Friday, July 9, 2010

Knife Skills

Once I recovered my wallet from my felonious toddler on Tuesday, I headed off to a cooking class at Publix Apron's Cooking School! Mike and I had talked about finding a knife techniques class, and surprisingly, Publix offers one! Publix keeps five chefs on staff to teach these classes!

The class was simply fantastic! There is a test kitchen with room for about a dozen student cutting boards. The kitchen was outfitted with Wolf appliances, and the chefs had the best ingredients from the store in their kitchen. There were only six of us in the class. The chef had laid out some cheeses for us to nibble on during the class.

The first thing I learned was my knives are not sharp. I mean, I thought they were. But, after using professionally-sharpened knives, I feel like I've been cutting my vegetables with a ruler! Then, we learned the proper way to cut with a chef's knife. I realized I had the basic idea of how to handle the knife from watching Food Network, but I certainly learned some great cutting mechanics.

We spent two solid hours chopping, dicing, mincing, julienneing, and chiffonading. We started off easy by rough-chopping leeks, onions, parsnips and carrots. By pushing down and forward on the knife, chopping was so much more efficient!

We minced garlic and ginger by smashing the heck out of it with the side of the chef knife on the board then mincing the pulp. Less than a minute to mince three cloves of garlic!
Kitchen Tip: You can peel ginger with a spoon!

We moved on to small-dicing tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, potatoes and green beans. It was a challenge to get everybody the same size!

We finished up with chives, scallions and parsley. How many times have you chopped up a scallion only to have the little pieces still connected? I have done it many times. But, after I'd practiced my knife skills for two hours, my garnish came out very clean and crisp! I was so excited!!

The next thirty minutes were spent cooking up our dishes. The class' focus was really on chopping. So, the sous chef did most of the simmering and cooking while we learned with the executive chef. At the end we got to sit down and enjoy all the food. Everything was fantastic!!!

The class menu:

Orange Glazed Carrots
featuring: onion, carrots, garlic, ginger, parsley
Potage au Pistou (AKA Vegetable Soup)
featuring: red potatoes, brussel sprouts, green beans, tomatoes
Pico de Gallo
featuring: tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, garlic, cilantro
Vegetable Broth
featuring: onion, leek, celery, carrot, parsnip
Potato Vichyssoise
featuring: leeks, garlic, potatoes, chives

By the end of the class, I was ready to quit my job and work full-time in the Publix kitchen! I had such a great time! I could definitely be a prep chef in my next life. Need fifty onions diced by daybreak? Not a problem: I'm qualified. I took a class.

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