Hello my Foodie Friends!
The upcoming week includes a very fun holiday; it is St. Patrick’s Day. My mother, who was Italian, used to say “Everyone is Irish on St. Patty’s day.” My father, who was Irish, always agreed because if he didn’t he ran the risk of not getting her delicious Corned Beef and Cabbage. So here is to all of our “Irish” lads and lassies.
So how did Corned Beef and Cabbage become an American dish served on St. Patrick’s Day? From the Middle Ages until sometime in the 19th century, the Irish were known for producing salted meats. It was actually considered their specialty. Most of the salted meats created in Ireland were done so for trade. The salted meats were deemed too luxurious for the poor Irish, so it went out of the country and the Irish would have to resort to other measures for meaty pleasure. The closest and cheapest thing the Irish could get their hands on in terms of cured meats was salt pork — meat that’s similar to bacon. It was a staple for the Irish, and could be found in almost every home. As the Irish migrated to the United States, they couldn’t find salt pork in their new home, and bacon, the closest substitute, was insanely expensive. Thus, they turned to corned beef. It was the one thing Irish immigrants would eat in the U.S. because it reminded them of home.
The truth is, most Irish folks don’t eat corned beef and cabbage nowadays. However it’s become a tradition Irish-Americans readily adopted, and welcomed as part of the Irish-American heritage we have here now.
Preparing Corned Beef and Cabbage does require some essential tools. As you look for tools to use to make your Corned Beef and Cabbage; you may need a Dutch oven or a stock pot, and a good chef (cooks knife). The chef’s knife (sometimes called a cook’s knife) is the most important knife to have in your kitchen and within your knife collection. A chef’s knife is the go-to tool for more than 90 percent of daily kitchen tasks including most slicing and dicing of fruits, vegetables, meats, and fish. And while a chef’s knife may be the “king of the kitchen,” it should not be used to butcher or carve poultry, to remove the skin of large vegetables such as butternut squash, or, as some people have tried, to puncture a hole in cans. The broadness of a chef’s knife blade makes it unwieldy for tasks better suited to a smaller knife.
Many of our customers ask me what is the best brand knife to have. Choosing a chef’s knife “is like a dance partner.” A knife that feels comfortable and graceful in your hand might feel klutzy to someone else. When you start shopping for that perfect chef’s knife—one that will make slicing, dicing, chopping, and mincing more pleasurable, precise, and effortless—it’s important to identify your personal preferences, and to realize that there isn’t one knife that’s right for everyone. Finding your ideal knife might take a little time, but you’ll know it when you’ve found it. Once you’ve got a knife in your hand you should immediately get a sense of its fit. It should feel comfortable, like a natural extension of your hand. It should inspire confidence, not instill fear. If it feels wrong, move on. If it feels pretty good; start chopping (or mock chopping), noting how you respond to the knife’s physical characteristics.
Weight: You’ll need to try several knives to find your ideal knife weight. One school of thought believes a hefty chef’s knife cuts through foods easier because it “falls” with more force. Another thinks a lighter chef’s knife flows more freely and lets you maneuver the knife more skillfully. Bottom line: Choose the style that feels right to you.
Balance: “Perfect balance” is in the palm of the beholder. Judge balance by gripping the knife by its handle. If it feels uncomfortably weighted toward the back of the handle or toward the blade, then it probably isn’t for you. An unbalanced knife will make you work harder. Side-to-side balance is also important. When you come down on the blade, the knife shouldn’t feel unstable, as if it wants to teeter toward one side or the other.
Size: An 8-inch chef’s knife is the most popular among home cooks because of its versatility. A 10-incher’s longer blade can cut more volume but may feel intimidating. A 6-inch chef’s knife can offer an element of agility, like that of a paring knife, but falls short when working with volume or when slicing through something large, like a watermelon.
As you prepare for your St. Patrick’s Day celebration events, stop by Compliments to the Chef, your Neighborhood Kitchen and Cutlery store, and let us help you choose the best knife for you. We carry some of the best knives made in the world. As you celebrate, be sure to compliment the chef and the host:
“Corned beef and cabbage and leprechaun men. Colorful rainbows hide gold at their end. Shamrocks and clovers with three leaves plus one. Dress up in green—add a top hat for fun. Steal a quick kiss from the lasses in red. A tin whistle tune off the top of my head. Friends, raise a goblet and offer this toast— ‘The luck of the Irish and health to our host!’” - Richelle E. Goodrich
Remember my Foodie Friends “Life Happens in the Kitchen!”
John & Paula