Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Specialty Knives

You can't have food without proper tools for preparation. Well, that's a lie. You certainly can. But ever since the first cro-magnon man picked up a stick to use as a crude implement (i.e. to poke his friend Oog in the stomach while out of immediate hitting distance) humanity has embraced tools for their ability to impress our friends while breaking as little sweat as possible.

Today, we've got a two-for. We not only look at the single-purpose tomato knife but we also extrapolate this experience to understand ceramic knives and their place in your kitchen.

The warning about ceramic knives is that much care must be taken to ensure you don't chip the blade. This includes not only careful handling and storage but also limits your applications of the blade to only vertical cuts. That nifty trick where you smash a clove of garlic with the fat part of a chefs knife? NOT ON YOUR LIFE with a ceramic knife! That bend you put in a blade while filleting fish or carving a bird? Not unless you want to stress-fracture your blade.

Right off the bat we've ruled out a large portion of a cooks arsenal. But what about a super-sharp paring/small slicing knife? Again, this won't fit the bill for many strenuous paring tasks but a dedicated small, precise slicer is something that everyone could use. Thus, the decision was made: ceramic tomato knife.

I've heard admonitions before about caring for specialty cookware. I've seen an entire set of Calphalon non-stick cookware go to the dogs; some before it's time, some due to natural wear and tare. So from the start I knew exactly how to handle this blade. It had it's own place in the knife block; there is a knife block portion of the drying rack. And I wasn't going to ask it to do any slicing that would jeopardize the blade. This was always going to be treated as a precision tool.

Hopefully you can tell from the above picture, but after three or so years the knife has noticeable nicks in the blade, despite my careful handling. Given that, ceramic knives get a vote of No Confidence; they are too delicate for a kitchen environment.

Onward to the tomato portion!

So how do they rate as a tomato knife?

On one side is a thin slice from my normal chefs knife. On the other the results of the tomato knife. I actually don't remember which cut was which; I just know that both slices were darn precise and almost indistinguishable. (things aren't looking too good for the tomato knife!)

Really the biggest value in having a tomato knife is that after a long day of cutting and chopping your chefs knife will lose some of its edge. Instead of stopping and re-honing/sharpening, you can grab another knife from the block for some quick delicate work.

All in all, it's not a necessary tool even if you have a constant supply of tomatoes in the back yard (there are still two good ones on the vine as I type this).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Do not go gentle into that good night

Just like summer, bacon ends. (*sniff*)

What started earlier in the year as a cornucopia of bacon and pork products in general,

I'm now down to my last pork chops (1/2 inch cuts; very thin but perfect amount of meat for one person each) and last pound of Italian sausage (which was really great, but next 1/2 a pig I will just get ground pork and add my own seasonings and make my own sausage. I've heard on Ruhlman's blog that the Kitchen Aid pasta/meat grinder attachment isn't so good at grinding meat but should be perfect for stuffing sausages from pre-ground meat. Though I'm not sure exactly where I'll get casings from. My... this has turned into quite a digression! Back to the bacon!)

So there it is; the last piece. It's exit from the kitchen should be the stuff of legend.

And with that in mind it formed the basis of a classic "home to leftovers" recipe, chilaquiles!
The bacon was chopped small and rendered over medium heat, chopped white onions added for a few minutes, also some chopped home-grown green peppers. Then 2 or 3 chopped home-grown tomatoes were reduced until most of the moisture had gone, at which point scrambled eggs (from Fox Hollow Farm) and just-fried tortilla chips (I love my deep fryer!) were added and stirred.

The final touches that really perfect the dish are the addition of green onions on top (providing a cool crisp texture difference to the 'egg mash') and crisp tortilla chips on the side, also for texture difference.

My wife gushed, learned that this was the last of the bacon, nearly cried, but found consolation.
Just as Spring breathes new life and brightens us, so will that half of a Berkshire/Kurubota pig from Wagon Wheel Ranch I just put money down on...

/In addition to foraged acorns, the pigs are also being fed whey from goat cheese and will be finished on peanuts like the Smithfield hams of old. I'm quite excitied!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dear Dad,

Hey pops. It was great to see you again at the wedding.

You and moms haven't lost it on the dancefloor; once I figure out how to upload my video to YouTube the entire world will see how you can still do the Twist!

I think the new place is coming along and we have our work cutout for us.

But the real reason I'm writing? ANCHOVIES. Since we're the only two people in the world who seem to actually like these little guys I figured I'd write just to you about it. I've seen how the rest of the family turns up their noses at us; so we have to band together and share our secrets.

And what a secret I've found. I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? POLAR.

Most people object to the overly fishy taste of anchovies. Some cooks grudgingly accept that they are a vital component to a Caesars salad dressing, but they bury them behind the parmesan. However the normal rules for buying fish should also apply to canned fish; if it smells or tastes fishy, it's not good. Period. Now look at these two cans of alici in oil side by side. Which would you prefer to eat? Lumpy gray? Or a stunningly bright red fillet? And the taste difference is beyond compare. The Polar anchovies downright sparkle with flavor.

Next time we get together we'll crack open a can with some freshly baked bread and some tomatoes and mozzerella. The rest of the family just won't know what they're missing!

With love,