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Pans and Perspective

You provide the food and I will provide the perspective." – Anton Ego, 2007

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Miyabi 9.5” Chef Knife, Artisan Series Review

Many years ago I purchased a tool that really has become an heirloom in my kit. Brilliant in appearance and effective in design, this is my go to chef knife!

A subsidiary of Zwilling, Miyabi offers a variety Japanese style knives hand honed in Japan. The Miyabi line takes the classic German techniques and pairs them with the finest craftsmanship of sword and knife producers in Seki, Japan.

Weight: 9.6 ounces; this chef knife is well balanced between the handle and blade. The thin blade helps manage the overall weight and the result is a moderate to light chef knife. Consumers who desire a light knife will be pleased.

Design and Appearance: 63 HRC, SG2 Powder steel, clad with layers of nickel and stainless steel, pakka rosewood, tsuchime finish; full tang construction. The handle is solid construction with an attractive steel end cap and brass pins built into the handle. The handle is crafted in a D shape to allow a fantastic feel in the user’s hand. It has no bolster allowing for easy sharpening of the entire blade. The blade fades perfectly into the handle providing a natural point for a no-slip grip.

Use and Application: The blade glides effortlessly through any soft object. It’s light design and proper balance prevents hand fatigue but still offers a strong knife for mincing, chopping and slicing. This knife is not meant to be used on bone or hard objects, the hardness of the steel makes it susceptible to chips and nicks if used improperly. The long blade can be a bit cumbersome at times. It is great for large tasks but lacks control for smaller jobs. It is fantastic for processing large vegetables but struggles with shallots and garlic. (I use mine for these though and don’t have issues, practice teaches control.)

Price: $290, although it is almost exclusively sold at 229.99, my guess is a marketing tactic. (It is the reason I purchased this knife.)

Rating: ***

What the stars represent: ratings range from zero to four stars. Zero is poor, fair or satisfactory. One star, good. Two stars, very good. Three stars, excellent. Four stars, extraordinary.

Corn Gateau

Here is a recipe for a super light corn cake. It is fairly sweet so I reccomend serving it as a dessert.

Yields 10 Portions

Ingredients

2/3C Sugar
1/2t Salt
2C Cornmeal
6 ea Eggs
3/4C Butter
1/4C Milk

Method

  1. Preheat oven as you are measuring out ingredients to 375.
  2. Melt butter on low on stovetop, separate eggs. Simultaneously beat egg whites to stiff peaks adding in sugar gradually as they start to aerate.
  3. In a separate bowl mix cornmeal and salt, form a well in the center and drop the reserved yolks into the center of well. Mix the yolks in gradually to the cornmeal mixture as you slowly pour the butter and milk in. It will look crumbly.
  4. Fold a quarter of the whites into the crumb mix. You can be aggressive with this mixing. One this mix is loosened by the whites, fold the rest into the batter carefully as to not deflate the meringue. Bake for 30 minutes, checking at the 25 minute mark with a cake tester.

Notes: The recipe yields a super light cornbread with no leavener. When making the meringue ensure that the bowl is clean from any fat residue. Any contamination will prevent the meringue from inflating. Following this recipe will allow you to minimize required tool clean-up because you will have made the meringue with clean utensils and can safely use them for the next part of the recipe. Be careful to not overbake this recipe, I can attest it will turn into a hockey puck. The sugar can be backed off to a ½ cup.

(Vegetarian) Chili

Here’s a great recipe for a meatless chili. Check the notes below if you want to add some!

Yields 10 Portions

Ingredients
Chili Paste:

1.5C Tomatoes
2 ea Onion, chopped
1c Sundried tomatoes, reconstituted, save the liquid
4T Cumin
3T Coriander
1t Allspice
1T Hot pepper – optional, and depending on peppers used amount may vary
2T Salt
8 ea Garlic cloves

Remaining Ingredients and Garnishes

1qt Tomato juice or sauce
2# Beans of choice
2# Meat if desired
1# Eggplant
1# Corn
1# Diced tomato

Garnishes

Minced onion, crumbled queso fresco or desired cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips

Method

  1. Cook beans to 80% doneness. While cooking prepare the chili paste by combining all ingedients in the blender until smooth.
  2. Sweat the chili paste in 1/4 C high smoke point oil. You want the oil to be smoking so that it fries the paste.
  3. Cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
  4. Add in the sundried juice, tomato juice or sauce and beans and simmer for 30 minutes. Add in the remaining vegetables and cook for 10 minutes
  5. Serve with minced onion, cheese, sour cream and tortilla chips.

Notes:

If using meat feel free to saute it in the oil before frying the paste. Leave the brown particulate on the pan and it will infuse the flavor of the meat. If the chili is to thin you can use masa harina or corn starch to thicken it. Add this at the same time you add in the final vegetables.

Picassos, Pottery and Profoundly Productive People

If you had been with me a week ago as we pulled into the circular driveway to the home of the Schwartz’s, you might have been as incredulous as me. A gorgeous brick building loomed over, casting a shadow across the entire driveway. As we exited the vehicle and proceeded up the stone path, a cool midday breeze poured over the hill and brushed against our faces. The birds were alive and the warm sun felt fantastic. We let ourselves into a small foyer at the front of the building where we were greeted by Gerry, a kind elderly woman. She welcomed us into the kitchen to a full spread of salad fixings. The kitchen was alive with aromas; roasted meat wafted into my nostrils, the oven sizzled away and a dark stock simmered gently on the stove.

Three other guests sat at a corner table and introduced themselves as Maggie and Sophie, both sisters and Dalton. Maggie, was a short girl with dreadlocks, braids and beads woven into her hair. Dalton, her significant other had similar hair to match. Sophie was more reserved with a happy demeanor and hair that ran down over her shoulders. We made casual conversation introducing ourselves, and in David’s case, caught up for lost time. I began browsing some of the art on the walls: each piece unique, culminating into an eclectic collection that was only a facadesp for the rest of the house. Shortly after the Sophie’s and Maggie’s father, Lain appeared and gave us a quick introduction to some of the astounding pieces hung about the walls. Gerry gave the announcement that lunch was ready and we were instructed to get Dean from his studio. David, Birte and I clambored down the stairs into the basement lead by Sophie to collect her grandfather. Still matching the theme of the house, the entire stairway was full of various hanging paintings, sketches and other mediums. We pulled open the studio door and there sat a tiny old man with large rimmed spectacles. He was meticulously lining up a picture in a frame – to undoubtedly hang on the wall too. Dean interrupted his work to show us some of the other pieces he had been working on as well. With some convincing we managed to get him moving upstairs for the impending feast. As we walked out of the basement, the house loomed with fantastic aromas. Rounding the corner into the kitchen they came together into a marvelous symphony of smells. Roast turkey, mashed potatoes, half roasted squashes, peas and now along with the salad, various cheese, crackers and three different selections of bread. Lunch – they call it – happens this way each sunday at the Schultz house. This “go big or go home” mentality should have prepared me for what was to some.

We sat down to a perfect relaxed lunch, plates overflowing, with all sorts of accoutrements. We enjoyed pleasant conversation as the young folk went around the table telling each other a little about ourselves and what we are currently up to. Interestingly enough, each of us was on some sort of sabbatical or break to help realign our thinking. In classic grandmotherly style Gerry insisted we go for seconds, which Birte and I more than willingly did. We ended the meal with a spread of fresh baked desserts of brownies and an assortment of cookies.

Our plan following this repast was to attend the Decorah Symphony Orchestra. We had plenty of time before our show and David requested that we get a proper house tour, remember, “go big or go home.” We started in the dining room since we were all present. Dean commenced by saying, “if you have any questions about anything, I’ll lie about them.” I knew this was going to be wild. In the dining room we were surrounded by a myriad of items. Original porcelain made from molds of master potter, Marguerite Wildenhain; a slab of hieroglyphics 4000 years old, which only three people can read and translate; original Picasso painted pottery and a smattering of arrowheads littered the shelves; pottery thrown, of all shapes and sizes, by famous artists and family members were intricately laid out intermingled with paintings from same miscellany of artists, some friends and some millionaires.

We dove into a tour of the first floor. Each room we entered, totalling five, had various mediums of framed art matching the characteristics of the dining room. We then took a hike upstairs and were shown an even more extensive collection. Each room laid out intricately, walls laden with sketches and paintings paired with sculptures and pottery on beautifully constructed pedestals. Dean led the tour from room to room where the themes of each become more specific.

The proceeding rooms were stocked with various artifacts from around the world. An entire room dedicated to German artists and the Bauhaus and another loaded with artifacts from a four year archeological dig by Dean in Panama. The Africa room had ebony statues, intricate stone carvings, and yards of stone carved bead necklaces. An Asian theme dominated another with a collection of paintings and pottery, some pieces worth over a quarter of a million dollars. Hallways and some of the rooms themselves were decorated with extensive libraries of reference material relating to each respective room. As we toured each, Dean handed us pieces and artifacts, some over thousands of years old, to hold and inspect – it almost felt wrong.

We concluded our tour prematurely because we were running behind to the show. Dean has stories about about each individual item – and he shared many of them – but if I included them all in this post, its length would surpass even the miles of beads in their collection. As we descended the flight of stairs into the dining room we were greeted by one last surprise. Laid out on the same table we ate, were over 50 thrown miniature pots crafted by Lain and his daughters. We were instructed by the family to inspect them and select our favorite to take home. I was just as incredulous departing as I was on arrival.

Many are familiar with “Mid-Western hospitality”, the kind where strangers open their home and offer the guests nearly anything they want. For the Schwartz’s this was a understatement. The care I was given, along with David and Birte was some of the finest I have ever experienced. I felt honored to participate in a fantastic meal, magnificent tour of a living, tangible museum and receiving a gift made truly from the heart. It is quite characteristic of the people of Decorah to display this genuine hospitality but nevertheless it was still greatly appreciated and quite remarkable.

The pot I chose!

Corn Bread

Yields 16 Portions

Ingredients

3ea Eggs

.5c Milk

.5c Whey or milk

.25c Butter melted

.5c Brown Sugar

2c Cornmeal

2t Salt

4t Baking Powder

1.25c Corn kernels (optional)

Method

  1. Mix all dry ingrdients.
  2. Mix all wet ingredients.
  3. Rest batter for 10 minutes.
  4. Bake 350 for 35 minutes in a 8×8 baking dish or for 14 minutes in 8oz muffin tins. Be careful not to over-bake or it will be quite dry.

Striving for excellence.

Today I completed my second week of modern banquets cookery.  We have really jumped into the buffet portion of the class.  The amount of food that we make each day is still the same but the techniques for cooking it are somewhat different.  For example, when we cooked vegetables for plated service we usually cooked them to order whereas now we just cook all the vegetables off ahead of time and bring them out to service as needed.

My personal performance in class has been improving each day.  Timeliness has never been an issue.  What is really getting my each day is stupid mistakes.  I had one day in class where I did not have my ice bath to shock my cooked vegetables.  Chef saw my mistake and made sure to comment on it.  That is one of the reasons I enjoy this class so much.  I don’t get to cut corners and I have to practice the right procedures on a daily basis.

I had quite a gratifying evaluation from Chef today.  Myself and a friend both had done excellent in our daily grade.  This means our food was cooked and seasoned well, we were on time, our station was clean and several other aspects that make up our daily grade.  Excellence is earned by students who show superior quality products and procedures.  It usually equates to getting and A.

I had been doing well in class but I really didn’t have that many “excellent’s” under my belt.  I really enjoyed hearing that I had done so well today.  My group and I were not the only ones who received praise.

During our class debriefing, where we discuss our overall performance for the the and the menu for the day to come, the chef commented about how our performance as a class has been superior to many of the classes he has recently taught.  We are dedicated quick thinkers that get the job done well.  Chef said that “It actually feels like [I] am teaching again, rather than just being a drill sergeant.”

 

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