Chickens, I am nothing if not a true Gemini.
The dichotomies I possess are infinite and mostly ridiculous. I am so often of two minds about things that it is staggering and exhausting, requiring many naps. For example, I have long believed in the following truths:
1. If I cook a lovely dinner for my sweetie, I have worked long and hard to bring him pleasure, and he should clean up the kitchen.
2. If my sweetie cooks me a lovely dinner, he has messed up the kitchen and should clean up after himself.
You can see the problem.
(I mean, beyond that I am lazy and hate to clean the kitchen.)
When it comes to kitchen tools, I am at perfect odds with myself. On the one hand, I do actually believe that one only needs possess a dozen simple basic pieces of equipment in order to produce wonderful meals.
On the other hand….
I genuinely believe in my heart of hearts that as long as you have a good sharp paring knife, 8” chef’s knife and one serrated blade, there is nothing you cannot accomplish.
I know, I know. It is embarrassing.
But I have no choice but to embrace it, and recognize that I can support both sides of the coin. So you can imagine my delight when Shun knives, long respected for the superior quality of their products, sent me a care package! I had connected with them at the Housewares Show in Chicago this Spring, and was drooling over their products, as was Charming Suitor. Shun knives are made using traditional Japanese methods of steel production for blades that are super thin, super sharp, and gorgeous to look at, with Pakka wood handles specially shaped to fit in the hand solidly for perfect control. I only previously owned one Shun knife, a lovely little mini cleaver vegetable knife that I find myself turning to again and again for small work for garnishes, and making supremes of citrus fruits. So I was very excited to open a box to discover four new knives that they were offering to let me test.
All of these knives appear at first blush to be specialty knives, which would put them solidly in the “only if you can afford it/are a crazy person like me who has compulsion to collect things” category. But one of the fabulous things about writing this blog is that many companies recognize that their products need actual testing, and are generous about letting people like me play! What I discovered was that these knives are much more useful than their “specialty” appearance might make you think.
The 8” rocking knife has become my go-to for anything that needs fine mincing or chopping. It makes quick work of delicate herbs, but tackles toasted nuts equally brilliantly. Its large flat blade is perfect for crushing a clove of garlic.
The Serrated Offset Bread Knife does indeed make genius slices of bread, goes like a dream thru crusty baguettes but doesn’t crush or tear tender brioche. But it does so much more. In the heart of tomato season, nothing does a better job of slicing smoothly, as thin as you please. I love it for trimming artichokes, and slicing steaks right off the grill. I haven’t touched my regular serrated knife since it arrived.
I’ve talked about the usefulness of an 8” Santoku knife before, since the little divots in the blade mean that the items you are cutting don’t stick to the blade. Shun’s version is wonderful, going thru meats and cheeses and veggies smooth as silk. A new favorite task? Melons of every size and shape. The large blade takes off rind like a dream, but the dimpled blade ensures that as you cube, the cubes stay on the cutting board.
Finally the little Bird’s Beak paring knife, with its flat cutting surface, I’m using for slicing shallots and spring onions, peeling small fruits and veggies, and creating strips of citrus zest for cocktails.
And because they are fabulously cool, Shun has given me one of their fabulous paring knives to give away to one lucky reader!
So, comment below with a tale of a piece of kitchen equipment that surprised you…something you thought was a unitasker that has revealed multiple uses, or something you use for an unusual or unexpected purpose before 11:59pm on Thursday July 29, and our friends at Random.Org will pick a winner who we will announce on Friday.
In the meantime, thank you to all who wrote to tell me you saw Off The Menu mentioned by Jennifer Weiner on CBS Sunday Morning, it was very exciting. If you missed it, you can watch it HERE, I cannot recommend all of the other books heartily enough, and of course, Jennifer’s new book The Next Best Thing is one of the best things I have read this summer, so be sure to check it out as well.
And if you loved Off The Menu, I do hope you will continue to help me promote it…word of mouth is everything, and those great Amazon reviews don’t hurt either! Don’t forget that if you missed being able to see me at one of my appearances, you can always get signed or personalized books shipped to you. Just head to my snazzy new website www.staceyballis.com and go to the Contact page.
Yours in Good Taste,