Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Here's a link/text to the series I'm writing for The Art of Manliness.

1 Onion, diced
2 Tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 Jalapeno, finely diced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced

As someone who writes recipes for a living, it’s my job to make cooking easy and enjoyable for others. I suppose my “job satisfaction” comes when people tell me that a recipe of mine turned out to be one of their favorite meals. However, I’m not always so lucky.

Things that may seem clear to me can look like hieroglyphs to others.
For example, check out the list of ingredients at the top of the page. Hopefully, the ingredients themselves are recognizable to everyone. What may not be so clear is the actual state of the ingredients. What do I mean by diced, chopped, minced?
Honestly, it’s somewhat of a gray area.

You see, each writer, chef, cook, etc., has their own explanation of such terms. Some go as far as providing exact descriptions-“dice your tomatoes into ½ inch cubes .” I suppose that’s nice, but such rigid descriptions remind me of baking-not my forte.

I’d rather not pull out a Webster dictionary, so instead I’ve put together a simple picture to demonstrate the following state of ingredients in descending order based on size: Roughly Chopped, Julienned, Diced, Finely Diced, and Minced. Keep in mind that this is my definition. You or others may envision a fine dice to be finer, or a rough chop to be rougher . . . that’s okay. I come from the school of thought where recipes are meant more to be guidelines than scientific formulas. Again, that’s probably the reason why baking is not my strong suit.

When working with peppers as pictured, always cut from the inside out-the waxy outer surface can cause the knife to slip.

Basic Skills

I’ve put together a few picture reels to assist you in some of the very basic knife skills.  Specifically, I’ve included photos on the best way to go about dicing an onion, mincing/pasting garlic, and finely chopping herbs.  I find that these are the skills that I use most in preparing meals.   

Dicing an Onion - by keeping the root end intact, this method will ensure that you can quickly dice an entire onion without creating a mess.  Keep in mind that the more narrow your incisions, the finer the dice.

Step 1:  Slice off the top of the onion, about ½ an inch into the surface. 
Step 2:  Rest the onion vertically, and slice in half through the root end, peel back outer layer. 
Step 3:  Make vertical incisions down to the root end. 
Step 4:  Make horizontal incisions down to the root end. 
Step 5:  Dice the onion accordingly and repeat with the remaining half.  



Mincing/Pasting Garlic - this method will allow you to quickly peel and mince garlic.  By smashing the entire clove, you also release the flavorful juices.  Adding kosher salt and making a paste comes in handy when adding garlic to a salad dressing or marinade.
Step 1:  Smash the entire clove, skin on, with the sharp end of the blade pointed away from your body.
Step 2:  Peel away skin, and run the knife through the garlic until it is finely and evenly chopped. 
Step 3:  Add a few pinches of kosher salt to work as an abrasive.
Step 4:  Use pressure and the flat side of your knife to work the ingredients back and forth on the board, until the mixture resembles the consistency of a paste.




Chopping Fine Herbs - this process is actually defined as a “chiffonade”.  For herbs which bruise easily (basil, sage, etc), this method allows you to cleanly and delicately slice herbs without damaging their texture. 

Step 1:  Stack 6 -8 leaves on top of one another.
Step 2:  Carefully roll up the leaves starting from the root end up to the tip.
Step 3:  Use a knife to finely chop the herbs, resulting in long, thin strips.





Of course, these are just the fundamentals.  Master everything here, and we’ll move on to butchering wild game in the near future.

Keep those knives sharp!

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