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Posts Tagged ‘pantry raid’

Guac the way I make it (more or less)

Guac the way I make it (more or less)

We’ve been making a ton of guacamole lately. Which is kinda weird for us – not something we usually eat. Thought I’d post the recipe here.

Do you really need a recipe for guacamole? Probably not. It’s kinda like salsa – add a little of this, a little of that and voila. But anyhoo, here it is just for fun:

Guacamole

Ingredients:

1 Haas Avocado (ok, those ones usually in the store) – a little squishy to the touch

1 medium sized tomato seeded and chopped

1 T red onion or so

1 clove of garlic minced (pressed, whatever)

1 jalepeno seeded (wuss) and chopped

1/2 lime

1 T or so (give or take) cilantro chopped

salt. Do.Not.Forget.To.Salt.Your.Food

Steps:

Combine. Eat it. The end.

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Ever been to one of those olive oil/vinegar bars? I know they are popping up all over the place – even the local mall. When I was in Door County, WI a few months ago, I finally visited one.

If you live in, say, the Chicago area, you should be quite familiar with Door County. It’s one of the 20-some destinations in Wisconsin that frazzled Chicagoans escape to on the weekends during the summer. And as such, yes, there is a bit of Chicago-Wisconsin animosity. I know – I used to live there. I readily used the term FIB* and yet…now I am one.

Anyhow, Door County is filled with little shops and restaurants. I am a bit nostalgic about the place – having gone there almost yearly since birth (in my pre-FIB days). As I said previously, on my most recent trip, I came across a little olive oil/vinegar bar called Fish Creek Oilerie. They had all kinds of oils and vinegars to sample. I came across their aged balsamic – did a shot and…swoon! This is some of the best balsamic vinegar I’ve ever had. Especially for the price. So I scarfed up a bottle.

Now what to do with it? Tons of things. I’ve been meaning to glaze some chicken with it. But for today, we’re going to throw it on some berries.

I wish I could give a recipe for this, but I really don’t have one. I eyeballed everything.

More or less, this is what I did:

Ingredients:
Berries
Balsamic Vinegar
Sugar
Mascarpone
Vanilla Extract

Sliced some berries.

Poured a few tablespoons of balsamic into a bowl. Added a smidge of sugar. Tossed in the berries and stirred to coat.

Then I grabbed another bowl – threw in maybe half a cup of mascarpone cheese. Then maybe 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla. And maybe some sugar. Stirred it up.

Then I put the berries in a serving dish and served them with a dollop of mascarpone.

Good stuff! Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

*For your education: FIB.

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My new tins all lined up nicely.

Oh… my old spice rack. What a piece…

Well, let’s back up and first start with my kitchen and its faults. It is tiny, but it is efficient. There is not a lot of extra space to put stuff though. I have one very high cabinet that I use for spices. Since it is so high, there are times when even I (taller than your average woman) need the step ladder. Most notably, when reaching to the back of the spice rack. Invariably, I will knock a bottle over and the five bottles in front of it will also come tumbling down.

This was driving me insane.

I mean, sometimes I felt like if I just breathed wrong, they would projectile at my face.

My old solution to organize my spices was one of those step rack contraptions purchased probably at Ikea/Bed Bath and Beyond/Buy More Crap for Your Home places. The way it works is – you precariously balance all of your top heavy spice bottles on the rack in the cabinet. Then you shut the cabinet door and you hear them falling on top of each other. That’s about the gist of it.

So then you swear and swear and swear some more.

And then you get back on top of the step ladder, CAREFULLY open the door and catch all of the spice bottles that have displaced themselves before they fall and dent the stove. Again.

Old spice cabinet - sure is fug, no?

So I googled a solution to my predicament.

My requirements:

1. Not easy to knock over spices. So, containers need to be wider than tall.

2. Easy to get measuring spoons in/out.

3. Big enough to accommodate ALL my spices. Yeah – even you Sumac-that-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with. Some day I will find a use for you.

4. Um, cute? And designerly in some way?

So many options…

There was the cute, albeit totally impractical test tube rack. Then there was the racks of little tins held and the variation which was a board with the tins held on by a magnet – which unfortunately only allowed for maybe 20 spices which is about 30 short of my total. I did see one solution that I was intrigued by – the pull out shelf. But I kept coming back to the cute little spice tins. However, the pre-made sets were never big enough.  Then I came across a DIY spice tin solution and thought it was just too cute to pass up. Even if it was a little impractical.

I forget where I saw this inspiration – Apartment Therapy? I have no idea. Which sucks cause the person I glommed the idea from had really cute pix.

Ok. Seriously, I’ve got to find that link…it was so freaking cute. You’ll just die.

So anyway…

The tins

I decided to buy a whole mess of tins from Specialty Bottle. They were very nice and easy to deal with. I, however, really didn’t know what I was doing. I knew from a little research that I wanted lids that screwed on – the kind that just push on/pull off apparently get spices crusted in them and get hard to open after awhile. Some are unlined, which is bad. Also, sometimes the tins have a tendency to rust (I think this is mostly the ones that are unlined). This might happen if you live in an especially humid environment. I’m hoping for the best up here in the Midwest….

Anyway, I bought the 3 oz twistlug tin. They are food safe. In retrospect, these might be just a smidge too small. But I’ve got 50 of them now, so I’ll make do.

The labels

Next up – the labels. I bought some labels from Paper Source (they have a nice little template for printing that you can download at their site). In retrospect – perhaps just plain paper labels is not the wisest choice. I am the kind of person who makes a gigando mess when I’m cooking and invariably, my hands are wet when I grab the spice tin. So, some sort of protective coating on the label would have been smart…

The font

Ok, the font. I got all picky and googled and googled and googled and found some lovely design sites. This site in particular – Eat Drink Chic – has some lovely font ideas. I swoon over people who are good with typography and this woman is killer. I chose one of the fonts she has listed on her site (Ecuyer DAX I think). Downloaded from Dafont.com – my favorite font site – and typed them up.

Then I slapped the labels on the tins. Only to find out…my labels are a smidge too big. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. And from afar, they sure are cute, n’est ce pas?

Whoah...that's a lot of spices!

DIY Spice Tins

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Halibut with Citrus Beurre Blanc sauce

Halibut with Ginger Citrus Beurre Blanc sauce

Ever walked into a higher-end restaurant and just get the feeling that your meal is going to be average? Something about the decor maybe or the clientele is turning you off?

And then had your socks literally knocked off? Yeah, I sorta had that experience a few months ago.

I was taking a much needed break from the city with my parents in Door County, Wisconsin. For those of you who do not know, Door County is the peninsula of Wisconsin. It’s a vacation get-away for people from Milwaukee and Chicago (note Chicagoans – yes, you are called FIB by Wisconsinites. I am now a FIB myself and am coming to terms with it. Google it if you must know) . Filled with cute shops, antiques and quaint little restaurants, such as Al Johnson’s with the goats grazing on the roof , it’s perhaps the Mid-West version of Martha’s Vineyard.

One of the quaint restaurants was the Inn at Kristopher’s located in Sister Bay. We walked in and the interior seemed a little old. Not terribly out of date – but maybe early 90’s. And well, Door County really isn’t the hippest place on the planet. Needles to say, I guess I wasn’t expecting much.

Boy was I in for a surprise.

My father and I both had the blackened Ahi Tuna (we are both suckers for raw tuna – still…even though the dish is seriously done way too often) which was absolutely fabulous and served with wonderful tender crisp Asian vegetables. But the real standout was what my mom ordered –Salmon with a Ginger Beurre Blanc sauce. I’m not one for salmon…ever…but the sauce was outstanding. Seriously wonderful combination of flavors that I had never had before. Words cannot describe how good this was. I HAD to replicate this at home.

So off to google and I came across this wonderful recipe for a Citrus Ginger Beurre Blanc sauce and I must say, this was pretty dang close. Of course, I’m so not in the mood to reprint the recipe – and I didn’t change a thing so head over there if you are interested.

Give it a whirl some time.  I served it with Halibut and some shaved cucumber and carrot over a bed of jasmine rice. At the restaurant, it was served over whipped potatoes. Do whatever you wish. 🙂

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Instead of hacking up our fine feathered friends, we’ve moved on to creatures of the sea this week.

I don’t make a lot of fish at my house. And if I do make it, it is likely to come in nice little fillets. The reason for this?

It’s right here Ray… It’s looking at me.

Yeah, see, that’s the part of this that totally unnerves me. The fish have EYES. They…know things. Ugh… I mean, even in restaurants when the fish head will be served, I ask for it to be nicely lopped off beforehand. My food should not be able to look back at me.

Anyway…

Fillet of Sole, Baby, it’s my favorite dish*

So that aside, we had to tackle another one of my many “issues”. Some people like cute furry bunnies. I am partial to animals that live in the ocean. Jellyfish, rays and sharks are my favorite animals. Followed closely by flounder and sole – partly cause of the aforementioned song and partly because I love how they burrow in the sand. So I have a bit of an issue cutting them up. Plus, as I said earlier, these animals come to the school pretty much intact – all “innards” are, well, in there. I had to put on my brave face.

Cool facts:

Generally when we are talking about fish you cook, there are two types.

Round fish – are generally more, um, round. They have eyes on both sides of their head. And when you fillet them, you get 2 fillets. Examples – most fish – tuna, salmon, grouper, etc etc.

Flat fish – these are really cool. They start out their life as round fish – meaning they have an eye on either side of their head. Then when they are maybe like a month old or so, one eye migrates to the other side of the head so both eyes are then on one side. The fish, which used to be round and swam upright, starts to flatten out and swim on it’s side. Usually the fish is light colored on the bottom and dark on the top for camouflage purposes. Anyway. How cool is that? Oh – by the way – you get 4 fillets out of flat fish. Examples of flat fish – flounder, sole, halibut, turbo.

So maybe you fish and want to see how to fillet your own fish? Or maybe you’ve gone down to that really cool fishmonger that all the high end restaurants buy from and you don’t want to seem like a wuss buying the pre-filleted fish? Ok, here’s some video for you.

Filleting round fish

Filleting flat fish

Things to keep in mind:

A flexible boning knife is generally better for filleting fish.

Fish fins are very sharp – so use caution!

Also – some fish skin – especially that of flat fish – can be very tough. Again, use caution so you don’t cut yourself!

*Courtesy of The Dead Milkmen. One of my favorite bands in my youth. “Filet of sole baby. Is my favorite dish. Filet of sole baby. When the dish is fish ‘Cause, oh, I lose control. When you serve filet of sole.Yeah, I have issues. I know.

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Teriyaki chicken wings... er...thighs.

A few years back, my cooking club made these fab chicken wings with teriyaki sauce, sesame seeds and cilantro. I loved the flavor of the sauce but I do admit, I’m not all that keen on chicken wings. Gnawing on bones is so not my thing. So I’ve decided to make the recipe using chicken thighs instead (more meat, less gnawing) and served the whole shebang over rice.

But since I’m SOOO not in the mood to translate the recipe into EXACTLY what I made (and I alright, I don’t totally remember but I did follow it pretty closely), I’m putting the exact recipe down here. I halved it and used pineapple juice instead of grapefruit juice (alright, it was orange pineapple blend if you must ask!) and googled the chicken thigh cooking time.

Teriyaki Chicken Wings (Thighs)

From Tyler Florence
Serves 12 cocktail servings
Note: I halved this recipe when I made it
Ingredients:
Wings:
2 dozen chicken wings, about 3 1/4 pounds, rinsed and patted dry (I used thighs)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted in a skillet over medium heat until lightly browned
Leaves from 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
Teriyaki Sauce:
1 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 cup grapefruit juice (I used pineapple juice)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 fresh, hot red chile, halved
5 garlic cloves, halved
2-inch piece fresh ginger, smashed with the side of a large knife

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Season the chicken wings with salt and pepper and drizzle a little olive oil on them to prevent sticking. Lay the wings in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes or until the skin gets crispy and the wings are cooked through. NOTE: Chicken thighs will take longer – maybe 35-40 minutes. Use your thermometer and your best judgement!!
  4. Meanwhile, combine the teriyaki sauce ingredients in a large saucepan.
  5. Simmer over low heat and reduce until slightly thickened.
  6. Pour the sauce into a large bowl. Dump the wings into the bowl and toss to coat them with the sauce.
  7. Transfer to a serving platter and sprinkle with the sesame seeds and cilantro. Serve hot.

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Stuffed glove boned cornish game hen

We glove boned chickens and ducks today.

What does that mean exactly?

In a nutshell – it’s taking the bones out of a bird without making a slit in the skin.

Gasp!

Impossible! You say. It cannot be done!

Well, to an extent, it kinda is impossible. But you can get MOST of the bones out without slitting the skin. If you are careful.

Pretty much the only bones you will have left are at the very tip of the wing and the very tip of the leg bone.

So… How do you do it?

Here is a pretty good play by play of how to do it.

Why on earth would you want to do this?

Well, you could make a Turducken out of it I suppose – although that’s a bit different since you roll it up (not NEARLY the technical skills required for glove boning).

Or just impress all your friends with your butchering skills. The photo above is my stuffed cornish game hen (done at home). I stuffed it with an apple, raisin, bread stuffing. Many people like to stuff these birds with rice, but I have a rice aversion* so that’s a no-go for me.

So let’s take a look at how I did.

Attempt #1 = notice knife cut in the left leg

Attempt #2 = the champion!

Above is the front of the bird. Kinda looks like wrinkly old man. Ok, that was too far. I’m sorry for the bad imagery. Notice, though, that there are no bones except the very tip of the wings and very tip of the drumstick. That’s it. Those legs? Empty except for the meat. The wings? Ditto except for that part sticking up in the champion pose.

Attempt #1 back = sad 😦

Attempt #2 back = better!

And there is the back. As you can see, Attempt #1 didn’t go so well. Lots of places where my knife went through the chicken skin. Put it breast side up though and no one will be the wiser.

Attempt #1 took 45 minutes to do.

Attempt #2 took 17 minutes to do.

At least I am improving!!

So after I removed the bones, I stuffed them with the aforementioned stuffing and baked.

REMEMBER to adjust times accordingly! Since there are no bones, it bakes pretty fast. But since it’s stuffed, it may take a little longer. This is a time when a probe thermometer would really come in handy…

And one last picture… the CARNAGE!

The carcass...shudder...

* Yeah, rice. If asked to give up rice for the rest of my life, that would really be no problem.

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beef_bolognese

Wolfgang Puck's Pappardelle with Beef Bolognese. Restaurant taste, including all the fat.

So I put one of the techniques I learned in class to the test today by peeling and seeding five pounds of tomatoes for Wolfgang Puck’s Bolognese sauce.

Things:

1. So you know how I injured myself in class coring tomatoes? Yeah…I didn’t learn. Sliced the same finger. Doing the same damn thing. Christ…

2. You do not honestly want to know how bad food in restaurants is for you. Case in point – Puck’s bolgnese sauce. It is a heart attack on a platter. I couldn’t even bring myself to put in as much olive oil as it called for. I’m thinking the calorie count in this has to be over a thousand per serving. But it sure was tasty…

He sort of has a two-pronged approach for making this sauce, which was fine for me cause I made it over two days (well, three really – I tried making homemade pasta as well…without a pasta machine…but that’s a story for another time).

First you make the bolognese sauce on it’s own. And then you add it to a crap ton of oil, butter, herbs and chicken stock. I think you can probably do without part two, but I put the whole thing together as directed just to see what it was like. Cause somehow, my thighs don’t jiggle enough these days…

Another surprising things about this bolognese? It doesn’t use any milk. I’m sure that to purists, that means this doesn’t qualify as a bolognese. But hey, the recipe came from an Austrian celebrity chef, not an Italian. So being “purist” is probably not much of a concern for him.

Wolfgang Puck’s Beef Bolognese

From Pizza, Pasta and More!

Beef Bolognese part

NOTE: You can just make this part as a good sauce for pasta, or you can go all out and put the whole thing together (see Putting it all together section after Bolognese recipe)

Ingredients:
5 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds coarsely ground chicken, preferably dark meat, or, 2 pounds of coarsely ground beef
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium white onion, (about 2 cups), trimmed and cut into small dice
2 medium carrots, (about 1 cup), trimmed, peeled, and cut into small dice
1 medium celery stalk, trimmed and cut into small dice
4 or 5 garlic cloves, cut into small dice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped fine
3 cups chicken stock, heated
Pinch or minced fresh oregano leaves
Pinch minced fresh thyme leaves
6 or 7 chopped fresh basil leaves
Pinch red pepper flakes, or to taste

Steps:

  1. In a 10 or 12-inch saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Saute the ground chicken or beef until lightly browned, breaking up the pieces as they cook. Season lightly with salt and pepper.
  2. Remove the chicken or beef with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Set aside until needed.
  3. In the same saute pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Over medium heat, saute the onion, carrots and celery until they just start to color, 6 to 8 minutes. Do not brown.
  4. Add the garlic, stir in the tomato paste, and cook a few minutes longer.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost all the liquid has evaporated.
  6. Add the tomatoes, cook for 2 or 3 minutes, then pour in the stock and reserved chicken and season with the oregano, thyme, and a little salt and pepper.
  7. Cook until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 30 minutes. If the sauce has thickened too much or you prefer a thinner sauce, add a little more stock.
  8. Stir in the chopped basil and the red pepper flakes and adjust the seasoning, to taste.

NOTE: You could stop at this point and serve the sauce over pasta, or you could clog your arteries big time by doing the following –

Putting it all together:

4 T unsalted butter
6 T olive oil
2 cups Beef Bolognese sauce (from above)
1/2 cup Chicken stock
1/2 t minced fresh oregano leaves
12 oz pappardelle
2 T minced fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Shaved fresh Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)

Steps:

  1. Bring a large stockpot of salted water to a boil.
  2. In a large saute pan over medium flame, heat all of the butter and 4 T of the olive oil. Stir in the Beef Bolognese sauce, stock and oregano. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the pappardelle until al dente and drain. Add to the sauce and stir to coat well.
  4. Stir in the parsley, grated Parmesan and remaining 2 T olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. To serve – divide the pasta among 4 heated plates or bowls. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Two important announcements:

1. We used the STOVE today. FIRE, folks. I’m not sure why were trusted.

2. And going along with the trust issue – the inevitable finally happened – my first kitchen injury. 😦

But first – lecture.

We learned a little math. Most specifically – we learned units of measure for volume (liquid) and their equivalents. This is probably good to know/memorize so I’m including it here for reference:

1 teaspoon
1 Tablespoon = 3 teaspoons
1 ounce = 2 Tablespoons
1 cup = 8 ounces = 16 Tablespoons
1 pint = 2 cups = 16 ounces = 32 Tablespoons (yeah, doubt you’ll ever need to know that).
1 quart = 2 pints = 4 cups = 32 ounces
1 gallon = 4 quarts = 8 pints = 16 cups = 128 ounces

So on to the kitchen.

Today we made Tomato Portuguese.  Basically, it is tomatoes concasse (peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes) simmered with cooked onions, garlic, and bouquet garni. You keep cooking till all the water is evaporated. Season to taste.

What is this used for exactly? Good question. I have no clue really. Maybe the base for other tomato sauces?? I was so busy making this today, that I never thought to ask.

Cool technique – in case you don’t already know how, here’s how you peel a tomato.

So yeah – the injury – as I said, I was coring a tomato using a chef’s knife even though I thought it was awkward and KNEW better. And then…it happened. I thought, meh, that isn’t so bad. And then…I rushed to the bathroom to rinse and then put pressure on with a paper towel.

I’ve had my share of kitchen injuries – the worst being bagel slicing and the time I was working in a kitchen in college and picked up a lid to a lasagna pan that had been in the oven for an hour and a half…yeah.  But this was somehow worse.

My husband gets a little squeamish at the site of blood. I’ve always been quick to yell out “wuss!”.

I will keep quiet now. For the first time ever, I almost blacked out due to a minor kitchen injury. Gah…WTF?

Anyway, I’m fine now. Just a cut. No stitches. All is well.

And I damn well will never core a tomato with a 10 inch chef’s knife again.

Words of wisdom.

Ms. Pantry Raid

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So I mentioned I am going to culinary school, right? I’m working s.l.o.w.l.y on a certificate program. I suppose maybe some of you would like to know what it’s like? Well, I’m hoping to chronicle a bit about it, so here goes nothin’:

Question: Should you wear your uniform on day one?

The answer to that is yes, you should. And you should have your jacket buttoned to the top. How do I know this? Well, I managed to get yelled at approximately 20 minutes PRIOR to my first class because the top button of my jacket was not fastened and I dared walk in the cafeteria past a discerning Chef. The horror! Shoot, I wasn’t even really sure how to put the thing on at that point. You should also have your neckerchief tied properly (hint: it should be a Windsor knot. In today’s “business casual” work environment, 90% of my class was Windsor knot noobs).

Question: Who goes to culinary school?

Answer: Well, I can only answer about my particular class. We seem to have an astonishingly high number of people who work in the Finance industry. I suppose that makes sense because, especially in this economy, who else can afford it? Anyway, I’m just going to leave it at that before my flaming liberal ways get me in trouble. Let’s say the majority of the class is over 40, white, male and in their second career. Add in a handful of white females, a couple of African-American students, one Asian female and a Hispanic male and you’d have my class. I suppose it’s relatively diverse for such a small group.

Question: What’s the instructor like?

Answer: Your instructor is called Chef. As in, “yes, Chef, I will keep my fingers curled under so I don’t chop them off” or “no, Chef, I am not the jag who dumped the potatoes in the sanitation sink”. Our Chef is quite a bit like Conan O’Brien – both in looks and his penchant for cracking jokes.

Question: This is cooking school, don’t I get to eat in class?

Answer: Yeah…not really? Unless you have a utensil to get the food to your mouth. Otherwise forget it. You put your finger in your mouth, you wash your hands. You scratch your face, you wash your hands. Got it?
So on my first day, I had a light snack before my 5 hour class. By the time we got to the kitchen, I was pretty hungry. Standing up listening to more lecture while all the stove burners and broilers were lit and there was no air circulating, I started to feel faint. I looked around; wasn’t anyone else hot? Sweat on their brow? On the verge of passing out? Am I the ONLY ONE who thinks it is unbearable?? I had to get down on the ground and wait for it to pass. Thankfully, at that point Chef excused us to start working. I immediately bee-lined for the bathroom to splash cold water on my face. Another student joined me who was having the same problem. And of course, neither of us had eaten before class…
Moral of the story? Eat before class!

Question: What do you learn in the kitchen on the first day?

Answer: We learned how to hold a knife (thankfully, I already do that right) and the “claw” grip (something I’ve never gotten the hang of…but I’m getting it now). We cut stuff. Potatoes and carrots. We julienned and made batonnets. Small dice. Brunoise.

Wanna learn? Head over to where I learned it all many years ago on egullet. This is a seriously fabulous step by step instruction on knife skills and practically mimics what we learned in class.

Stay tuned for more excitement on Day two…

Ms. Pantry Raid

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