May 08, 2015

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chef knives ›   cuts ›   how-to ›  


Using your Chef's Knife: Introduction to Classic Cuts

It's pretty likely you've heard the word julienne before, as in the salad, or maybe something you picked up in a movie. But what does it mean? If you’re just getting started in the culinary world, you’ve got a lot to discover, and learning to use your knife a little more skillfully is the perfect place to begin. In this blog, we’re going to touch on some basic knife cuts. Knowing these cuts are important for two reasons: consistency and aesthetic. The more skilled you become with a knife, the more you’ll be able to succeed in these two areas, and believe us, people will notice.

Consistency: when it comes to knife cuts, consistency means making sure you’re cutting the same way, every time. As a result, the food turns out the same way. This is important because inconsistent sizing leads to inconsistent cooking time. Nobody wants one carrot that’s crispy and another that’s mushy. By practising consistency you raise the quality of your dish considerably.

Aesthetic: The other important reason to practise your cuts. If you’re eating alone in front of the television, it probably doesn’t matter how fancy your dicing is, but if you’re hosting a dinner party, precise, aesthetically pleasing work is huge. This can mean the difference between something turning out blah and brilliantly. We’re visual creatures, and the way food looks has a huge impact on how we perceive its taste.

On to the cut

A chef’s cuts are generally divided by size and shape. Sizes can range from several inches (or centimetres if we abandon the imperial system for a moment) down to tiny millimetres. On the other hand, shapes are pretty limited; today we’ll talk about strips and cubes. Many a chef has pondered the immortal question, which came first – the strip, or the cube? We cut strips into cubes. Hmm. I guess it wasn’t that hard to figure out after all.

The First Steps

Things can get pretty complicated from here, and we’re not enrolling in culinary school just yet, so we’re going to try and keep things simple. We’ll drop a few French words, but that’s it, we promise.

First is the taillage. This is cutting your object (let’s say a carrot, for ease and consistency) into uniform shapes and sizes. So take a few carrots and tronçonner, or remove the edges and cut the pieces to a similar length. Then cut thick slices, or tranches, to be cut down to size. The goal is to create a bâtonnet, or consistently sized sticks.

Get out your ruler

How long depends on your goal. A standard julienne might be 3-5 cm (if we flip back to metric, you’re looking at 1/8 x 1/8 x 1-2 inches), where a jardinière is a slightly thicker baton, in the region of 4/5 x 1/5 x 1/5 inches or 2-5 cm x 4mm x 4mm.

And there are more, if you’re not satisfied with these dimensions. You’ve got your chiffonade, your fine julienne… suffice to say, you’ve got choices in the kitchen. Now that you’ve got your vegetable cut into your chosen size, though, what do you do next?

Sure, you could just eat it. Nobody would blame you for it – you’re probably tired and hungry by now. But if you still want to use your knife for something, let’s move on to chopping, dicing, and mincing. Really, they’re the same thing, but again we’ve got lovely French words for different sizes. Chopping is big and bold, mincing is smaller and finer. Dicing is a nice middle ground.

Cube it

Let’s say that you went with the jardinière, and now you’ve got 0.5x5cm batons. Why not get out the old grade-school ruler and start dicing. If you want precise 0.5 cm cubes, you’re looking at a macédoine. We like to think that this cut was named after Alexander the Great’s brave Macedonian warriors, but we’re probably wrong.

Keep in mind, if you’re angry and upset right now at the idea of using a ruler in the kitchen, when we say precise we really mean consistent. The size of a macédoine can be 5 mm cubed, or it might be 4. It might even be 6 mm. You get to choose. That’s the fun of being a chef. Just as long as they’re all the same.

In English this time?

So, let’s sum up without any fancy terms: take your vegetable of choice, and then peel and wash it. Cut off the ends and sides so it’s nice and rectangular. Cut it into long, thick slices, and then stack those slices and cut them into your batons. Then take your batons, stack them, and cut them into nice, even cubes. Isn’t using your new knife fun?

And voila! You now have a delicious macédoine of carrots. Your mother will be very impressed. Why not invite her over for dinner tonight?

May 07, 2015

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beef ›   chef knives ›   recipe ›   tenderloin ›  


How-to Guide: Roast Beef Tenderloin

You probably already use your chef’s knife for most jobs in the kitchen, but did you know that they were originally designed to deal with large cuts of beef? There’s a reason why the blades are bigger than paring knives and heavier than fillet knives. Today we’re going to talk about how to best deal with those large cuts of beef, and we’re going to look at a delicious, Versed Chef-approved recipe for beef tenderloin.

Selecting your tools is the first step. While we recommend a chef’s knife, it’s not a must, and it depends on whether your cut of meat has bones in it. For boneless cuts, some chefs prefer a longer, thinner blade, because they find it makes for easier slicing and cleaner cuts. For something that’s bone-in, a lot of chefs will get out their heavier chef’s knives. As long as your preferred tool is sharp and solid and made of high-quality steel, we think you’ll do just fine.

So what is a beef tenderloin, exactly? Well, the tenderloin, or the filet, comes from the short loin of the steer. And it’s extremely tender – hence ‘tender-loin,’ fancy that. The muscle sits near the kidneys, and doesn’t get much of a workout. Because it’s so tender, it’s great for dishes where you want that buttery texture.

Tenderloin is expensive (the filet mignon comes from the tenderloin, after all), so it probably isn’t an everyday meal, but if you want to impress that special someone with your culinary skill, here’s a basic recipe to try.

Beef Tenderloin

Removing the skin.

The first piece of business is to set up your beef. Unless the butcher has already prepared it for you, the cut will have a skin of tissue on it. You’re going to want to remove this – it’s tough and doesn’t add much to the dish. Using the knife you’ve chosen, carefully cut it off. Just look for anything that isn’t “meaty.”

Tie it up.

Once that’s done, you’re going to want to tie the roast. If it’s the entire tenderloin, it’s going to be thinner at one end, and this change in thickness can lead to uneven cooking. Tucking the thinner or tail end and tying it every 3-4 inches will help prevent that. Once done, it should have a consistent thickness along the entire length of the tenderloin.

Sprinkle surface with salt.

Now it’s time to season. There’s some debate about how much salting in advance you want to do. Some chefs say it adds valuable flavour, but others will tell you it’s going to dry out your meat. The problem is that a tenderloin isn’t hugely flavourful on its own.

You can add herbs or garlic, too, if you want. Let it sit in your refrigerator uncovered for a while – how long is up to you, depending on your taste preferences and the amount of time you’ve got available.

Time to Roast.

At this point, we’re going to talk about roasting, but we should mention that a lot of people like some kind of sauce on their tenderloin. This isn’t that kind of recipe so we’re not going to tell you which one to choose – it’s up to you, and most sauces can be made a day ahead of time.

You’ve already salted it. Sprinkle it with oil and put it in your roasting pan at about 400°F (200°C) until you reach an internal temperature of around 130° to 140°F (55° to 60°C) for a medium-rare. It’s a lean and tender cut, so make sure you don’t overcook it.

Waiting around.

I know, you’re probably hungry and you’re going to want to tear into this thing, but wait. Let it stand there a while. It’s important to make sure you don’t cut into it for 10 minutes, because otherwise the juices will run out, along with your flavour.

But once you’ve waited, cut the strings, and carve. You’ll need that sharp knife again to prepare slices about half an inch thick.

Dig in.

That’s it! Enjoy – alone, or with whatever sauce you’ve chosen. Let us know how it turned out.

April 30, 2015

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chef knives ›   recipe ›   sushi ›  


Tips for Making Sushi Like a Pro

Preparing your own sushi is easier than you might think, and you don't need special training or ingredients to make it. The following recipe uses seasoned sushi rice, nori (dried seaweed), wasabi, and a delicious salmon, bell pepper and cucumber filling.

Have you ever watched a Japanese chef slice fish for making sushi? You might think it's easy to cut the fish this way but end up disappointed when your own efforts do not result in such beautiful slices. So what is the secret to cutting the fish so perfectly?



The key is a good quality Japanese knife and it has to be very sharp. Japanese knives were originally derived from sword craftsmanship and they are versatile in the kitchen. The right blade means you will be able to slice through the fish quickly and easily, and get not only the right thickness but also that professional-looking smooth edge.

Slice across the grain of the fish for an attractive crosscut pattern and tender texture. Lay the knife on the fish using the back end of the blade and cut across it with a 45 degree angle. Draw your blade across the fish in one smooth stroke to make the slice. If this does not finish the slice, remove the blade and repeat the motion in the same direction. The more you practice, the better you'll become, we promise.

Make sure you don't press too hard or you might damage the knife, and never use a seesawing motion. This will give you amateur-looking, ragged strips of fish. And one final tip: try to keep the hand that's holding the fish behind the knife blade - you're working with a very sharp knife, and a lopped-off fingertip won't improve the flavour of your food! A good quality Japanese knife is a must-have if you are a keen home cook.

Sensational Salmon Sushi Recipe


What You Need:

  • 5 1/2 oz sushi rice
  • 8 fl oz water
  • 2 fl oz rice wine vinegar
  • 1 oz white sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 4 sheets dried nori
  • 2 oz wasabi paste
  • 7 oz sushi-grade salmon filet
  • 1/2 seeded red bell pepper
  • 1/2 peeled, seeded cucumber
  • Soy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi, to serve

 

How to Make It:

Rinse and drain the sushi rice. Put it in a pan with the water and bring it to a boil. Put the lid on and simmer for 5 minutes, then take it off the heat and let it cool down, still covered. When it is cool, season it with the rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt, and mix well.

Spread some wasabi paste over each sheet of nori then arrange some rice, about an inch wide, near the bottom edge. Remove the skin from the salmon and cut it into 1/4-inch strips using a sharp Japanese knife.

Divide the salmon between the nori sheets. Cut the red bell pepper and cucumber into thin batons and add these too. Roll the nori sheets up tightly and chill in the refrigerator for half an hour. Cut them into 2 inch pieces. Serve the sushi rolls with soy sauce and pickled ginger, and perhaps some extra wasabi on the side, and get ready for all the compliments you are sure to receive!

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