It’s not as much fun as making ravioli. It’s not as glamorous as melting chocolate. It’s not as impressive as stacking a three tiered wedding cake, but it is as essential to a culinary education as your first “Learn to Read” book. What is it? Using your knife.
The selection of your knife is probably the most personal choice you will make when shopping for kitchen tools, because it functions as an extension of your own arm. You and your knife may be joined at the wrist for the next fifty years and it is a decision to be made thoughtfully.
Stainless steel blades are easy to keep clean and free of rust. They hold an edge well and are affordable. Perfect choices for the home cook. Carbon steel knives are softer, more flexible, easier to hone, but can rust easily if not cared for properly. Alloys are a perfect blend of the two: some flexibility, resistance to rust and ease of sharpening. Wusthoff, Sabatier and Henkel make knives in this style.
Whichever you choose, make sure to wash your knives by hand (not in the dishwasher!) and dry immediately. Cover the blade for safety. This also ensures that they will not bump each other in the drawer, which can chip and damage their precious edge. Honing your knife before each use will realign the fibers of the blade, but if you use your knives regularly, try to get them professionally sharpened every 4 to 5 months.
Our New School instructor reviews knife selection and care, then demonstrates essential cuts: baton, rondelle, julienne, dice and chiffonade. It is a common mistake to hold the knife with a finger extended over the top of the blade, but with practice, students are soon able to prepare their vegetables with ease. Student John Helzer confessed, “I did not even know how to hold a knife before I took this class…or how important it is that vegetables are the same size so they can cook evenly!”
Carrots and parsnips can be tricky because they taper to a very small tip at the end. Brigitte shares that a very useful cut, called an “oblique”, ensures that your slices will all have the same thickness whether they are cut from the tip or nearer the stem. This is because the cuts are made at an angle for the entire length of the vegetable.
When it comes to knife skills, practice makes perfect, but take the class if you need a more informed beginning. Your confidence with a blade will make for a long and happy relationship. The potatoes in your gratin will be creamy and evenly cooked. The crudites on your buffet table will look professional. Your chiffonade will be the envy of every guest who tastes this very popular kale salad.
Kale, Apple & Almond SaladPrint Recipe
- 1 bunch curly kale, washed, stems removed, and cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
- 1/3 cup toasted almonds, chopped
- 1 apple, julienned (matchstick size) and tossed with lemon juice
- 1/8 cup honey
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Blend all the dressing ingredients and set aside.
Place kale in a big bowl and pour dressing over the kale.
With your hands, massage the kale and dressing together for about 2 minutes.
The kale will darken in color and reduce in size by about half.
Toss with the almonds and apples and serve.