Friday, October 28, 2011

How-To: Dice an Onion

So I asked if you guys wanted some knife skills posts and there was a resounding yes!  I'm glad you guys are excited - because I love having an excuse to bust out my knife set!

Anyway, this may seem like a roll-your-eyes kind of post because I'm sure many of you know how to cut up an onion.  But if maybe you're like me (before culinary school), you may just roughly chop and not try to get it too precise.  I've noticed that since I've been in school (5 weeks already and I feel like I've learned such a vast array of tasks!), I find myself wanting perfect and symmetric everything.  It's getting to be a little OCD almost.

So I chose to show how to dice up an onion because I practically use an onion for almost every dish I cook.  It's crazy when you think about it, you know?  So we'll ease into something easy, and then I'm open to taking suggestions for future knife-cut how to's (anything in particular you guys want to learn how to do?  If I don't already know how to do it, we'll learn together!).

You won't need anything fancy.  Just an onion, a (really sharp) chef's knife, and a cutting board.

Honestly, you want to have a really sharp knife.  You're more apt to cut yourself with a dull knife than a sharp one.  So invest in a whetstone if you don't already have one (they average about $10 and last a really long time, so there's no reason to not have one).

And another thing, don't "saw" at anything.  You want to strive for one fluid motion through whatever you're cutting.  No back and forth action. 

So you'll want to take your whole onion and before you peel it, cut it in half, from the root to the top.  Then peel your onion.  Set the onion flat and make a diagonal cut to trim off the top. 

So now you're left with the top (which you can just pitch) and the rest of the onion. 

You'll want to put the heel of your palm on the top of the onion (or make a fist and put the tops of your knuckles on the top of the onion) to hold it in place.  Starting with the bottom edge of your knife, you want to make one fluid horizontal slice (about 1/4 inch from the bottom of the onion), pulling the knife closer to you as you cut and ending just before the root - no sawing motions, so this is why it's very important you have a really sharp knife! You want to keep your onion in tact, so make sure not to cut through the root! 

You'll just want to slide your knife through, and if you don't make it close enough to the root, it's okay - no biggie
Then you'll go up about 1/4 inch from your first cut and make another horizontal cut the same way.

Depending on how big your onion half is, you might be able to get one or two more 1/4 inch-spaced horizontal slices.  I think I did one more with this one.

Next you'll want to turn the onion 90 degrees (so that the root end is at the north end).  Then you'll make a vertical cut (about 1/4 inch from the left or right, it doesn't matter which end you start).  Remember, you don't want to go all the way through, cut before the root so your onion still stays in tact.

If you want, you can hold the sides of the onion together so it's easier to cut, just watch your fingers and be careful!  Space the vertical cuts about 1/4 inch apart (we're going for consistency here, right?)  I think I got about 5 or 6 vertical cuts.

After you make your vertical cuts, you'll want to turn the onion back 90 degrees (whether you're left or right handed, it doesn't matter, my root end was to the right because I'm left handed).

The key to an even chop is to have a stable, sharp knife.  Make one fluid cut.  No sawing.  I know I've said that a million times, but seriously.  Having my chef say it over and over made a difference with me and a lot of the other of the students.  I used to be a "sawer".  I'll admit it.  But I can't go cutting anything like that any more, regardless of what it is!

Anyway, make sure the tip of your knife is on the cutting board (in front of the onion, and just bring your knife down to make a vertical cut - 1/4 inch spacing!).

Stragglers are okay - no biggie
Continue to make 1/4 inch-spaced vertical cuts until you get to the root.

Don't hold the onion or knife like I did (I have no idea why I'm doing that lol) - you're apt to cut yourself
And voila - you've small diced (1/4 x 1/4 x 1/4) an onion.  Of course, an onion is round and layered and you can't really get a perfect 1/4 inch perfect cube, but it's close enough! 

I'll hopefully pop in during the weekend (can't make promises!), but if not, we've got Espagnole sauce next sometime next week!  And if you have any knife cuts you want to learn - let me know and I'll try to feature them next!

Have a great weekend guys =)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Fried Chicken & Waffles

I've always been intrigued by fried chicken and waffles.  I know it's wildly popular down South, but after doing a quick poll amongst co-workers, 90% of them looked at me like I was crazy, having never heard of such a blasphemous thing.

But I tell you what.  It's far from blasphemous.  It's the perfect combination of salty and sweet.  Breakfast and dinner wrapped into one.  And you better bet your ass that if I ever open up a restaurant one day, it'll be on the menu.  This was awesome.  And is the perfect use for the remaining parts of your broken down chicken.


Fried Chicken:

2 lb. Mixture of chicken parts - thighs, drumsticks, wings, tenderloins, drummettes
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon italian seasoning 
Vegetable shortening, for frying


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
1 & 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
maple syrup, optional (but not really, it's necessary, hehe)

Place the chicken pieces in a large plastic Ziploc bag and cover with the buttermilk.  Seal bag and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  This will help to tenderize the chicken.

Remove chicken from bag and pat dry with paper towels.  Set aside.

In a large cast iron skillet, heat about 1 cup of vegetable shortening.  You want to get about an inch or so layer once it's melted (or at least be able to cover the chicken pieces by half).  Heat until between 325 - 375 F. 

In a medium shallow dish, combine the flour, cornstarch, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and Italian seasoning. 

Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mixture and shake off any excess. 

Working in batches (I did about 4-5 pieces per batch), fry the chicken until cooked throughout, about 4-7 minutes per side (depending on the type of pieces you used, some cook faster than others).

While the chicken is frying, you can prepare your waffles.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, and vanilla until combined.  Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients.  Then whisk in the melted butter until just incorporated.

Grease your waffle maker with non-stick spray or butter and add about 1/2 cup of batter per waffle.  Cook per machine instructions and waffles are browned and crisp.

Serve fried chicken atop one large waffle and drizzle maple syrup around waffle.  Enjoy absolute bliss.

If you've never heard of chicken and waffles, I highly recommend you try this very soon.  You won't be sorry.

Have a great weekend guys!  That's it (for now) with the chicken posts - I used the carcass for a stock, Alton Brown's recipe.  I'll have a knife cut how-to up next and then we've got Espagnole Sauce (a mother sauce that's the base for fancy sauces like a Bordelaise, Chasseur, Chateaubriand, Cherveuil, Madeira, Marchand de vin, Perigueux, Piquant, Poivrade, and Robert).  So lot's of learning opportunities to come - for both of us!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Breast Sandwiches

One of the first things we ended up making in class were Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches.  I guess they want to start us off with something easy before working our way up to something more skillful.

I didn't mind because buffalo chicken sandwiches are actually one of my favorites. 

So the first installment of "What to do with your broken down chicken" is making use of the chicken breasts.  A simple sandwich that is as easy to put together as it is to eat!


2 chicken breasts, skin removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup of your favorite hot sauce (I used Frank's Wing Sauce - it's thicker and coats the chicken perfectly)
2 whole wheat buns
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a large skillet under medium high heat and add oil.  Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides.  When oil is shimmering, add chicken to pan.

When the bottom side is a nice golden brown (about 4-6 minutes), flip the breast over.

Finish cooking the chicken until white throughout, an additional 5-7 minutes.  Transfer chicken breasts to a plate and let rest.

Assemble your sandwiches by placing lettuce on the bottom half of the bun.

Then you'll want to place your hot sauce in a medium stainless steel bowl.  Add chicken breasts, one at a time, swirling them around to coat well with sauce - kind of like you're saucin' some wings, ya know?

Then place your sauced chicken breast on top of the lettuce.

Then add a little bacon if you're feelin' frisky.

And close that sucker up with the top bun, and voila!  A buffalo chicken sandwich that'll be gone in less time than it took to put together!

Serve with fries if you'd like (I got to practice my battonet knife cuts in making them so I was all about it - speaking of, would you guys like some how-to knife cut posts?) 

Next up we've got a sweet and salty treat to use up the other edible parts of our chicken (those of you who are friends with me on Facebook probably have an idea of what's to come!).  Have a great Wednesday guys!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

How-To: Break Down a Chicken

It's been almost a week, but I'm back with my first how-to post!  There are probably just as many ways to break down a chicken as there are ways to fix eggs, but the way I was taught in our second week of classes is by far the easiest way I've come across!

I did a Google search on "how to break down a chicken" and found video after video tutorial.  But I don't think I found a single post (or maybe Google just didn't recognize any) with a picture-by-picture tutorial.  I don't know about you, but I learn better with still images.  Videos are great, but I don't want to have to watch a whole video or pause every 5 seconds while I'm trying to learn how to do something.

So I can use the excuse that because there were so many pictures in this post, that that is the reason it took me so long to get another post up!  But we all know that isn't the case.  I'm just a busy bee - I had my first day in a restaurant kitchen last Thursday - It was definitely a LOT to take in, and a completely different scenario than cooking in my own kitchen (duh!).  So I'm excited about going back this upcoming Thursday and learning more!

Anyway, this post is going to be long enough, so I'm sure you want me to stop yapping!  Let's get to breaking down this chicken!

So let's see what we need...

 You want a bowl of ice so that you can keep your chicken at a cool temperature.  If you just set it out on the cutting board, 1. you'll run out of room quick, and 2. the warmer your chicken gets, the more it's prone to grow bacteria (and that's a bit gross, now don't you think?)  After each piece is cut off the chicken, you'll put it in this bowl.

And I didn't label it, but it should be obvious... you'll also need a cutting board.

So the first thing we do is cut off the wing.  You'll want to spread the arm out and look for the ligament between the wing and the drummette. Most important part here is to cut through the cartilage (the soft cushioning between bones)... NOT through a bone. 
Use the dotted line as a guide

Right through the cartilage - if you have any resistance, you're cutting through bone, not cartilage.  Cartilage should be as easy as cutting through butter.
 And you'll want to do the same thing with the other arm/wing area.  (Every step will be done twice, obviously - so I won't restate the obvious from here on out.)

Next we'll take off the thigh and the leg.  It's easier to see what you're working with if you grab the chicken by both legs and sort of bend them down - this pulls the meat away the carcass and allows you to better see the "hip knuckle" that you cut behind next.

 The knuckle should be in the crease between the thigh and the carcass.  Once you find it, you'll make your cut behind it, cutting the leg from the carcass.

Follow the line, not my knife

Cut off any excess fat, as desired
So if you like having the whole leg quarter then you don't need to go any further.  But if you want to break this down even more and end up with a thigh and a drumstick, then we make this cut...

You'll want to find the natural fat seam between where the drumstick and thigh meet. 

Then score against the fat seam until you can find the cartilage between the bones.  Remember, we cut through cartilage, NOT bones!  

 Then you can make a clean cut to have that leg separated into two pieces - the thigh and the drumstick.

And the final components to remove from the chicken are the breast and the drummette.

You'll want to score the middle of the chicken until you find the Keel Bone. (It's a small flat bone that divides the chicken.  And technically, it's more cartilage than bone, but we won't get into specifics).

Once you find the Keel, you'll want to make long strokes along the side of it, running your knife along the outside of the ribs, as well.  You can pull gently on the breast to peel it away from the middle, but a good 4-5 strokes of your knife (if it's properly sharpened, that is) should do it.

When you're close to having the breast almost removed, grab the drummette and breast in one hand.

 Find the cartilage in between the carcass and breast and make a clean cut through that cartilage to release the breast and drummette.

To remove the drummette from the breast, find the cartilage in between the breast and the drummette.  Cut behind that to remove the drummette from the breast.

Remove the skin from the breast, if you'd like, and remove any excess fat.

There should be a small flap-like piece of meat on the breast, which is the tenderloin.  Just lift it up and make a clean cut to remove it from the breast.

And you've got yourself a breast and a tender.

And now all you should be left with is a carcass!

So I know this was long, but I hope it was helpful!  If not, it at least helped me "study"!  Knowing how to break down a chicken saves you money in the long run!  A whole chicken costs way less than the already cut up parts - and is an invaluable skill to possess! 

In the next couple of posts, I'll be doing recipes with what to do with all that cut up chicken - so the only waste we will have had is the excess fat.  And honestly, if you wanted to, you could use it, but we don't want to be too glutinous over here!

See you guys in a couple of days!

How do you break down a chicken?  Was this helpful to you?  Do you like these "How-To" posts? 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Secret Recipe Club: World Peace Cookies

Hello.  It's me guys!  I know I was a little sporadic last week, but I warned you, remember?  Life is crazy.  Life is about to get really crazy.  I start at Jack Fry's on Thursday.  And I still have my other job.  And I still have to go to school.  So yeah, this blog is looking like it's coming in 4th place.  So if I go missing for a little while, know that I'm just busily trying to make something of myself.  And I will try my best to at least post once a week!

Anyway, that brings me to today's post.  It's Secret Recipe Club time!  It's where all of the bloggers in my designated group get shuffled around and get assigned another blogger's recipe to remake on our own blog.

I was assigned Beantown Baker.  Jen is such a super fun gal.  She creates the most amazing baked goods - with her other half being her guinea pig, as well!  She's an engineer by trade and she still makes time to blog some goods!  I definitely must learn her secret of balancing a busy life!

I don't know if my choice was "legal" - I chose to do Jen's September SRC choice - World Peace Cookies.  Technically, it is a recipe on her blog, so I guess it's still fair game.  I was in the mood for some chocolate and these just kept calling my name.

Adapted from Beantown Baker

1 & 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup 72% dark chocolate (I used some Ghirardelli squares), chopped

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, and baking soda together.

Beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes more.

Pour in the dry ingredients, and mix on low speed for about 5 times, or until flour is incorporated and looks somewhat crumbly. Toss in the chocolate pieces and mix only to incorporate.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it together and divide it in half. Shape each half of the dough into logs that are 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate them for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days.  (I think mine were in there for about 2 days - I ended up getting busy (surprise surprise)).

When you are Ready to Bake:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Using a sharp thin knife, slice the logs into rounds that are 1/2 inch thick. (The rounds are likely to crack as you're cutting them — don't be concerned, just squeeze the bits back onto each cookie.) Arrange the rounds on the baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch between them.

Bake the cookies one sheet at a time for 12 minutes — they won't look done, nor will they be firm, but that's just the way they should be. Transfer the baking sheet to a cooling rack and let the cookies rest until they are only just warm, at which point you can serve them or let them reach room temperature.

And voila!  World Peace Cookies.  They really do make all of your troubles disappear - even if just for the 5 seconds it takes to devour one of them.  They're also perfect with a cold glass of milk!

So thanks Jen for letting me peruse your lovely blog, and I'll be back to test out some more treats - don't you worry!

Interested in the Secret Recipe Club?  Check it out and find out how to join here!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Indian-Spiced Lentils

This fall weather is a bit crazy.  It was a nice fall chill all last week, and now we're back to being in the 80's this week.  I just want my nice fall weather!

My half marathon is going to be here before I know it, and I've been a bad trainee.  I did something to my shoulder last weekend and it's ached all week, but starting to feel better.  So hopefully I can get back to running this upcoming weekend because I'm not going to have a very good time come October 30th if I don't!

Anyway, it's another soup-type recipe.  I've been working on slowly cleaning out my pantry for the past couple of weeks (it's nuts in there!) and noticed I had an abundance of lentils - so what better to do than make a quick curry or soup!  So I did a quick Google search and I was led to an Honest Cooking recipe that helped use up some of my CSA vegetables too!

Adapted from an Honest Cooking recipe

1/2 cup french green lentils, washed
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
juice from 1 lemon

salt and pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 white/yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup chicken stock 

In a medium pot, add lentils and cover with water.  Stir in tomatoes and tumeric.  Bring to a rolling boil and simmer until the lentils are soft and cooked, about 30 minutes. 

Heat olive oil in a large skillet under medium high heat until hot.  Add bell peppers and onions.  Cook until starting to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add garam masala and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Season with salt, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice.  Add lentil mixture and chicken stock. Bring to a slow boil and simmer for about 10 mins.

Serve with steamed rice.

Have a great Thursday guys!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fall Hash

Ahhh, did you miss me yesterday? 

I'm here this morning, so that should make up for it right?  I'm hoping that I can at least get you guys 3 posts a week, but we'll see.  I don't want to make promises I can't keep!

Anyway, first week of culinary school was awesome!  We got our whites on Saturday - check me out!

A natural, right?!  C'mon, just entertain me for a minute.

I spent the first week basically feeling everything out.  Seeing who was similar to me.  Seeing who was not similar to me.  It's definitely a lot to take in.  But I'm jumping into it with both feet and absorbing all that is thrown at me!  Next week, we get our knife kits (they're pretty bad ass if you ask me - I can practice "packing my knives and going" as if Padma, herself, was telling me.  Okay, now I'm getting really dorky!)

Anyway, I figure since I'm posting in the morning, I might as well give you a solid breakfast dish!  This is the second hash I've posted in the past couple weeks, so can you tell it's one of my favorite things to make?  They're easy.  They're versatile.  They're darn delicious!


1 medium acorn squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 slices thick-cut bacon, chopped
1 small onion, diced
salt & pepper, to taste

3 main ingredients?  How could you not make this?!

Set a salted pot of water to boil under medium heat.  Add acorn squash and boil just for a few minutes (maybe 4-5) to parboil.  Drain and set aside.

Heat a large cast iron skillet under medium high heat.  Add bacon and cook until crisp, about 5 minutes or so.  Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. 

Remove all the bacon grease, except for about 1 to 2 tablespoons.  Add onions to skillet and cook under medium heat until starting to soften, about 5-7 minutes.  Add in acorn squash and cook until browned, about 5 minutes or so, and stirring occasionally.  Stir in bacon and season with salt and pepper, if needed.

You could serve this as a side dish, or you can eat a whole plateful like I did!  It's fall on a plate - I swear!

It'll probably be another day or so before I'm back, so until next time guys!


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