Knife Love

Knife Love

I am a knife snob. In fact, the standing rule in my kitchen is that no one touches my good knives. If you want to help cook, you are stuck with the old crappy knives I got as gifts over the years! I also have one pan no one is permitted to use, but we’ll save that for another day!

A few years ago I took a knife skills class while in New York City for a few days. Some people visit the Statue of Liberty…I take a knife skills class! But it was life-changing. I came home and ordered my first “real” knives, practiced my cutting skills, butchered countless whole chickens into pieces, and started making my own stock. I’ve never turned back!

Here are a few nuggets from what I learned that day.

IMG_2998

Did you know you only really need four knives? It’s true. You can do everything you need to do in the kitchen with a chef’s knife, serrated bread knife, paring knife, and boning knife.

IMG_3003When choosing a serrated knife, the chef who taught my class suggested you look for one with a belly. As you can see on mine, it has a slight curve along the bottom. I use this knife for more than just bread. It works beautifully on melons, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables.

What’s the best knife or brand out there? It depends on the person. You need to pick up and try a variety of knives to see what feels best in your hand. My babies are Messermeister, carbon forged, carbon steel alloy.

Treat them with love!

IMG_2997I take very good care of my knives. They are washed by hand, never cut anything but food, are used on a wooden cutting board, and stored in protective knife guards. I also run them along a honing steel after every use and take them to a local butcher shop for professional sharpening once a year. I suspect I’ll have these knives for as long as I am cooking!

Slice, don’t chop.

One of the most astounding things I learned during knife skills class was that I had been cutting incorrectly my whole life! One does not “chop” with a knife. You slice through the food in a circular motion. It’s hard to explain. It took me a long time to get used to the appropriate method. Now I know why professional chefs are so quick. The slicing method is much more efficient!

So what is your favorite knife or brand? Are you as protective of them as me? Feel free to leave a comment below!

Advertisements

My Risotto Rocks!

My Risotto Rocks!

I know that when you read the word “risotto,” your brain says, “I love it, but who has time for that?” Trust me, I know! All that stirring eats up a chunk of time and patience. But oh, it is so worth the trouble!

If you were hoping for a recipe with carefully measured ingredients, I am sorry to disappoint. I’ve never really used a recipe for risotto. Instead, I just make it by sight, texture, and taste. You can look up a basic recipe someplace else. But I bet if you let go of your measuring cups, it will be a lot more fun!

Ingredients:

Butter
Olive oil
Arborio rice
White wine or champagne
Chicken stock
Chicken boullion
Onion or shallot, finely chopped
Heavy cream
Parmesan cheese

Whatever you want to mix in. I used mild Italian turkey sausage and diced red bell pepper. You could try anything. I also like sauteed mushrooms, roasted root vegetables, sausage and pear with Gorgonzola, leeks and peas, shrimp, asparagus…the possibilities are endless!

Preparation:

IMG_2900

Start by warming your chicken stock. If you don’t have any on hand, now would be a good time to start a batch. I made this stock as I was prepping the risotto then just strained it as I used it.

Remove the casings from your sausage and saute, breaking up as you go, in a separate pan. Chop the bell pepper and add that to the sausage after it is browned. Cook long enough to take the crunch out of the pepper. (Tip: If you are using a different add-in, prepare it in a separate pan as well.)

IMG_2981

In the meantime, dice some onion and saute it in a pan of equal parts melted butter and olive oil. I used roughly 2 Tbsp of each.

IMG_2982

Add your rice and toast for a few minutes more. (Tip: I added 2 cups of rice.) Turn up your heat to medium high.

IMG_2984

Add a splash of wine or champagne to the rice and onions, about 1/2 cup or so. Once that boils out a bit, start adding your warmed stock one ladle at a time. Cook each ladle-full down before adding the next.

IMG_2985

I have no idea how much liquid you will add. It depends upon how done you like your rice. You will notice it start to get creamy and puff up. Taste it after about 15-20 minutes, then continue to taste often for doneness as you get near the end. I also added one Knorr chicken bouillon cube since the chicken stock is salt free.

IMG_2986

Just before it is finished, add your mix-ins and fold them in. At this point I add about a quarter to half cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a splash of heavy cream. Some folks add a bit of butter too. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_2989

Plate it up, add more cheese, and serve immediately!

What do you like in your risotto? Please leave a comment below and share your favorite concoction!

Chicken Pot Pie – The Perfect One Pot Meal

Chicken Pot Pie – The Perfect One Pot Meal

Many of my friends abhor cooking. I think one of the reasons is that home cooking makes such a big mess in the kitchen. Perhaps another reason is that they know I’ll take pity on them and invite them to eat at my house! lol Whatever the reason, it’s nice to have a few dependable one pot meals up your sleeve to cut down on the mess. Chicken pot pie is also among my favorite comfort foods. I’ve ordered it off menus and restaurants try to jazz it up. But honestly, nothing tastes better than the traditional version. Oh, and kids like it too!

If your traditional version differs from mine, I hope you’ll leave a comment with a link to your own chicken pot pie!

IMG_2934

Precook your chicken in the veggie remnants to add flavor before you use it in your pot pie.

IMG_2935

Thyme, dijon mustard, and black pepper are the only seasonings you need! Well, you may need salt if your stock is homemade.

IMG_2936

Chop up your veggies. Pictured is some chicken stock I made in advance. I always warm my stock before adding it to a roux to speed up the cooking process.

 

Saute your vegetables in butter for 4-5 minutes then sprinkle in your flour, stir, and cook 2-3 minutes more.

IMG_2938

Slowly add your chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cook until thickened. Then remove from heat and add the chicken, peas, thyme, pepper, dijon, and salt (if needed).

IMG_2939

Roll out your dough and lay it over your chicken mixture. Cut small slices to vent. You may brush with an egg wash if desired.

 

Bake in a 250 degree oven for 30-4o minutes until crust is golden. Set, then serve.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2-3 potatoes peeled and cubed
  • 1-2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 or so cups chicken stock (Hint: Make your own. As you will read below, you can even do it while you chop!) (Or use boxed stock, homemade from another day, or even some white wine and water!)
  • 1 tbsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • salt to taste – this will depend on whether you use your own chicken stock or boxed.
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 3 cups cubed cooked chicken (Hint: I used boneless skinless breast because I was in a hurry. Use whatever you like. Even a grocery store rotisserie chicken would work!)
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • Prepared pie crust, thawed (Hint: I have not yet mastered making my own pie crust, but you could use homemade, or even a sheet of puff pastry.)
  • 1 egg, beaten (optional)

 

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Precook your chicken before you cut it. I boiled mine on the stove top and added my vegetable peelings and some extra celery, carrot, onion, and peppercorns as well. This flavors the chicken before you use it and provides the stock you will need!
  • When cooked through, remove from stock and let cool. Chop into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
  • Chop your veggies. (Not the peas!)
  • Melt butter in an oven-proof skillet.
  • Add your chopped vegetables and saute for 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over sauteed vegetables and stir for 2-3 minutes longer. Slowly add chicken broth and bring to a boil over low heat. Stir until thickened.
  • Remove from heat and fold in remaining ingredients (except for pie crust). (Hint: If you have fresh parsley on hand or other fresh herbs, this is the time to add it.)
  • Roll out one sheet of pie dough so that it fits over the contents in your skillet. Cover top of chicken mixture. Cut a few slices to vent the dough.
  • (Optional) Brush the dough with the beaten egg.
  • Bake at 350 until dough is golden brown. This takes about 30-40 minutes.
  • Let set a few minutes before serving.

Make sure you comment below and leave a note about your favorite recipe for chicken pot pie! I look forward to trying some variations.