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    The Basics of Knives
       excerpted from How To Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food

      ... see great recipes from Mark Bittman the Minimalist on our GREAT CHEFS page!


    Chapter One


    Equipment

    You can spend tens of thousands of dollars on kitchen equipment, or you can spend a couple of hundred bucks and be done with it. If you're lucky enough to inherit hand-me-downs from your parents or other friends or relatives, you probably have most of what you need already. This is not to say that some modern appliances are not worth having--if you're going to cook regularly, you will want a blender, a food processor, and an electric mixer. With the exception of an electric ice cream maker--which is a wonderful luxury--other appliances take up more room than they're worth for most people.

    I recommend that you cook for a while with minimal equipment so that you can discover your preferences and therefore your priorities. Perhaps you need three or four skillets, a huge stockpot, and a spring-form pan, but have no use for cookie cutters or a pizza peel; it depends on what it is you want to eat. Here, then, is a list--with highly personal comments--about what you ought to start with and what you might want to wait for. Items that I consider essential are in red.

    The Basics of Knives

    First of all, don't buy them from late-night TV. Go to a good department store or a kitchen supply store and look at those with high carbon-steel alloy blades. (The old-fashioned non-alloy blades take a wonderful edge but require more frequent sharpening and discolor immediately. Everyone--from master chefs to cookbook authors to experienced home cooks--uses high carbon-steel now.) The handles may be wood or plastic, although plastic handles are somewhat more durable and dishwasher-safe (nevertheless, you're always better off washing a good knife by hand, since its blade may get nicked in the dishwasher), so I'd go with these. These knives are easily sharpened, and will last a lifetime if you don't whack too many chicken bones with them. A good eight-inch chef's knife, essentially an all-purpose blade that you will use for chopping and slicing, should set you back no more than thirty dollars, although you can spend many times that if you like; you may want a ten-inch one as well. Buy one that feels good in your hand.

    Hold off, too, on a carving, or slicing knife--a long, thin blade that is not something you will use every day. In a pinch, you can carve or slice with your chef's knife, although not as precisely.

    You also need two or three paring knives, for peeling, trimming, and other precise tasks--three or four inches long. Again, buy those that feel good in your hand, and don't spend more than five or six dollars on each. A thin-bladed boning knife is very useful, not only for boning but for piercing meat as it cooks to judge doneness; but you can wait for this. Serrated blades are best for cutting bread--unless you only eat presliced bread, buy a long, sturdy bread knife; this is a good place to economize, since even the ten-dollar models work fine.

    You should consider buying a sharpening steel, which you use by drawing each side of the knife across it several times, holding the blade at a fifteen- to twenty-degree angle until the knife will cut the edge of a piece of paper held loosely in your hand. But many home cooks (including myself) have trouble maintaining a good edge with a steel.

    The best and easiest (and unfortunately most expensive) way to keep knives sharp is with a good electric knife sharpener, which will set you back fifty to one hundred dollars, but is a worthwhile investment. Your other alternatives are to sharpen knives with a whetstone, which takes even more skill than a steel (ask a handy friend, or an uncle, or the guy at the hardware store), or to bring knives to the local kitchen supply store or a good hardware store and get them sharpened professionally. Should you choose either of the latter options, you need a steel to maintain that edge in between sharpenings. (Steels do not sharpen knives, but they do keep the edge fine and straight.)

    Remember this about all knives: Dull ones are dangerous. They slip off the food you're cutting and right onto the closest surface, which may be your finger. Although you must be extremely careful with sharp knives--casual contact will lead to a real cut--at least they go where you want them to. Respect your knives: Start with good ones, keep them sharp, and they will become your friends.

     

    Wusthof Classic 7 Piece Knife Block Set
    Wusthof Classic 7 Piece Knife Block Set
    Wusthof Trident Classic series knives begin as a single blank of Wusthof's specially formulated high carbon stainless steel alloy. A combination of traditional skills and the latest automation continue the grinding, polishing and tapering until the final cutting edge is ultra-sharp. The synthetic Hostaform-C handles are then seamlessly fastened to the full tang by three rivets. The signature Wusthof bolster adds heft and weight and ensures proper balance during use. The blade hardness is calibrated to resist dulling, yet allow for easy sharpening when necessary. Dishwasher safe, but hand washing recommended. Lifetime guarantee.

    Set includes:

    9 slot oak block
    3.5 in. Paring Knife
    8 in. Serrated Bread Knife
    6 in. Sandwich/Utility Knife
    8 in. Chef's Knife
    9 in. Sharpening Steel
    Kitchen Shears

    Henckels Professional-S 7 Piece Block Set
    Henckels Professional-S 7 Piece Block Set J.A. Henckels has been manufacturing top quality knives since its founding in Solingen, Germany, more than 260 years ago. Simple, heavy duty and functional, all Henckels knives are made from high carbon, no-stain steel and crafted using the FRIODUR ice-hardening process for maximum blade strength and a long-lasting sharp edge. Knives in the Professional Series feature a triple riveted Novadur handle with fully visible tang construction for proper balance and great strength. Dishwasher safe.

    Set includes:

    3 in. Parer
    5 in. Serrated/Utility knife
    8 in. Carver
    8 in. Chef's knife
    9 in. Steel
    Kitchen Shears
    Hardwood Block with Steak Slots


    How To Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food
    Great Food Made Simple!
    Here's the breakthrough one-stop cooking reference for today's generation of cooks! Nationally known cooking authority Mark Bittman shows you how to prepare great food for all occasions using simple techniques, fresh ingredients, and basic kitchen equipment. Just as important, How to Cook Everything takes a relaxed, straightforward approach to cooking, so you can enjoy yourself in the kitchen and still achieve outstanding results.
    Buy this book at Barnes & Noble

    The Minimalist Cooks Dinner: More than 100 Recipes for Fast Weeknight Meals and Casual Entertaining
    Back with another splendid collection, America’s most popular cooking authority and author of How to Cook Everything, presents more than 100 fast, sophisticated main courses for home cooks of every skill level.
    The Minimalist Cooks Dinner showcases Mark Bittman’s signature ease and imagination, and focuses on center-of-the-plate main dishes. And, in this new volume, he also provides recipes for classic, versatile side dishes as well as recommendations for wine and food pairings. With a majority of its main dish recipes taking less than thirty minutes to prepare, this is truly the book every busy cook has been waiting for. Every recipe in The Minimalist Cooks Dinner is big on flavor, drawing on the global pantry and international repertoire that sets Bittman apart.
    This inventive collection offers a refreshing new take on standards, along with ideas that will inspire both novices and experienced home cooks to branch out, making it the perfect solution for weeknight after-work meals or elegant weekend dinner parties. From Steamed Chicken Breasts with Scallion-Ginger Sauce to Korean-Style Beef Wrapped in Lettuce Leaves to Roast Fish with Meat Sauce, Bittman banishes the ordinary with an exciting range of choices. Also covering hearty pasta dishes, steaks, pork, veal, lamb, chicken, and a wide assortment of seafood, The Minimalist Cooks Dinner is the answer when you’re looking for “satisfying dishes with a minimum of effort.”
    About the Author: Mark Bittman is the creator and author of the popular weekly New York Times column “The Minimalist,” and a frequent contributor to the newspaper’s Dining InDining Out section. His previous books include The Minimalist Cooks at Home (winner of an IACP Award), How to Cook Everything (a four-time award winner, with more than 400,000 copies in print), Fish (winner of an IACPJulia Child Cookbook Award) and, with Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Jean-Georges: Cooking at Home with a Four-Star Chef (winner of a James Beard Award) and Simple to Spectacular. He lives in Connecticut.
    Buy this book at Barnes & Noble

    Mark Bittman's Quick and Easy Recipes from the New York Times : Featuring 350 Recipes from the Author of how to Cook Everything and the Best Recipes in the World
    Mark Bittman’s New York Times column, “The Minimalist,” is one of the most frequently clipped parts of the paper’s Dining section. For Bittman’s millions of fans who regularly pore over their clippings, here is reason to rejoice: A host of Bittman’s wonderfully delicious and easy recipes, 350 in all, are now available in a single paperback.
    In sections that cover everything from appetizers, soups, and sauces to meats, vegetables, side dishes, and desserts, Mark Bittman’s Quick and Easy Recipes from The New York Times showcases the elegant and flexible cooking style for which Bittman is famous, as well as his deep appreciation for fresh ingredients prepared with minimal fuss. Readers will find tantalizing recipes from all over, each requiring little more than basic techniques and a handful of ingredients. Cold Tomato Soup with Rosemary, Parmesan Cups with Orzo Risotto, Slow-Cooked Ribs, Pumpkin Panna Cotta—the dishes here are perfect for simple weeknight family meals or stress-free entertaining. Certain to appeal to anyone—from novices to experienced cooks—who wants to whip up a sophisticated and delicious meal easily, this is a collection to savor, and one destined to become a kitchen classic.
    Buy this book at Barnes& Noble
    The Best Recipes in the World: More than 1,000 International Dishes to Cook at Home
    In this highly ambitious and accomplished work, which spans the globe, Mark Bittman gathers the best recipes that people cook every day on every continent in the world. And when he brings his immensely popular no-frills approach to dishes that might previously have been considered “exotic,” cooks gladly follow where they once feared to tread.
    Bittman, in more than one thousand recipes, shows American cooks that there are so many other places besides Italy or France to turn to for inspiration. Asian food now rivals European cuisine’s popularity, and this book reflects that: it’s the first to give equal emphasis to European and Asian cuisine, and the easy-to-follow recipes for such favorites as Stir-Fried Vegetables with Nam Pla from Vietnam, Pad Thai from Thailand, Salmon Teriyaki from Japan, Black Bean and Garlic Spareribs from China, and Tandoori Chicken from India will be a hit with home cooks looking to add exciting new tastes and cosmopolitan flair to their everyday cooking. In addition, other less-familiar cuisines such as Turkish, Spanish, and Mexican are also explored in depth.
    Shop locally, cook globally–Mark Bittman makes it so easy: • Many recipes can be made ahead or prepared in under thirty minutes
    • More than one hundred line drawings
    • Sidebars and instructional drawings make unfamiliar techniques a snap
    • 52 international menus, information on ingredients, and much more make this an essential addition to any cook’s shelf

    The Best Recipes in the World is destined to be a classic that will change the way Americans think about everyday food.It’s simply like no other cookbook in the world.
    Buy this book at Barnes & Noble

     

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