With the publication of their first book, Things cooks love, Sur La Table established itself as a premiere author of cookbooks. Their second work, the art and soul of baking continued the tradition of excellence. Working now with Sarah Jay, Knives Cooks Love adds further luster to a body of work that we hope will continue to grow. Every aspect of these books shines, from the meticulous attention to detail, to the exuberant recipes, to the production lavished on the books by publisher Andrews McMeel. Like the two preceding books, Knives Cooks Love is built on the foundation of cooking which begins with the sensory pleasures of food. These books are heady, they invigorate, make you rush headlong into the kitchen.
Cooking is alchemy, and the perfectly sharpened knife is the catalyst to set ingredients into play. Chefs travel with their knives, allow no one to sharpen them but themselves, and fall to weeping if they are damaged in any way. With that thought to guide us, it is not a stretch to say that knives are the most important instruments in the kitchen, and we will go even further to state that you cannot cook a dish to perfection without that perfect knife with its perfectly sharpened blade. As Chef Emeril Lagasse states in the introduction, "...discover the world of the tool that provides a comfort zone in the kitchen: the knife, the truest symbol of the culinary edge."
As the title indicates, this book is a guide to the selection and care of knives, to the techniques that, once mastered, will make a knife feel like an extension of your fingers, and will become a beloved friend conspiring with the cook to create the best dishes. And like a great chef, the home cook will master sharpening their knives proudly. We do not recommend weeping over kitchen crises, however.
Lavishly illustrated with photographs to guide every aspect of using a knife, Knives Cooks Love puts an expert at the cook's side. The book discusses the various metals used for that all-important blade, and how that blade is made. This includes a discussion of ceramic blades which they call "the new kid on the block." In a section called "How to Decode a Knife's Function," they analyze the blades - the tip, thickness, length, flexibility, width, curvature, edge type so the reader will understand why each knife is perfectly suited to its task. This is a short section, clearly written, and easily mastered so when you are purchasing a knife you know exactly what to look for. Each of these knives is individually analyzed from paring knives to cleavers and shears and all knives in between. They give advice on buying knives and cutting boards.
Once purchased, the knife must be maintained, and the section on sharpening is masterfully presented. Beautifully illustrated, you will understand honing steels and sharpening stones and learn how to use them correctly. The book follows this with a section on caring for knives, which includes "how to wash a knife." These are your kitchen babies and should be cared for as you would any prized possession.
The real fun of owning a spectacular knife comes when you work with it. Responsive and obedient, that knife will be sensitive to the cook's demands. Knives Cooks Love will show you exactly how to grip the knife, where to angle it against foods, what the cutting motions are, how to protect oneself so the food is cut, not a finger.
Continuing to illustrate extensively, Knives Cooks Love covers all the fundamentals, basic techniques for vegetables and fruits (yes, you can cut a mango, or pare an artichoke to perfection). There is a separate chapter for meats, poultry and fish where you will rise closer to chef heaven by learning advanced skills from easily cutting a chicken in parts or boning a breast or chicken thigh, even butterflying. When Thanksgiving rolls around, that turkey will be perfectly carved, or on Easter, a bone-in leg of lamb will render the most meat possible with knowledgeable carving. Should a friend go fishing and give you a fresher-than-fresh catch, you can fillet and skin the fish yourself. Ironically, a good knife is not cheap, but the money saved with that quality blade will pay back the cost over time.
Recipes are given throughout the chapters on technique, and they are luscious recipes from Spanish Potato Tortilla with Serrano Ham, an omelet with perfectly diced potato and onion to Roasted Cauliflower-Gruyere Gratin, Arroz con Pollo with Chorizo and Capers, and Bread and Butter Pudding with Rum and Crystallized Ginger. Just imagine the perfection that Mango-Cucumber Salsa will achieve when you know how to cut a mango.