Monday, August 31, 2009

If Carrots got you drunk...Rabbits would be Faaaaaded

Well. Well. Well. You have defeated Onion my young grasshopper? (Cooker begins slowly clapping) Then you must feel ready to take on your next adversary. Hmmm? You were born ready? Well then prepare yourself grasshopper, for CARROT! Why is there no fear in your eyes? Feeling cocky then eh? Cocky enough to use...a PEELER? Still no fear. Right. Let's get on with it then.

Before you lies the carrot, edible raw or cooked, whole or cut, peeled or unpeeled. This post is designed to show you some basic ways to cut up a carrot without using crazy french terms. Those will follow shortly though if all goes to plan. So there is the simple round, wheel cut which is good for longer cooking where the carrot needs to be recognizable. There is the half circle carrot cut for slightly faster cooking and where it can begin fading into a background flavor. Then there is the quarter wheel cut which is good for fast cooking where you do not need to have a distinct carrot flavor. Remember to keep those fingers curled under and bigger carrots are easier to practice on. Oh, and that dang knife better be sharp.

Start by peeling the carrot. There are millions of ways to do this. The Cooker is meticulous and goes from top to bottom one ever so slightly overlapping strip at a time until the whole thing is peeled. The hand and peeler are out of focus because the camera's eye has a hard time capturing something that fast.

When the carrot is completely naked it is time to start making with the cuts. Snip the tip and the top just a bit from each side to clean it up. Then depending on what type of cut you are going to make you can cut it in half to make it more manageable or leave it whole. A variety of cuts are to be performed so this carrot is being halved.

Now curl those fingers under and start slicing the carrot into wheels. Something to keep in mind while doing this is to try and keep the carrots the same size as you go. Carrots are smaller closer to the tip so make wider cuts there and narrow then as you come up so that they cook at the same rate. P.S. use a rocking motion with your knife to make the job easier.

For the half wheel, take the section of carrot that you are working with and bisect it lengthwise. Taking care to keep the carrot from rolling which might sink the knife into your fingers. Use that same rocking motion here as carrots can be cruel mistresses.

Then use the same method and cut across your previous cut to make a series of half wheels.

To make the quarter wheel cut. Bisect the half carrot you have lengthwise again. Keep the two halves together though as it is quicker to cut them up this way. Then cut them the same way as both times before and you end up with cute little quarters.

Here are the three cuts ready for your viewing pleasure. From left to right, quarters, halves and wholes.

Still got all those sweet little fingers intact it looks like. Nice job. Seriously though these little guys can get the best of you if you are not careful. You can now cut up 2/3 of the super base mirepoix. Well really you can do all three. Celery is pretty much the same idea as carrots just shaped a little different. Celery poses the peel or not to peel? Keep the stringies or get rid of them. You make the call. So now you can make a solid base to soups, sauces, stocks, stews etc.

Okay so now just knock out 80 - 90 of these and you will be ready for your next task. Okay you don't really need to cut that many. But think about how you might make a dice out of a veggie shaped like a carrot. Go make something tasty with these little games so that you can make it happen in your tum tum.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

There's no crying in cookering!

Oh man you look terrible. What did you get in a knife fight or something? Seriously? Who gets in knife fights? Okay who did you get in a knife fight with? A vegetable!? I am not listening anymore, it is time for you to get educated in the craft of the kitchen knife cuz damn. Having good knife skills is one of the greatest attributes you can have in a kitchen or while cooking. If you have honed (!) your skills you will take less time in preparation and more importantly your items will cook evenly and predictably. Oh and your hands will not look like you hand feed bears little smokies.

There are as many ways to cut an onion as there are stars in the sky (10). This post is going to focus on two of the handiest to have available in your tool box as it were. The first is good for when you want the onion in relatively big even slices. So things like stir frys and caramelized onions. The second is just a dice which is good for things that either will only be sweated or not cooked at all. So sauce and salsas.

Remember, a sharp knife is your friend especially in the case of onions. A dull knife will jack up your situation. The first thing to do in either situation is to get the onion ready. In this case you should cut the top and the bottom off the onion maybe a 1/4 to 1/2 an inch from each end. Then cut the whole operation in half latitudely.

Then get in there with your fingers, well what you have left of them, and peel of the papery skin of the onion. Depending on the onion this might require removing the first layer. Just try to leave some of the onion on there.Next put the onion cut side down on your board. Then starting from whichever side you are more comfortable with, slice along the curved edge of the onion towards where the center of the onion touches the board. Then move a little higher and repeat all the while keeping your fingers clear and aiming for where the center of the onion meets the board.

Continue this way until you make it all the way around. The slices should look something like this.

So there you have slices. Look for the side by side comparison at the end. Now on to the dice. Start with the same halved deskinned onion. Put it cut side down and make a slice parallel to the board through the top or bottom about a third of the way towards the top from the bottom. DO NOT CUT ALL THE WAY THROUGH. SERIOUSLY. Cut until you are just shy of the other side. This will keep the onion held together and make your life much easier later. Then move up another third and make another slice and then do the last third.

Next slice along the curved side of the onion perpendicular to your previous cuts and the board. AGAIN, DO NOT CUT ALL THE WAY THROUGH. Leave the side you left connected earlier still connected. Once again this will make your life easier and make you look like a pimp/pimptress when the time comes.

Now make cuts the last direction perpendicular to the last cut leaving you with a beautiful dice. CUT ALL THE WAY THROUGH NOW. When you get close to the still connected side flip that part over and cut it up separately. Notice the fingers curled under as to avoid getting cut. When you get more comfortable you can actually have the flat side of the knife rest against your knuckles while you cut.

There you have it. Both styles ready to roll. Hey, look whose not bleeding anymore! Now go and practice.

What was that? No. This is not some exercise that prepares you for fighting like in the karate kid. This shows you how to cut an onion. So that you can cut an onion.

Now use these to make something tasty and make it happen in your tum tum.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Skills to come in handy in a knife fight...or meal time.

So there you are hanging out with your boys, you know the "gang," and you all start feeling a little...anxious.

'nuff said

You know, ready to throw down. Ready to mix it up and test your mettle. Ready to find another group of boys or "gang" and have a good old fashioned knife fight.

A good friend of the Workshop Nico defending his toon's honor against the shirtless wonder

Sadly though you can only find a chef's knife to wield and a bunch of veggies to fight. However, those veggies should not be underestimated. If you go after them unprepared you just might come out of it with a few shorter fingers and some horribly bloody tasting stir fry. Oh but your ego has decided to write some checks that your body can't cash.

I am giving you your dream shot

Now look at you. Take a look at those veggie cuts and those fings (!). You just got your a$$ kicked by something that cannot even move on its own. What you need is some knowledge and some training. You need a montage. Well the Workshop does not have that kind of technology so what you get instead is a series of short posts showing how to cut some stuff up. Each one shows a couple different ways to go so that your ingredients can cook evenly and your fingers can maintain their current length and blood content. Stay tuned for the knowledge bomb, but you might want to take off your shoes because when your socks going fly off at that kind of speed your shoes will be destroyed.