Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Fundamental Knife Skills

Last month I took my first cooking class: Fundamental Knife Skills at the Whole Foods Bowery Culinary Center. While I knew my cooking would benefit from learning knife skills I wasn't sure what to expect going into the class. However, I did know that a $65 three-hour lesson including dinner was a great deal, less expensive than the Institute for Culinary Education's Recreational Division where I'm taking Fine Cooking on Sundays starting next month. In fact if I had known the Culinary Center was going to start a series of Fundamental Kitchen Techniques Courses I might have done theirs instead. Either way, I'm excited and nervous for May. Back to the topic at hand...

The class was comprised of 9 students, mostly couples, and 2 very knowledgeable instructors. We each had a station with a cutting board, an 8" Chef's Knife, a Paring Knife, a waste bowl and another bowl with a piece of citrus fruit, a carrot, half a leek, an onion, a clove of garlic, a sweet potato/root vegetable and a tomato. Christine Carroll, who runs the Culinary Center, led the class. We went over knife safety, sharpening, watched a precision cutting demo for each item in the bowl, did guided practice and then ate a delicious meal of Bass and Tomato Compote Baked in Parchment, Maple Roasted Root Vegetables with Goat Cheese; Avocado, Red Onion and Citrus Salad made from what we cut.

I learned that I held my knife wrong (as of Sunday night I have officially blistered my hand holding it properly), that the knives in my apartment are SUPER dull and we don't even own the proper tools for sharpening them (a steel is key) and most importantly how to cut properly. We also learned that to be efficient you should cut everything in stages i.e. peel the outside off of all the onions, halve all the onions, then get into dicing them, etc. I always did each onion fully before moving to the next one. Apparently this is not a speedy method.

It is going to take plenty of practice and, more arm muscle for things like sweet potatoes, but I walked away with an info packet and more knowledge. I only wish I had been less self conscious in the class as I probably would have learned more and asked a few more questions that way. Oh well. Practice makes perfect with that too.

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