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Marsha’s Industry Standard: Knife Fight

by Robin Garr » Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:41 am

Knife Fight

By Marsha Lynch

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Well, Thanksgiving has come and gone. Family dynamics aside, how did it go for you, culinarily speaking?

Typically, the time you devote to prep for a celebratory holiday meal is far longer than it actually takes for you and your guests to consume it. There's a seemingly endless list of vegetables to trim, peel, dice, slice, mince, and julienne. There are proteins to carve and fillet, pumpkins and squash to break down, chocolate to be curled for garnish and nuts to chop. Whether you or someone else was the main cook, you probably started the prep the day before, or even days before last Thursday's repast. How was your knife?

One thing great home cooks and professional chefs have in common is a love and respect for proper kitchen tools. The humble knife is your main ally in food prep, whether you're making holiday brunch for 17 or fajitas for two on a Wednesday at midnight.

A knife doesn't have to be expensive, but does have to be sharp to function well. We sharpen knives where I work. At least half my customers seem surprised when I tell them this, as if they're thinking to themselves “wow, when was the last time I had my knife sharpened?” (Then there are the ones who let me know they have their own tri-stone sharpener at home, and do their own sharpening, thank you very much!)

A couple was in the shop the other day perusing the knife case, and when I told them we sharpen knives as well as selling them, the guy gestured to his wife and said “she doesn't like sharp knives”. She laughed and said “Oh, no thank you!, No sharp knives for me. I'm clumsy, and it would be way too dangerous!” What they don't realize is that a sharp knife is far safer than a dull one. You have to use a lot more pressure to make cuts with a dull knife, which can lead to slippage and perilous accidents.

Even if you manage not to injure yourself trying to use a dull knife, you'll struggle to make uniform cuts. Whether you care about presentation or not, evenly cut product promotes even cooking. If one bit of garlic is three times smaller than the next, that small piece is going to cook – and burn – sooner than the larger one. Unevenly cut potatoes, even though you're going to puree them later, can result in a lumpy mash because different size pieces of potato get done at different points in their cooking process.
How often a knife should be sharpened depends on how heavily it is used. Many restaurants have a set of “house knives” available for their cooks to use, and these are often provided by a rental service which switches them out every week or two for sharpened ones. A home cook should have their knives sharpened once or twice a year.

Also, you know that thing that came in your knife block set you got as a wedding present? The one that looks like a rod with a handle? That's not a sharpener. That's a steel. It hones a knife blade, bringing the edge of your knife back into alignment without removing much, if any, metal. If you were to look at the edge of your knife under a microscope, you'd see that it looks like a row of feathers, and these “feathers” bend to either side through use over time. Honing steels come in many varieties; some are flat, some are coated in a diamond particulate, some are made of ceramic. You should use your steel practically every time you pick up your knife. And you don't have to hold your knife and steel up in the air in front of your face and make them a blur of motion like Gordon Ramsay. You can do it safely and deliberately. If you have doubts, there are a million YouTube videos to show you how.

Finally, there's a surprise bonus to having a properly sharpened blade: the satisfaction of using it will make you go “ahhhhhh.” This will promote alpha waves in your brain, which will send serotonin gushing through your nervous system, and let's face it: you're gonna need that when your great Aunt One-Too-Many-Pomegranate-Mimosas starts talking politics during Christmas brunch.

Marsha Lynch has worked at many Louisville independent restaurants including Limestone, Jack Fry’s, Jarfi’s, L&N Wine Bar and Bistro, Café Lou Lou, Marketplace @ Theater Square, Fontleroy’s and Harvest.

Read it on LouisvilleHotBytes:
http://www.louisvillehotbytes.com/knife-fight

Read it also in LEO Weekly’s Food & Drink section today:
http://www.leoweekly.com/category/food-drink/
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Will Terry

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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Knife Fight

by Will Terry » Wed Nov 28, 2018 12:04 pm

I need to get my Shun's sharpened...
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Andrew Mellman

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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Knife Fight

by Andrew Mellman » Wed Nov 28, 2018 12:13 pm

when I told them we sharpen knives as well as selling them,

[

Question: the article lists all the places you work, but where are you now? If I wanted to have my knives sharpened, put in a plug for yourself!
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Adriel Gray

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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Knife Fight

by Adriel Gray » Wed Nov 28, 2018 1:26 pm

My father (carpenter, woodworker, former vocational school teacher) makes savage personal judgments about people and the states of their tools, but especially the sharpness of their knives. You got a rusted blade, or some round-edged chopper, he may not tell you to your face, but he would write you off as "no account" in all future dealings. Even now in my 30's there are subtle unspoken side-swipe-of-the-thumb inspections on the state of all edged implements when he visits the house. I will have to put an edge on my pocket knife before X-mas to insure that any packages opened with said knife are done cleanly and efficiently. Any ragged paper will get you a look and the word "naw". Clean edges will get you a nod, and the approving phrase "that's a razor".
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Marsha L.

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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Knife Fight

by Marsha L. » Wed Nov 28, 2018 5:41 pm

Andrew Mellman wrote:when I told them we sharpen knives as well as selling them,

Question: the article lists all the places you work, but where are you now? If I wanted to have my knives sharpened, put in a plug for yourself!


Andrew, I'm at Cooking at The Cottage in the Vogue Center in St. Matthews (yes, the shopping center that's descended from the theater where you saw Rocky Horror as a teen). We've just expanded our kitchen classroom on one side of the courtyard, and opened a new retail space on the other side. We're right behind Homemade Ice Cream and Pie Kitchen.

We sharpen all straight edge knives (not scissors or serrated blades), usually while you wait, at a very affordable price ($3 for a long blade, $2.50 for shorter ones). We also carry Springerle cookie molds and supplies, and over 550 unique tin cookie cutters, with all the sprinkles, colors and flavors that make homemade cookies special. And we sell whole bean coffee (which we can also grind for you) as well as loose teas (like Earl Grey and Imperial Green).


What else? Aprons, knives, cookware, recipe binders, bar tools, specialty Bundt pans, cutting boards, pot holders, pizza stones and steels, oyster grilling racks, mango cutters, SilPats, oven, meat and candy thermometers, and all manner of utensils and gadgets.

How's that for a plug? LOL. Come see us and you'll get through half your holiday shopping list :D
Marsha Lynch
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Knife Fight

by RonnieD » Wed Nov 28, 2018 8:13 pm

SEE! This is valuable information. You are right across the street from me and I could really use an affordable knife sharpening service. You will see me soon.
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Marsha L.

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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Knife Fight

by Marsha L. » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:37 pm

RonnieD wrote:SEE! This is valuable information. You are right across the street from me and I could really use an affordable knife sharpening service. You will see me soon.


Cool! I'm usually there 10-6 or 6:30 Tues-Sat, but let's be honest, December is upon us and I'll probably be there a lot of Mondays, too. We're not open on Sundays usually, but in December we have Gingerbread workshops on Sunday afternoons the 2nd, 9th, and 16th, so the store will be open then.
Marsha Lynch
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Knife Fight

by Gary Z » Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:03 am

It’ll also hurt less if you cut yourself with a sharp knife. I cut off a bit of my left index finger once and it was the crunching sound it made that alerted me rather than the pain.
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Knife Fight

by Marsha L. » Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:18 am

Adriel Gray wrote:Any ragged paper will get you a look and the word "naw". Clean edges will get you a nod, and the approving phrase "that's a razor".


Your dad sounds like my kinda guy!
Marsha Lynch
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Knife Fight

by Marsha L. » Thu Nov 29, 2018 12:20 am

Gary Z wrote:It’ll also hurt less if you cut yourself with a sharp knife.


true

I had just sharpened one a few months ago and it fell out of the tiny tea towel the lady brought it to me in and stuck in my shoe. I retrieved it and wiped it down and told her to wash it when she got home. A few minutes later I thought I'd better check and my shoe and sock were full of blood - it had gone between my toes and cut the webbing :/
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: Knife Fight

by Carla G » Thu Nov 29, 2018 7:49 am

Cooking at the Cottage is the kind of store you can get lost in as you rediscover all the dishes you want to cook and all the gear that is sooooo cool! Great store!
"She did not so much cook as assassinate food." - Storm Jameson

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