Knife Set and Skills 101

The 4 knives you need for almost everything
The 4 knives you need for almost everything

Cooking skills are more important than recipes.  Skills allow you to bob and weave to make something delicious even in the face of adversity.  Skills also allow you to be much more efficient.  When it comes to knife skills, you gain valuable lessons in safety and efficiency.

There are so many shapes and styles of knives out there.  I recommend you put your 50 knife block set aside for most applications and invest in 4 quality knives. I prefer Japanese steel because it is very hard and requires less maintenance if treated properly.  American steel tends to be more soft, but plenty of talented chefs choose it. From bottom to top in the above picture, I have 4 shun knives that meet the criteria for my top 4 knives:

  1. 8 inch chef’s knife
  2. 6 inch serrated utility knife
  3. 6 inch boning knife
  4. 4 inch pairing knife

These 4 knifes will cover you for most applications.

Holding a knife:

Blade grip for added dexterity
Blade grip for added dexterity

The blade grip is the way to go unless you just can’t get comfortable. You move your thumb onto the blade and pinch it with a curled index finger on the other side of the blade.  Your thumb and index finger are far removed from the cutting edge at all times. This gives you an incredible amount of control and dexterity with the blade.  More control = less likelihood of a slip and injury.

Proper angle for cutting:

Proper angle for cutting/prepping food
Proper angle for cutting/prepping food

When cutting food, cut in a 45 angle across your torso.  This provides a much more comfortable (straight) angle for your wrist.  When you try to cut perpendicular to your body, your wrist becomes contorted resulting in an increased risk of injury.

In my next post, I will go through the basic knife cuts that are safe and efficient in addition to the claw technique for holding what you are preparing.  Happy and safe cooking!

 

Drew on sablinkedinDrew on sabfacebookDrew on sabemail
Fan at Ninja Cow Farm
Drew is a husband, father of 3, lover of all things culinary and a lawyer in his spare time. You have to eat your whole life, so you may as well learn how to cook.

I’m going to catch up, I swear

I thought when you farmed, it was like this. Happy-Farmer-600x350

Outside, pretty day, pride in a job well done. It’s pretty nice.happy-farmer-family-wheat-field-father-son-young-farmers-41736146

I also thought I’d have my kids right there, everybody happy, clean, enjoying the good life. Some days it is like that.

But some days, it seems it’s more like this. up-your-productivity-and-learn-to-multitask-20-photos-13

Messy office, paperwork out the wazoo, and somebody needs attention all the time. That is what farming is like. It’s an amazing amount of paperwork while trying to keep something cute alive.

People told me I’d get bored after I left corporate America. Bored? That’s crazy. Poor, they should have said I’d get poor.  That one is a much easier guess. No chance on bored.

 

Dan Moore on sabtwitterDan Moore on sabgoogleDan Moore on sabfacebookDan Moore on sabemail
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

I’ve become a snob

snob
noun

  1. a person with an exaggerated respect for high social position or wealth who seeks to associate with social superiors and dislikes people or activities regarded as lower-class.
  2. a person who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people.

    “a musical snob”

I’m not happy about it.

I’m someone who eats with people making seven figures for dinner, then eats off the taco truck for lunch with a bunch of Mexicans the next day. Although I usually prefer the taco, I’m comfortable having both meals and value both relationships. I don’t distinguish people by their social class, their political affiliation, their color.  I take everyone as they come. But now I’m a snob, and it’s all Drew’s fault.

See Drew has been putting his recipes on our blog for a few weeks now. Darling Wifey decided she would start cooking Drew’s recipes to make sure he wasn’t putting on airs. I reluctantly tried Drew’s first recipe, chorizo and mussels and this was the result. 

So last week, we had the opportunity to go to Ocracoke on a home schooling field trip. I got to tag along because Miguel and Vicente were here to keep things under control (thanks guys!). It also afforded me a chance to get off the farm, do some long range planning, get my to do list in order, that kind of thing. We ate breakfast and lunch in the house we rented because it’s cheaper. But SWMBO decided we’d go out to dinner. The first night was a rush job and we picked a touristy place because they had crab legs, and that’s what Wildflower wanted. The food was “meh” but whatever. The last night there, I picked the place. A local had recommended it and it was indeed the best place on the island. As we peruse the menu, I see a shrimp purloo on the menu.

Shrimp purloo
Shrimp purloo

Chorizo, bacon, shrimp. This is like that thing Drew did! I’ll get that!

Everybody’s food comes out and there are lots of happy sounds as everybody chows down. The wife even compliments me, in front of her mother, about how I always pick the best restaurants. Compliments in front of the mother in law are hard won prizes for us husbands. I’m ecstatic.

I take a bite of my purloo and it’s good. I mean, the broth is kind of watery, not rich like Drew’s, but good. And the shrimp is kind of bland, not like the briney bite of Drew’s mussels. But it’s good. Well, the bacon tastes odd. Not like our bacon, but I’m used to that. And it’s still bacon so that’s good. This chorizo is weird. It’s hard and flavorless, more like beef jerky. No bite like our chorizo, just a blank puck of meat. And the rice is kinda watered down, not like the rich broth and fresh bread SWMBO had. I mean, it’s good… but not as good as is if had our ingredients in it. I resist the sudden urge to go to the kitchen and explain to the chef that he’d really have something if he sourced his ingredients from us instead of US Foods.

I related this story to a couple of people. Then I added in how I don’t order pork chops when I go out anymore because I’m always disappointed they don’t taste like ours. And steaks taste funny now if I order one when we are out, either like cardboard or with some off flavor. And my kids won’t even eat store bought bacon anymore, even if I cook it at home. They know the difference. In fact Spork related a story of a sleep over just this past weekend where they served him bacon. He politely DECLINED TO EAT because it was store bought. He didn’t decline to the eat the bacon, he didn’t eat at all!

We’ve become food snobs, me especially. Not snobs of a certain restaurant, or a certain style of cooking. No, we’re snobs that if it we or one of our partner farms didn’t raise it, then it’s inferior. As I related all this, exasperated over what has happened, they all had the same reaction.

“Of course you have. You can’t compare your food to what you get anywhere else.”

“But, but, I’m not a snob! I..”

“Shh, it’s ok. Now go make more cows and don’t worry about it.”

I’m working on the cows but I’m still worried about it. Admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right?

Dan Moore on sabtwitterDan Moore on sabgoogleDan Moore on sabfacebookDan Moore on sabemail
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Reducing food waste in America

This is an article on reducing food waste in America. Having read it, I don’t see anything that’s really actionable. Most charity organizations I know are already reaching out to anyone who would donate pretty much anything. Farmer’s would donate their products, but they aren’t going to spend the labor to do the work for the charities. It’s hard enough farming without having to spend extra time hauling produce for free or sorting out produce for their benefit. I didn’t see anything in these government programs that addressed the reality of the problem so once again, a feel good government program goes nowhere.

Meanwhile, in 2015 we have handled on our farm roughly 7 million pounds of produce in a year that would have otherwise gone in the landfill. In addition, we recycle 16,000 pounds of cardboard per month (192,000 pounds per year), two truckloads of pallets per month, and 1/2 of a truckload of plastic totes per month. All of this material would have otherwise gone into the landfill and prior to our involvement, that’s exactly where it was going. We do all this without government grants, programs, or assistance. We do it because it makes the best darn pork I’ve ever tasted and so far, that’s reason enough.

Maybe I should be applying for a grant instead. But for now I’m going to eat some bacon and call it done.

Dan Moore on sabtwitterDan Moore on sabgoogleDan Moore on sabfacebookDan Moore on sabemail
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

A new part of our website, and a new service we offer

I debated long and hard about how to handle this new part of our website. Should it be a whole separate website with a different domain? Should it be a sub-domain? Or should it simply be part of what we do now? In the end, this was all about supporting our farming operation so we added it right onto our farming website.

If you look on our menu bar, you’ll see that we have gunsmithing as a link now. What is the world is gunsmithing doing on a cute, fuzzy, cuddly, hippie farm’s website? Well, I addressed that in this post.

Suffice to say that nobody makes it as a small farmer on just the farming income. You have to have an off farm job to supplement your farming habit. I don’t want to go off farm, and I’m pretty good at working on stuff. Especially guns. And I can work on guns before the sun comes up, or after it goes down. Or I can work on them between customer visits.

This doesn’t mean we aren’t a hippie farm anymore. Just a hippie farm with some street cred. If you have an interest, go over to the gunsmithing link where you can see what we’ve done and what will be coming. If you don’t like guns, just pass this one by and we’ll be back to fuzzy critters in no time. Or read Drew’s latest post, it made me drool!

Dan Moore on sabtwitterDan Moore on sabgoogleDan Moore on sabfacebookDan Moore on sabemail
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

Bacon Mushroom & Swiss Burger with a Mornay Sauce

Bacon mushroom and swiss burger with a mornay sauce
Bacon mushroom and swiss burger with a mornay sauce

Have you ever fresh ground your meat to make burgers?  If not, buckle up partner because this is a game changer!  While everyone knows how to make yummy burgers, this takes the classic meal to whole ‘nother level.  Mixing and grinding your own meat not only opens up the burger playbook to infinite permutations of flavor, but it also leads to the most tender and juicy burgers you have ever had.  I play around with combinations of steak, ground beef, brisket, pork shoulder, bacon, pork belly, ground pork, lamb, venison and I have even used a little breakfast sausage with great results.  If you already own a KitchenAid mixer, you can get this meat grinder attachment from Amazon for $35 bucks and be on your way.

One of the biggest obstacles to a juicy burger is over compacted meat.  Even when I am mixing in Ninja Cow ground beef, I will run it through the grinder for good measure to make sure it is light and fluffy.  The key is to avoid man handling the patties when you are making them.

Fresh ground patties
Fresh ground patties with brisket, beef and bacon

I decided to make these burgers with Ninja Cow ground beef, brisket and a few slices of bacon.  I cooked them sous vide and they were the jam!

What you need

  • For the Burgers
    • 1 pound ground beef
    • 1 pound brisket (I recommend a cheap digital scale for $10 to $20 bucks on Amazon–it is necessary for cooking, baking or making pasta and it comes in handy for cutting up Dan’s brisket into 1 pound quantities for applications like this).
    • 3-4 bacon strips
    • salt & pepper
    • Swiss cheese
    • English muffins–this burger is a juicy mess and those golden toasted nooks and crannies are the perfect choice to hold up to the moisture without getting soggy.  It is also the perfect bun because it doesn’t try to steal the show.  Rather, it highlights the delicious burger you’re eating.
  • For the mushroom topping
    • 1/2 lb of mushrooms (8 oz)
    • 1 clove of minced garlic
    • 1 medium shallot minced
    • 1/2 cup chicken stock
    • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
    • 1 tbsp corn starch & water
    • salt & pepper
  • For the mornay sauce
    • 1 tbsp butter
    • 1 tbsp flour
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 1/3 cup freshly grated Gruyère cheese
    • salt & pepper

What you do

For the Burgers:

  1. Grind the meat and make your patties. Remember not to compress the meat too much.  Just squeeze it just enough so the patties hold together.  Sprinkle each side with salt and pepper.  Note that you don’t need any seasoning mixed in these patties.  The meat is so delicious that it honestly doesn’t need it.  I make these into four 1/2 pound burgers, but to each his own.  You could definitely make 6 burgers out of this that would hit the spot.
  2. Sous Vide:  Seal in a zip lock bag using the immersion technique, which is where you submerge the zip lock slowly with one top corner unsealed.  Submerge until the air is forced out and then seal the last corner without any water intrusion into the bag.  All cook times are perfect anywhere from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours.  Rare–120. Medium rare–128.  Medium–133.  Medium well– 140.  Remove from the bag, pat dry and let rest for 5 minutes.  Sear quickly in a screaming hot pan with bacon fat, duck fat or oil of your choosing.
  3. Non sous vide–Sear both sides in a screaming hot pan with a little bacon fat, duck fat or oil of your choice and then bake at 350 for 10-20 minutes depending on how well you like your burgers.
  4. Meanwhile, throw your mushrooms in another skillet on medium/high and saute until they have released their moisture–about 5 minutes.  Add the minced garlic and shallots and sweat for 2-3 minutes.  Add chicken stock and reduce by half.  Add balsamic vinegar and reduce by half.  Slowly add your corn starch slurry to make the reduction more viscous.     Add salt and pepper to taste.

The Mornay Sauce:

Mornay is a derivative of one of the 5 mother sauces from which all French sauces come from–Bechamel.  99% of cooking sounds more intimidating than it actually is and this sauce is no exception.  It only takes a few minutes to make and it can only be ruined by inattention and too much heat for too long.  Bechamel starts with a roux, which is equal parts flour and butter.  A corn starch slurry is the lazy man’s roux, but they serve the same purpose–adding starch needed to thicken your sauce.

  1. Add the flour and butter to a sauce pan on medium/high and stir constantly until the raw flour smell has gone and it begins to smell toasty.  This takes about 2 minutes.  You now have a roux that you can use to thicken anything you’re cooking in any recipe.  Cook the roux until it is brown and you’re getting into the French brown mother sauce.  Cook the roux until it is almost blackened and you’re into Cajun territory for dishes like gumbo and jambalaya.
  2. While whisking constantly, slowly stir in the milk until the sauce is simmering, but not at a rolling boil.  This is the only risky part of making this sauce, so pay attention during this phase.  You will know if it breaks because the milk fats will separate and it will become a greasy mess.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste.  You now have a Bechamel sauce.  While this recipe doesn’t call for it, at this point you can also add a pinch of nutmeg and/or a sachet bag (banquet garni) with fresh herbs like bay leaves, thyme, and parsley sprigs.
  3. What makes this a mornay is the addition  of cheese.  For this recipe, I chose Gruyère because it complements the Swiss cheese beautifully.  Using a whisk, slowly stir your Gruyère cheese into the simmering bechamel sauce until melted.  Taste and add more salt/pepper if needed. Enjoy!

If you want to have some fun, here are a few more variations to the bechamel sauce:

  • Soubise:  Sweat 1 onion in a skillet without browning it.  Puree in a food processor and add to 1.5 cups of bechamel.
  • Cream sauce–add 1/2 cup of cream to 1.5 cups of bechamel.
  • Poblano–blacken, peal, mince and add to the bechamel.
  • Anything that suits your fancy and complements your meal

Psh–who said French cooking was difficult?  People in fancy restaurants.  Intimidating? Initially.  Difficult?  No.  Delicious?  Incredible.

Drew on sablinkedinDrew on sabfacebookDrew on sabemail
Fan at Ninja Cow Farm
Drew is a husband, father of 3, lover of all things culinary and a lawyer in his spare time. You have to eat your whole life, so you may as well learn how to cook.

More good news on why fat is actually good for you

From a friend of mine this morning, this article on dairy fat.

As I’ve said many times before, fat isn’t the problem. The government’s insistence that we eat less fat has done nothing but wreck our collective health.

One more nail is being driven into the coffin of fat being bad for you, but most of us still believe what we’ve been told over the past 60 years.

Dan Moore on sabtwitterDan Moore on sabgoogleDan Moore on sabfacebookDan Moore on sabemail
Dan is a dad, a husband, a business owner, a pilot, a sailor, a scuba diver, a machinist, a welder, a woodworker, a day laborer, a teacher, a mentor and a writer. The short form of all the previous is he's a farmer.

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