My New Year’s Resolution was to do more focused things to accomplish my food related goals. Take classes, strengthen my network, identify my strong suits, learn, and sharpen my skills. So what better way to kick off 2016 than with a Basic Knife Skills class? (insert sound effect of knife sharpening)
I’m fortunate to live very close to the Loretta Paganini School of Cooking and ICASI, or International Culinary Arts and Sciences Institute. The pair provide incredible resources for both the recreational cook and the professional chef. I’ve attended several classes at the school before, but all were recipe based and themed, like “A Night in Tuscany,” “Phyllo Baking,” etc. This time around it was more skills based, and I was eager to get after it.
Our class of about 15 was lead by Chef Tim McCoy, a guy who’s taught there for just as many years and who spoke about cutting his teeth at a Japanese restaurant. Can you imagine how much cutting and dicing goes on in the prep kitchen of a place like that? Instant credibility.
McCoy started with the bare bones basics, like how to stand when cutting (where to place your feet, and best posture) and of course, how to hold the knife. Immediately I began to liken this process to golf, tweaking my stance, grip and follow through to better my game. And that analogy stuck with me throughout the evening, as I fought years’ worth of muscle memory and tried to correct what I’d been doing wrong for years…sub-par grip and lack of follow through.
After a series of demos, McCoy tasked us students with cutting a couple of carrots-julienne cut, dice, brunoise, cube. I moved my knife much slower that usual, while even holding the vegetables differently than I have my whole life, with that “claw” grip, so as not to expose my fingertips to potential cuts, but only my knuckles. Chef McCoy quipped you can still cut your knuckles, but there are fewer nerves there and less blood. Good takeaway. I felt my middle finger start to blister and knew I was doing something wrong…adjusted and kept going. The food nerd in me was excited about doing this right. Finally. Speed, and consistency would come along eventually, right?
Next we moved on to dicing tomatoes, and learned the chiffonade, technique for leafy greens. Then it was the skill that brought tears to many eyes in the room…dicing the dreaded onion.
I watched my fellow students’ minds being blown…as they learned and applied the proper technique that will save them enormous amounts of time and aggravation in the kitchen.
When none of the veggies were whole any longer, we set about making dinner for ourselves, splitting up into teams to tackle five recipes that required us to apply our new knife skills.
My team prepared a crisp antipasto salad and a fresh angel hair pasta primavera.
The other students made a creamy garden vegetable chowder to start, plus a tender chicken cacciatore and mixed fruit mini strudel for a sweet finish.
I left the class in a state of mind that I like-inspired. Now, I’m ready to tackle a new year…and a pile full of onions too! #bringiton