Wow. I consider myself to be an above average home cook. A professional I am not, but I’ve been known to make a tasty gourmet meal or two in my day. I even took two college courses in cooking for restaurants! Alas, four minutes into my first class at Braise Cooking School and I figured it out…
I’ve been doing everything wrong.
No wonder I cry so much while cutting onions, my basil chiffonade ends up long like spaghetti noodles, and my chicken is either undercooked or dry. There was barely a minute of this three-hour class when I wasn’t learning something new.
Within twenty minutes of being there, I figured out anyone who likes to cook should take the class, but I know time and money don’t always allow. Let me give you the cliffnotes of just some of the tips I learned.
1. You really should have a wet stone and a steel for your knives. The stone sharpens the blade while the steel straightens the blade back to it’s original position. (Related – I think my Christmas list is going to be really easy to put together this year!)
2. I’ve been holding the knife wrong my entire life. Your pointer finger and thumb should be on the blade with the rest of your fingers wrapped around the handle. Be careful to just have the pads of the pointer and thumb on the blade or you’ll get a nasty blister on the inside of the pointer, not that I had that happen during class or anything…
Also, be sure to keep your holding hand in a claw-like shape. This I remember from back in my college days, but I haven’t done it since. It seems so much harder to hold the food! That is, it’s harder for the first three minutes until you realize how much safer it is and that you can in fact cut something down to a brunoise, a tiny dice at 1/8″ X 1/8″ X 1/8″. If I can do it without cutting off a finger tip, so can you!
3. Keep the root end of an onion pretty much intact to help keep it together while dicing.
4. There is a way to cut up an orange so I will actually eat it! To try and describe in words and not action, would be impossible here. If you come to dinner over the next few months, I can almost guarantee you’ll see me give a supreme a whirl. Yah, fruit I can eat without all the membrane-y grossness!
Also, I learned how to cut a tomato (very similar to how you cut a pepper) in a fashion that gets the good stuff while leaving the seeds and whatnot for stocks. Brilliant.
(Related – I might actually start making my own stock now that I’ll have the good leftover parts to use up. Whew, less trips to the compost bin is always a good thing!)
5. Butcher’s twine isn’t just for craft night anymore! We learned how to tie up a roast using a, get this, paper towel roll since it has the same amount of give, but costs significantly less than a beef roast to mess up. We learned a way to lasso the meat to make the process easier. Yeehaw.
6. I can buy whole chickens now. I used to be afraid of butchering a chicken because well, ew, but not anymore! Again, Dave made it look so easy to cut the big guy down to 10 pieces. You know what? It was! I don’t know why it took me until this class to realize it, but chickens have joints like we do, meaning there are places where there is no bone, just cartilage and tendons that are much easier to cut. Duh, Maggie!
I did cut through a few bones as I got used to what I was looking for, but in the end, I had a beautifully cut up bird.
Ok, maybe not beautiful, but it will be once it’s cooked!
Bonus Tip: When working with a whole poultry for roasting (think Thanksgiving), give a little nick to the tendons around the animal’s ankles. This tendon likes to tense up while cooking which makes the meat pull away from the bone. This not only doesn’t look pretty, but almost guarantees a dryer end result. Cutting the tendon let’s it do what it wants to do while keeping the meat in the right place while in the oven.
There were so many little things that I’m sure I will forget. That’s one problem about this class; I need one hand to take notes, one hand to take pictures, and one hand to do the activity. Something’s got to give and given the lack of flat space (or abundance of raw chicken juice), my notes just had to wait.
Like the former Pius (i.e. Holiday High) student that I am, I won’t be at class next week, but you can guarantee I’ll be practicing my skills in the condo’s kitchen. Gosh, is this fun!!