Making the cut, and making it matter

And we’re back!

It is a cloudy Thursday, which meant I had some awesome light in my kitchen to take some photos for you. My apologies again for the delay, to be frank I was just completely in over my head between work and my abuela coming into town. All is back to normal now and the show can go on!

So I would like to start off by clarifying why I feel the urge to show you how to dice and chop like a pro. It is because I want you to eat delicious things that look amazing. Not in a fancy way, but more in a functional way. When your ingredients are evenly chopped or diced, they also cook evenly. Meaning, no little burnt bits of food (or at least a negligible amount) and no more mushy vegetables! Cooking starts on the cutting board, and if you take care in what you do there the rest will be a breeze and way more delicious…which is ultimately what matters the most, right?

Mise en place

Having your cutting area set up well will keep you from running back and forth between the garbage can, pantry, etc. This is what mine looks like:board

This set-up is for chopping tomatoes. I have a clean cutting board, a bowl for the seed pulp, my paring knife, my (sharp!) chef’s knife, a towel, and a big bowl for scraps. Not pictured: really, really, clean hands.

The onion

The onion is tricky. When I first learned how to professionally dice an onion at my first kitchen job I was so shocked that no one had shown me sooner. I had wasted so many years chopping onions like a crazy cartoon ninja, followed by weeping like I had just watched Beaches for the first time. (Remember Beaches? Anyone? Where is Bette these days?) Anyway…here is how to cut onions like a chef, not a cartoon ninja:

First off, let’s identify the root of the onion, which is the bottom part with all the little strings sticking out. This part of the onion is important! It is holding all the layers together.

1. Keep this intact and start by carefully cutting the top of the onion with your paring knife.

onion

2. Peel the paper-like skin off the onion. I use my paring knife for this part too to avoid getting onion juice all up on my fingers.

3 & 4. Sit the onion, root-side-up and slice it right in half.

5. Lay the onion cut-side down and make horizontal cuts about 1/2″ apart. Get as close to the root as possible without actually cutting through it. (Very important.) Keep one hand on the top of the onion for stability.

6 &7. Make vertical slices now, also 1/2″ inch apart. (again, don’t cut that root!)

8. The most satisfying part. Turn the onion 90 degrees and slice against the previous cut. Also 1/2″ inch apart.

9. What you end up with is a perfect, evenly, diced onion.

Solid vegetables & fruit

apple

I used an apple because it is familiar, and I can eat it after I’m done…unlike a raw potato.

1 &2. Examine your subject. Remove its stem and unsightly bits. Identify it’s flattest side.

If it does not have a flat area, make one with a shallow cut on the most irregular side. This is for stability and safety.

3. Slice off a slab that is the thickness you ultimately want your final dice to be. I went with 1/2″ for continuity in this post but you can go as tiny or big as you want or the recipe calls for. The size of this slab will determine the outcome…so really think about it.

4. Start with cuts that are spaced apart by the same measurement we decided on. Keep them as straight & parallel as possible.

5. Finish with perpendicular cuts with that same measurement.

6. What you end up with is perfect cubes, that will cook evenly and look quite impressive.

The tomato

tomato2

…should not be a big sloppy mess. If your knife if sharp, you’re halfway there. The rest is a simple step to save you major clean-up.

1. Cut your tomato in half.

2. With your paring knife make a small incision on either side of the core.

3. This cut will allow you to easily push out the seed pulp. (You can use it for tomato vinaigrette later!)

4. Dice that tomato up…and admire your dry cutting board.

I hope that this provided some help in someone’s quest to make cooking easier. Starting with proper, even cuts will greatly improve everything you do. And, it will probably be a little uneven at first but that’s ok! There are other items that require special attention to prepping such as hard squashes and really irregularly shaped vegetables. I’ll touch on those in the fall when I start to make ALL of the squash things. I would love to answer any questions you may have concerning prepping, dicing, chopping, or anything really! Please feel free to e-mail me at therighteousknife@gmail.com.

Happy Thursday!

xo. alicia.

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