Is my blade sharp?

I’m sitting at work with my 10″ Chef’s knife in my backpack. Being a computer geek by trade, this is an unusual occurrence, but tonight is my knife skills class. Look for an evaluation of the class tomorrow.

One thing I’ve wondered is if my knife is sharp. It seems to cut well, but I’m not sure how a dull knife cuts. So I went looking on the web and found a page describing a knife sharpness test.

And the verdict is?

Yeah it’s sharp.

Guess they weren’t lying when they told me Kershaw Shun had one of the best factory edges around.

An Art and A Craft

An art is an act of original creation. A craft takes an art form and codifies it in a way to make it reproducible. When a chef creates a new dish he is practicing an art. When he creates a recipe and teaches others to produce it over and over, in a restaurant for example, they are practicing a craft.

Both the art of cooking and the craft of cooking use the same skills.

New Years Menu

Been without internet for the last four days so I didn’t post the final menu for out New Years dinner/party.

Appetizers:

Vegetable platter: celery, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli

Dipping sauces: Red Pepper Cream Sauce (South Beach CookBook), Ron’s tomato sauce, Peanut Butter Dipping sauce (South Beach CookBook), Modified Macon Salsa with Pita Chips

Sautéed Shrimp and South Beach Shrimp Cocktail(South Beach CookBook)

Entrees:

Buffalo Wild Wings wings, medium and hot.

Steak Kabobs (South Beach CookBook)

Deserts:

Strawberries with Velvety Chocolate Dipping sauce. (South Beach CookBook)

Apple Soufflé.(South Beach CookBook)

I also attempted to make Chef Menon’sEggplant in tangy chilli sauce, but it didn’t work for me.

The Soufflé looked awesome coming out of the oven. But when you cut into it the bottom half was soaking wet. I don’t know if the apple’s were too wet or if I did something else wrong. You could still eat it, but it tasted like eggs with apples in it.

Kabob’s were a big hit. The peanut butter dipping sauce listed in the appetizers was actually for the kabobs, but since there was so much of it I served it with both. My wife enjoyed the kabobs so much I made them again on Sunday for us and some friends. For new years I just used the steak I had which was a New York Strip and pretty thin. It tasted great, but didn’t seem to be enough beef. For Sunday I use sirlon like the recipe called for, and there was a lot more beef.

I’ll post some pictures later.



South Beach Cookbook
South Beach Diet Cookbook

A Limited Palette

I have many interests, cooking being just the latest. Pursuing one of these I read J. Michael Straczynski’s The Complete Book of Scriptwriting . When discussing writing the television script, he explains the very strict time constraints of TV programs. It breaks every so many minutes and is a specific length. Then he said some people are offended by this because it limits their art for purely commercial reasons (no pun intended). JMS every art has its limitations and an artist learns to work in those limits.

This occurred to me recently in relation to cooking.

To me cooking is an art. Actually I think it is an art and a craft, but for me it is an art. Some cooks are annoyed when they have to conform to a person’s dietary requirements. Those cooks are like the artist above, complaining about the limits of TV. Others look on it as a chance to show their skills.

I used to be a vegetarian and one year I was on a business trip to San Francisco. A large group of us went to a fancy restaurant. I found nothing on the menu that I could eat, which is unusual. So I asked the waiter about it. She said, “The chef can make something for you.”

I furrowed my brow and asked, “Like what?”

“Don’t worry you’ll like it.”

Since I didn’t have much choice I decided to live on the edge. They brought me out a bowl of something. To this day I don’t know what it was, but it was probably the best vegetarian meal I ever had.

That’s art.

All this as a preamble to say I’m going on a diet. I recently went to the Hotze Health & Wellness Center and you can follow the link to learn more. Part of what they want me to do is go on a yeast free diet. I’m not really willing to do that right now, but I am removing all refined sugar from my diet, and all non-whole grain starches. This ends up being very similar to Atkins or South Beach, but with whole grain pasta etc. I did Body For Life last year and this diet will work with that as well.

This means don’t expect any more cookies and ice cream. Much more meat, sauces and vegetables.

I made Pan Steak and Onions from the South Beach diet last night and I was impressed. South Beach actually went to chefs and got them to create quality recipes for their diet.

My first challenge will be to create a menu for our New Years party. I want it to conform to my diet, and still be “party” food. Expect to see a menu up soon.

Blogroll Additions

When and looked at the food blog awards site and loaded all the nominees for Best Food Blog – Chef. I already had Burning My Fingers In Boston on my list, but found two more I liked.

One Toque Over The Line Despite the apparent in ability to create a paragraph, the rants here are very interesting and funny. Kind of reminded me of Waiter Rant, but from the Chef’s perspective.

Shiok Food is written by a chef in Bangalore. He has good photography and detailed instructions in his recipes. I want to try out his egg plant recipe.

Applesauce

Just a quick post to point out you can replace the honey in the 10 minute applesauce with Splenda and it works fine. Truth be told you could probably leave the sweetener out all together.

I’m starting a new diet and trying to eat better. This will be the first time I’ve done a diet while cooking. I’m going to post about it in the near future, but thought I’d mention the applesauce first.

Tomato Sauce

Last night I made my first tomato sauce from scratch. Good Eats sometime last week was the pantry episode, and I’d bought the makings of mire poix a while back, but never made it.

I’m not posting a detailed recipe because I just kind of made it from memory of the show and what I had at the time.

Started out by opening a can of whole tomato and dumping them into a strainer over a 4 qt sauce pan. While they drained, I diced some baby carrots and put them in a skillet with a little olive oil over a medium high heat. I cut up most of a yellow onion and added it. Smashed three cloves of garlic and tossed them in. While they cooked, I went back to the tomatoes and seeded them.

The tomato juice was drained into the pot which I put over a medium heat. I opened the spice cabinet and pulled out the first thing that looked like italian seasoning. As I dumped about a teaspoon into the pot I realized it was actually dried thyme. So I found dried basel to go with it. I also poured a tablespoon or so of red wine into the pot and left it to reduce down.

My onions were browning by this time, so I stirred them some. I went and cut up a couple of celery stalks and dumped them in too. After this had cooked a while I decided there weren’t enough onions in it, so I cut up more onion and put it in. I was a little worried because half the onion was cook and I was adding new onion. But it seemed to work out.

The juice had reduced down and the veggies looked cooked. I poured a little wine into the skillet to deglaze and then poured all the veggies into the sauce pan. Then I tossed in the tomatoes as well. Let this sit until I saw bubbles coming through.

But it didn’t look right. I was planning on serving it on some sautéed chicken breasts, which would lean toward a chunky sauce. Still, to me it looked wrong. Not really mixed enough. So out came the immersion blender, which pureed it nicely to the consistency of applesauce.

Took a taste, before adding salt or pepper. It was good. Had the Mrs taste it as well and she liked it, even if she take little bitty girly tastes.

Almost burned the chicken breasts, but they turned out ok if a little over browned and the sauce work great with them. I’ve got it in the fridge now and am thinking a little pasta might be in the works tonight.