This past weekend I attended my first class at the Central Market Cooking School! Instead of diving head first into group cooking I thought I would start with my technique first. I have to give myself kudos for how far I’ve come with my knife skills in the kitchen. Ever since I received my first set of cutlery as a wedding gift, I have slowly but surely improved. The first hurdle was overcoming the fear. Something about a large, shiny, and deadly object lying in my shaky hands freaked me out just a bit. Prep-time for me was like cooking an entire meal in itself. Needless to say, the simple task of chopping an onion felt like an eternity. Once I was able to grip my knife with confidence I was on my way!
Now, by no means am I anywhere close to chopping like a culinary expert, but I am leaps and bounds better than I was. Along with my new found technique has come a few scary confrontations with my trusty knife; resulting in a little bit of blood and minor yelps. I have to blame my lack of proper instruction on my accidents. So, I set out to learn the right steps before delving any deeper into the culinary world.
First Step: Know Your Knives!
I don’t have a full set of knives, but even with half a set I still only use one or two knives. According to my instructor for the day there are three main pieces to focus on; Chef’s Knife, Paring Knife, and Serrated Knife. I prefer to use a Santuku Knife as my main tool, but it’s definitely a personal preference. Everyone has their own style of cooking. So choose your knives according to your everyday use, and don’t worry, there are plenty to choose from.
Second Step: What not to do with your friendly blades!
I have definitely formed my own bad habits and lazy techniques (hence the reason for the class). For example: don’t grip the end of your knife in a tight fist and just start whacking away, control is the key. Once I learned the proper way to hold my blade I formed a nice red sore at the base of my index finger! Apparently I wasn’t the only person in the class feeling the pain. Once another student brought it up, she was told that she was on her way to culinary expertise! I guess a little discomfort just comes with the territory when learning the ropes of cooking.
The biggest no-no I had to break was the way I sliced an avocado and deseeded a jalapeno. Apparently it’s bad to hold half of an avocado in your hand, while using your large knife to cut slits vertically and horizontally into the flesh. First things first…put the avocado down on your cutting board and use a parring knife! The awkwardness of cutting with a large blade, only inches away from poking through to the palm of your hands, is not an ideal way to slice an avocado. Now as for jalapenos…same thing…set your jalapeno flat on the cutting board, and using your parring knife (not your chef’s knife), slowly peel away the vein and seeds. Now I’m sure a lot of you are saying, well Sarah did it take a class for you to realize your not suppose to hold your food while cutting? Well, bad habits are easy to form, and unless you are taught a better way…bad habits are usually there to stay.
The fun things I learned!
Along with learning easier ways to cut uniform pieces, I learned some pretty cool ways to cut a bell pepper and tomato. Before, I would just cut the top off of my bell pepper, then flip it over and cut it in half, then remove the stem and seeds with my hand. What was left was a beaten up looking pepper that had an awkward shape; difficult for even cutting. By placing the knife flat on the cutting board and slowly cutting into the side of the flesh, you can roll the pepper away from the knife while continuing to cut into the flesh. What was left was a perfectly “peeled” and cored pepper. The same process can be used to peel a small tomato; no more awkward cutting and squeezing to get the seeds out.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first cooking class and was able to quickly apply my new techniques to dinner later on that night. If you’re like me and know how to handle a knife, but tend to be a little sloppy in your chopping efforts, I strongly suggest taking a Knife Skills Course. Now, hopefully, my fingers can rest easy, and I can impress with my ability make pretty little even squares from a carrot!
Edith Piaf – La Vie En Rose: There is something about French music that screams cooking to me. When I listen to this song I can feel myself being swept away to the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, with my big french hat, learning how to cook something fabulous and French. I also have such a fond memory from my trip to Paris, when my friend and I walked through the side streets, purchasing our bread, wine, and meat from the different specialty stores. Listen and let yourself get whisked away!