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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cooking without worry

                After a particularly rough day in the kitchen, a colleague of mine saw that I was fretting and said to me “It’s only food dude.  We’re not doing brain surgery here.”  That’s sage advice.  I think that all too often with food network soaked ideas and famous chefs constantly speaking of perfection on their newest Bravo Channel show, we forget that it’s only fuel that our body needs in order to run well and our goal is to just make it taste good.  On a non-professional level, dinner is not something that should be stressed over.  Every single self-perceived mistake can instead be looked at as a learning experience and can be used as another brick in each of own our cooking foundations.

                We all know home cooks that seem to be especially gifted in the kitchen.  These imposing figures can somehow seem to be effortless at any given culinary endeavor.  Be it a grandmother or maybe a mother-in-law, they all started somewhere and probably made the same mistakes that you have.  A burnt roast, scorched soup, or under cooked chic ken thigh are all things that commonly happen in the strictest of professional kitchens and during the inattention of the most skilled cooks.  Cooking is not brain surgery, and it should be a fun activity that brings pleasure and countless rewards to those who can maintain a analytical and positive perspective on their culinary adventures.  The most humbling and trust-building thing that a person can do is cook a person a meal.  Try and do it without worry and the experience will be substantially rewarding. 

A glass of wine during the process doesn’t hurt. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The same. Every time.

Consistency is a corner stone of a good kitchen, and one of the hardest to come by.  Knifework and other prep tasks in the kitchen can sometimes seem monotonous and daunting especially if you’re restricted by time limits and other duties of the domicile.  Setting a rhythm and sticking to it can be an efficient way to knock out a couple of prep projects with the quickness.  Set a tempo for yourself in the kitchen.  Whether it’s the rate at which you scale and measure ingredients, or the back and forth motion of your well honed chef knife, setting a beat to what you are doing will make you more accurate and efficient with your movements.  A lot of line cooks tend to hum as they work  and the busier the night gets the more focused on keeping pace they become.  Playing music in the kitchen is a no-brainer.  Something not too slow and not too fast.  And definitely not Kenny G. 

You don’t necessarily have to pick a favorite song or put a metronome on your spice rack, but if you  try to keep a certain pace and tempo to your movements in the kitchen you’ll see marked results.

A Firm Grip

      A  common issue that I come across with cooks of all skill levels is the dainty handling of razor sharp chef’s knives.  In a kitchen, this is your main and most trusted weapon.  It whittles carrots down to juliennes and dices onions into appropriately sized bits for cooking so this should be a tool that is held with attitude and gumption instead of fear and discomfort.   
     The handle of your knife should be firmly pressed into the palm of your hand with your index finger curled and gripping the side of the knife.  This should give you a good choked up feel on the knife which will make it much easier to control throughout your various prep tasks.  I always know when I haven’t been doing as much knife work because the pea sized callous on the base of my index finger begins to get soft.  Use every knife in a long and fluid slicing motion.  This is why all knives have a curve or angle to them so that they slide along the cutting board without coming off of it.  Whenever you wield any knife out of your cutlery block, always make sure it is with a firm grip.  It’ll help to keep your dices square and you out of the emergency room.