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Slicing and Dicing

….the two words that summarize week 1 of the lab portion of culinary school. I wish I had something more sexy to share, like a fabulous beef bourguignon recipe or stories about gutting fish. That will come with time. We have to learn how to crawl before we can walk!

I think most of you would be surprised at how much skill (and time) it takes to cut a perfect square dice. That is, without wasting half the vegetable. Take a potato for instance: first comes the slice, then comes the sticks, and (hopefully) finally the dice.  A perfect square dice. Or in my case, a less than perfect, trapezoid looking piece of produce.  At school, these will all be sent to the cafe for”mixed” fries, unusable for any other preparation.  At home, after practicing this weekend, I was able to turn my butchery into a nice truffle mashed potato.  Its a good thing no one saw the “before” of those poor little potatoes.

So why am I going on and on about a perfect dice? Just think about how often we actually pay attention to every single cut when a recipe calls for a “diced” vegetable. Do most of you make sure each piece of produce is a perfect square?  Prior to culinary school, rarely ever!  However, as I have quickly learned in a few short days, that “perfect” dice is important for several reasons including even cooking & overall presentation. So next time you are preparing a meal, think about the end use….will this garlic melt down in a stew that’s braising for hours when aesthetic  or cooking time is not as important? Or will you be serving a dish of sauteed squash that you want to look pretty and, most importantly, be evenly cooked?  We’ve all had the unfortunate experience of biting into a half-cooked potato at the local breakfast joint. It ain’t tasty. And then we spend the next 20 minutes searching for the most well done pieces in the pile as our eggs get cold. Sound familiar?  What about pasta with those cubes of undercooked eggplant…yuck!  Just some food for thought next time you are working on a dish for loved ones…..

Stay tuned for next week’s Weekly Special as I practice more knife skills, carving up poultry for the very first time. Watch out ducks….you may not want to head back up North for summer!

Week 1 summary:

Cuts =  4

Fingers=  10


2 Responses to “Slicing and Dicing”

  • Chef Curtis SF Says:

    Assuming this photo is authentic, it is time to ask for a new blade or two for your next birthday! perfect start… keep the fingers you will need them.

  • admin Says:

    The photo is authentic, I’m proud to say I cut those veggies myself! More to come on knives later…keep on reading! And thanks for the post!

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