When Chef Larry Bressler says, "We eat with our eyes," he means that we like attractive meals, and when food looks attractive we are more likely to want to eat it. Offered for the third time, this California School of Culinary Arts consumer education course, Knife Cuts, is about the tools of the trade and how to use them and the reason why chefs cut vegetables in certain ways.
While nothing we learned seemed that hard, it's something better seen than described with words. From the different manners of sharpening knives and honing to the manner and presentation of vegetables--all are demonstrated.
For this class, we were given a list of items to bring:
- chef's/French knife
- paring knife
- vegetable peeler
We did not actually use a zester.
The first part of the class was about the "care and feeding of your knives."
We learned about the components of knives: blade, handle, and tang. Chef Bressler gave us handouts to take home on these. We also learned the difference between stamped and forged knives. If you know anything about metalwork, you'll already know that stamped is something cut out of one piece of metal and forged is more than one piece of metal brought together via folding, hammering, and heat. I've done some forging for jewelry and its more noise than I care for. Anyway, if you've seen movie scenes of sword-making or horseshoe making, you have an idea of what forging is.
There are two steps to sharpening knives: the actual sharpening and the honing. For honing, you usually use a steel or diamond rod. For sharpening at home you use either a water stone or an oil stone. Water is more traditional to Asian countries and as such, the one I prefer. Once you use a sharpening stone for one (water or oil), you cannot use it for the other. Chef Bressler prefers oil and had a large orange tool box which held his sharpening stones. Three stones are arranged around a rod in a triangular formation. You turn up the side you are using to begin.
One generally uses a 30-degree angle and on an oil stone you take one stroke and with each pass contact the full length of the blade. With a water stone, you concentrate on a section at a time and might use a 20-degree angle.