for squeezing in guacamole and on chips (then sprinkling with salt and chile), and the core section slides perfectly into your bottle of beer. Of course, there is no way to get 100% of the juice, but this way really allows for a good squeeze.
A few lime tips:
Buy the heaviest limes you can at the grocery. These suckers are usually pretty expensive, and you certainly want to get the most bang (or juice) for your buck.
If you think the recipe would be enhanced by the flavor of the zest, by all means use it! I think the zest offers some of the best flavor with any citrus fruit. (I always use a rasp or microplane to zest). I put it almost every recipe that I put the juice in.
Roll the lime on the counter under your hand a few times to release the juice before you cut. It breaks up the membrane inside the fruit.
A warmer lime will give up more juice. Use it room temp rather than from the refrigerator. Some people even microwave them for 10 or so seconds. I don’t.
Use a hand citrus juicer. Put the lime in what looks like backwards. I have seen tons of people use this the wrong way. You want the cut side facing the holes where the juices come out, and the lime gets turned inside out. You can buy expensive ones at a fancy kitchen store, or they come really cheap at a Mexican market. They both make the same margarita!
Use tongs. Lots of chefs grab a pair of tongs to do the squeezing work. Just position the citrus close to the handle, in between the tongs, and squeeze.
Use a reamer. These are great and get out a ton of juice.
Use a fork in the same manner if you don’t have a reamer.
Use your thumb in the same manner if you don’t have a fork.
This week, the kids and I headed to Two Bear Farms, where Bruce Miller has over 250 chickens, all free range, organic and all natural. No hormones, chemicals or pesticides are ever used. Bruce gave us a tour of the property and we really enjoyed hanging out with the hens. It was pretty cool to see how big our chickens will be once they are layers. We have had our 9 chicks for 5 weeks so far, and they have already grown to 4 times the size they were when we first got them!
The coolest thing of the day at the farm was pulling the eggs right out from under the hens… and they were still warm. I am so excited for our fiture with fresh eggs everyday!!
Vivianna and Matteo with the chicks at a couple days old:
One sexy chick and her egg of the day at Two Bear Farms…
Brand new farm fresh eggs won’t peel easily. We tried the other day and it was a disaster. For the most success, 2 week old eggs or older work best. You can tell the day of the year the eggs were packaged by the 3 digit number on the side. All USDA inspected eggs have this numeric indication, which ranges from 001 (January 1), to 365 (December 31).
As eggs age, the yolks flatten out and the whites become thin and watery. You can tell when you crack an egg into a hot pan if the egg is very fresh or not by checking the white. If it holds together tightly, it is very fresh. If the white thins spreads out and is thin, it is older (this does not mean unhealthy or bad, however). We eat older eggs all the time.
A splash of white vinegar and a teaspoon or so of salt in the water may help with both coagulation of the albumen (the white) of any eggs that crack, keeping it together and making it less messy. Mark disagrees and actually makes fun of me for it, I’ve read it may be a wives tale, but I don’t really care. I do it anyway because it doesn’t hurt anything, and it makes sense to me. (I’ve also read scientific reports about protein denaturation and how the acids in vinegar).
The color of eggs (white, brown, green) is just due to the breed of the chicken. Color has no significant bearing on the the flavor of the egg. So spend more money on the brown ones only if you like the fancy color better.
Storing eggs on their side (lay the carton on its side in the refrigerator) if you want the yolks centered for deviled eggs.
Spinning an egg on the counter will help if you can’t remember which ones you have already boiled. A raw egg will wobble like a weeble-wobble. A cooked egg will spin like a top.
Claudine Pepin (her father is Jacques Pepin, so she learned from the best) recommends poking a hole in the base, the flatter part, of the egg with something thin and sharp like a needle There is an air pocket here and it is said this helps for peeling. Just make sure you lightly poke, don’t go all the way to the yolk, just through the shell into the membrane.
Overcooked eggs result in a yolk with a green ring and whites that are very rubbery.
How to boil an egg perfectly…
Place eggs in a pan with cold water. Cover eggs by at least an inch.
bring water just to a boil over high heat.
turn them way down, to a very light simmer for 10 minutes. (8 minutes will give you a softer yolk, 12 minutes will result in a very firm yolk)
turn off the heat and remove, placing the eggs in ice water for about a minute. This will stop the cooking.
either remove and roll each egg on the counter under your hand to crack all over, or pour off the water and vigorously shake the eggs in the pan to crack the shells.
put them back in the ice water for 5 minutes to cool. The mistake we often make is to leave them at this step.
they must be peeled now for perfect removal of the shell.
They will be cooked to a golden yellow, with tender yolks and whites (not rubbery)