Monthly Archives: June 2012

Five Must Have Knives for the Home Chef

chef-knivesThe definition of tools of the trade as a noun is any instrument, implement, device or piece of machinery that is needed to expertly and correctly conduct an occupation, trade or profession. It should be obvious that in the food preparation industry, for a Chef, knives qualify as a tool of the trade.

Upon graduating from culinary academies, a graduate will probably have their set of basic knives that travel with them everywhere. There is one rule that is pretty standard among chefs: You do not share knives!

When traveling, chefs need to take precautions to wrap their knives well, protecting them from shifting and bumping, and to protect the edges of the blades. Some chefs may wrap their knives in towels, and others wrap them between articles of clothing or pieces of leather. Some may even have specially designed cases.

There are five basic knife needs and/or tools that any chef must have. As they progress in their careers, they will probably include dozens more of experimental and specialty tools, but with these five knives, most any meal can be prepared.

Knife Steel (or Sharpening Steel)
This has a handle like a long knife, but instead of a blade, there is a circular steel rod. Not only does it sharpen knives, but it keeps the blades aligned by reshaping the rough edges resulting from use. A good chef uses the knife steel before and after preparations on one of his trusty knives.

Serrated Utility Knife
Serrated edges are a must for cutting bread (especially with a hard crust), other foods with hard skins, and for very juicy vegetables such as tomatoes.

Cleaver
As the name implies, this cleaves and debones large cuts of meat that need to be sectioned in hefty pieces as opposed to being cut precisely.

Chef’s Knife
This is the most popular knife of all. Chefs use this knife during preparation nearly 95% of the time. In the right hands, it can slice, dice, chop, and debone smaller pieces of meat with expert precision. A well-crafted, top quality, forged stainless steel chef’s knife is the chef’s best friend and can last a decade with the proper care.

Filet Knife
This knife is used for filleting fish, handling very fine and soft meats, and can be used for slicing very thin luncheon meats. Sometimes it is used when preparing chicken, turkey, and other poultry.

Most chefs prefer high quality forged stainless steel blades. Mainly, the basic knife needs of a chef include heft, seamless design with no joints, a secure, comfortable grip, and a blade of high polish that resists rust and corrosion. Reputable chefs never use dull knives. They recommend professional sharpening every 12 to 18 months, and never sharpening serrated edges.

Some chefs only carry a select few knives, while others may keep an assortment of every type. The type of food a specialty chef works with will guide his/her selection. For instance, vegan chefs do not need the same knives as a pastry chef or Sous-chef.

Chafing Dish Basics

chafing-dishesThe chafing dish has been around for centuries and was typically used to prepare meals. Today, with all of the modern kitchen items available, the chafing dish is more commonly used to keep foods at a temperature more suitable for serving. The chafing dish consists of 2 pans. One pan holds water while the other pan fits on top of the pan containing the water.

Once food is prepared, it can be placed in the chafing dish that sits on top of the water pan. The water pan is heated so that the water gets hot and keeps the food warm; leaving it at a temperature that allows it to stay ready to serve. The chafing dish is great to have for parties, events, or any type of gathering with food.

Perhaps you’d like to prepare something for your chafing dish, try this easy Crab Dip recipe to help get you used to using the chafing dish.

  • Melt 2- 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup of half and half, and stir together until smooth.
  • Add 2 teaspoons of grated onion, 1 teaspoon of Wocestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, 1/8 teaspoon of tabasco sauce, and half of a teaspoon of salt.
  • Next, add 12 oz precooked lump crabmeat (2 cups).
  • Mix well and pour into your Chafing dish.
  • Set the heat low so that the dip doesn’t scorch.

Serve with tortillia chips or your choice of toasted bread.

You might also like this easy-to-prepare Smokies recipe that is a great appetizer. Combine the following ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of sandwich mustard
  • 2 teaspoons of cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup of vinegar
  • 1 can of jellied cranberry sauce
  • 1 pound of cocktail sausage.

Place the combined mixture in your chafing dish so that your guests will be able to help themselves to these delicious party sausages.

A chafing dish is the perfect dish to have for entertaining. It’s great for keeping your dips and appetizers at the serving temperature that the recipe calls for. By having several chafing dishes, you are able to set up a buffet of great appetizers and dips. You can also use your chafing dish when hosting a special breakfast to keep foods such as eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, or grits warm prior to serving.

Maybe you are planning a gathering for a superbowl party, use your chafing dish to keep your warm foods warm so that everyone can enjoy them the way that they are meant to be eaten. For a really sweet treat, try serving apple, cherry, or peach pie from your chafing dish. Once it’s done baking, transfer it from the pie pan to your chafing dish. Keep your heat low so that your pie doesn’t continue to cook but only stays warm. Let your guests serve themselves pie from the chafing dish. As a bonus, put out some whipped topping or ice cream on the serving table to go with the pie.

You will find that you can really get a lot of use out of your chafing dish, especially when you have visitors or guest. Take advantage of all of the great opportunities to use your chafing dish.

Five Spicy Dessert Recipes

spicy-foodAdding a spicy or salty kick to a sweet dessert is a great way create a more sophisticated and grown-up flavor.  Ginger, cinnamon, cumin, salt and pepper, and chile powder are just a few ingredients that can be used to create interesting flavor combinations that contrast with sugar and chocolate.  Check out these five spicy desserts that you can make at home:

Spiced Brookies – This recipe from Serious Eats combines the sweetness of chocolate and brown sugar with the spice of ancho chile powder. The smooth and fluffy texture of a chocolate brownie is merged with the size and shape of a cookie to create a unique take on a classic dessert.

Spicy Cayenne – Cinnamon Apple PieCinnamon, ginger, and cayenne pepper are added to a traditional apple pie, creating a blend of sugar and spice that goes great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This recipe from Cook Kosher uses simple ingredients and can be prepared in under an hour and a half.

Black Cardamom and Black Pepper Ice Cream – Black cardamom, a member of the ginger family, is a spice that is roasted over an open flame. This roasting process gives black cardamom a distinct smoky aroma. The combination of black pepper and black cardamom in this homemade ice cream recipe creates an interesting flavor medley that will either make you come back for seconds or make you wish there was never a first.

Spicy Smoky S’mores Bars – Anne Thornton of the Food Network has turned the campfire classic on its head with this simple recipe. Graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows are still the main attraction, but sea salt and chipotle pepper powder are added to take these s’mores to the next level.

Buttermilk Sherbet with Spicy Peanut Brittle – Sherbert, the smoother older brother of sorbet, is covered with chips of spicy peanut brittle in this recipe from the Food Network. The spice of the peanut brittle comes from toasted ancho chile pepper, cinnamon, and ground cumin. These spices go great with peanuts, and the buttermilk sherbert helps to balance the flavor scale of the dessert to create a uniquely satisfying combination.

What do you think about spicy desserts? Leave your comment below or join in on the discussion on the Instawares Facebook page!