Happy Valley Chow

gour-mand (noun): one who is excessively fond of eating and drinking

Corn Chowder

Over the past few months I have had the great pleasure of working with some great companies and demoing their products. To me, the most important thing in the kitchen is the chef knife. If you find yourself asking "I want to become a better cook, what should I buy" the first thing I recommend is a good quality knife. Instead of spending $100+ on a mediocre knife set, take that money and buy one really good knife. Typically a good quality chef knife, like Henckel or Wusthof, is going start around the $100. Since Christmas is going to be here before you know it, why not ask for a new chef knife! If you are looking to upgrade your kitchen knife, then head over to Chef Knives To Go, they have the best knife selection bar none! They were kind enough to hook me up with the best knife I have ever used, a Takeda Gyuto AS 240mm and Takeda Hand Held Whetstone

Takeda Blacksmith was founded in 1920 and moved to Niimi, Okayama (Japan) in 1951 and produce hand-forged blades and tools such as kitchen knives, hoes, hatchets, etc. The third generation master blacksmith, Shosui Takeda has succeeded in forging blades from the high quality carbon steel, Aogami Super Steel (AS). The blades consist of "AS", forged in its entirety by hand, as it has been done for generations. Each blade holds its edge extraordinarily well and resharpens easily. All his knives have 50/50 edges and octagonal handles so they are good for either right handed or left handed users.

This knife is incredible, by far the best knife I have ever used. It cuts through anything like butter and makes your life so much easier in the kitchen. It honestly feels like the blade actually gets sharper every time I use it, which I didn't think was possible. The Aogami Super Steel has really high blade retention, you are spending less time on a whetstone trying to keep the edge. The build quality of the knife is superb and you can feel it when you use the knife. Check out this video of them making Takeda Knives:

The Takeda Hand Held Whetstone is very easy to use for home users or professionals. All you do is place a wood board or a cutting board diagonally to you and put the kitchen knife on it with the edge about 1 cm over the board. Then take the whetstone and after getting it wet, you move the stone over the knife back and forth over the entire blade. Flip the knife for double edged knives and repeat. The grey side is a medium grit stone and the white side is a fine grit stone for finishing. The wood stick in between is not for holding but rather to protect your wrist. Typically with a whetstone you lay it down on a work surface and slide the blade of your knife across. I am still trying to get used to this sharpening technique, especially trying to keep the angle right. But, like my saxophone professor always said, "It's not practice makes perfect...it's perfect practice makes perfect" and I'm sure I'll get the hang of it soon. So far, I love both products. Onto the recipe!

Corn Chowder

I figured the best way to really test my Takeda is to make a soup with a lot of vegetables and chopping. So here you go, a nice and hearty corn chowder. I also love going to Panera and getting their broccoli cheese soup in a bread bowl. So, I ran down to the local Panera and picked up some sourdough bread bowls. Enjoy!

  • 6 ears of corn, 4 cups frozen kernels
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 slices of bacon, chopped 
  • 1 1/4 cup onion, minced
  • 1 cup red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, diced
  • 1/2 tsp garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups yellow potatoes, diced
  • 3 cups tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 4.5 oz canned chilles 
  • 1 cup monterey jack
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • tabasco sauce, to taste

In a blender or food processor, add the heavy cream and 3 1/4 cups corn kernels, puree the mixture until smooth. Reserve the other 3/4 cup of corn kernels. 

Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat and add in the chopped bacon. Cook until crisp, about 8 min. Add in the onion, red pepper, celery and garlic. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. 

Add in the chicken stock, potatoes, tomatoes, corn and chilies. Bring to a simmer, cover and let simmer until potatoes are fork tender. About 20 minutes. 

Add in the corn and cream mixture, tabasco, monterey jack, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for another 5 minutes until every thing is hot and.

Kitchen Word of the Day

A mirepoix can be a combination of celery, onions, and carrots. There are many regional mirepoix variations, which can sometimes be just one of these ingredients, or include additional spices. Mirepoix, raw, roasted or sautéed with butter or olive oil, is the flavor base for a wide variety of dishes, such as stocks, soups, stews and sauces. The three ingredients are commonly referred to as aromatics.
Similar combinations of vegetables are known as holy trinity in Creole cooking, refogado (braised onions, garlic and tomato) in Portuguese, soffritto (onions, garlic and celery) in Italian, sofrito in Spanish, suppengrün (soup greens) in German (usually purchased in bundles and consisting of a leek, a carrot and piece of celeriac), and włoszczyzna in Polish, and typically consists of carrots, parsnips, parsley root, celery root, leeks, cabbage leaves, and sometimes celery and flat-leaf parsley.

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