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American Cooking and Technique for Beginners and Intermediates

My Review of Bosca 18 x 27 Home Desk Pad in Chestnut Correspondent

Posted on | May 24, 2012 | No Comments

Originally submitted at Luggage Source

Padded leather side panels
Flat black writing surface made of true battleship linoleum
Soft felt bottom to protect desktop surface
18.0” x 27.0” x 0.5”

Nice Piece of Desk Furniture

By Boar D Laze from Monrovia, CA on 5/24/2012


5out of 5

Primary use: Personal

Was this a gift?: No

The blotter is very well made with high-quality leather, as you’d expect from Bosca. The pad itself is made from a rather heavy, but flexible piece of linoleum which is an excellent backer for even the most demanding fountain-pen writer. Me, for instance.

You’ll need to supply and trim your own blotter paper.

You can spend a lot more on a desk blotter, but can’t get better. If you want to dress your desk with the best possible furnishings this is as good as it gets; and at a reasonable price to boot.

Very highly recommended, without reservation.


Yet Another Brief Note

Posted on | January 3, 2011 | 11 Comments

My father passed away on December 12th.  He was a good man, lived a long and fulfilling life and considered himself successful.  Death came quickly, without too much pain, and as a friend.  He faced his own mortality with as much courage and dignity as anyone I’ve ever seen.

His death, as well as other changes in my circumstanced convinced me to retire from my most recent occupation.  Once I get everything straightened out and stable, I should have more time to devote to CFG as part of my new career — puttering .

But in the meantime there is so much stuff to do, and it is so loaded with emotional  freight that I’m finding it very difficult to finish several nearly-done entries and post them. Of the “Five Phases of Loss” I seem to have gone straight to “Anger, Blame and Victimhood” and will likely remain there for some time.  If you know me in the real world, and I seem surly… it’s your fault, you jerk.

Grudge bearing or not, it shouldn’t be tooooooo much longer before I start posting again.

In the future, there will be espresso blogging.  Our old Pasquini Livia 90 died several months ago after nearly 22 years of faithful service. We bought a La Cimbali Junior DT/1 Casa to replace it from Chris Coffee.  While the credit card was still smoking, we also bought a La Cimbali Max/Hybrid grinder.  As soon as my retirement account frees up (what’s taking so long?) I’ll buy a roaster as well — probably a Behmor 1600.  In the meantime, we’ll soldier on with other peoples’ roasting.

While the office company card in my name still worked, we also purchased a “regular” coffee maker (Cuisinart) and an electric tea brewer (Trini-Tea) to add to the other items (press pot, electric kettle, etc.) in the room which serves as our sanctus sanctorum for Mocha, Our Lady of Hot Water.

So, yes.  There will be espresso blogging..


Just A Brief Note

Posted on | December 12, 2010 | 5 Comments

My father’s health took a sudden turn for the very much worse, and what with that and a few other things I haven’t been able to devote much attention to CFG.  The situation will resolve itselve in a few days.

In the meantime, I apologize for not responding to comments in a timely way; and for not adding posts.  There are some holiday recipes that will have to wait for Arbor day, some knife technique and some 0ther knife posts.

On the subject of knives, I really owe Mark Richmond at Chef’s Knives To Go a huge shoutout.  He’s a great guy, with a great, “normal” take on knives, and CKTG is fantastic.  When and if things ever find their own level again, I’ll do a post on CKTG.


Bre’r Debbil Likes Him Some Seafood – fra diavolo

Posted on | November 5, 2010 | 2 Comments

Pasta Fra Diavolo is not a traditional Italian dish.  It’s origin is more likely in Italian-America than Italy itself.  That’s important only to free you from the idea that when you make Fra Diavolo you have to conform to some ancient tradition and get everything just so.  Like cioppino, it’s more about “catch of the day” price and availability, and personal taste than cooking it just the way it’s creator did.

Speaking of improvising…

A recipe this size calls for about 1 lb of shellfish.  This particular mix is very nice and quite decorative.  But, you can use whatever you like in whatever proportions you like.  A pound of shrimp without any of the other shellfish would be just fine.

As you’ll see, there are scallops on the ingredient list.  A good deal of what makes fresh, expensive, large “diver scallops” so special will not survive the assertiveness of Fra Diavolo.  Small “bay scallops” are probably a better choice than divers, and frozen are fine as well.

As to the lobster – raw, frozen, “Pacific” tails will do just fine.  But you can do whatever you like.  If you want to sacrifice a whole 2-1/2 pounder and use it for all the shellfish.  You certainly have my blessing.
Some people like to use monkfish aka “poor man’s lobster,” instead of lobster.  Fine, but monkfish requires careful trimming (get all the membrane off), and be very careful not to overcook it.

This recipe calls for making a shellfish fumet as you go along and using it as a major flavor component in the sauce.  But, you may use peeled shrimp and skip the clams and mussels.  Replace it with a small bottle of clam juice.

The Pernod (and the other anise-ish liquor substitutes) aren’t Italian at all.  But trust me.


Quantity: Serves 4
Difficulty: Lots of mise, lots of sequence, lots of assembly, and takes some time; But as long as you take it step by step, not at all difficult.


The Sauce:
•    1/4 lb shrimp, peeled and cleaned
•    1/4 lb calamari, cleaned and cut into rings and tentacles
•    4 oz lobster tail, defrosted and removed from the shell; or omit the lobster and bump up the quantities of the shrimp and squid
•    6 or 7 tbs EVOO, divided
•    3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced
•    1 large onion
•    1/4 lb bay scallops (bay scallops are fine for this); or, omit the scallops and bump up the quantities of the shrimp and squid
•    4 prawns, langoustine, or very large shrimp) in the shells
•    8 live, smallish clams (cherrystones, steamers, etc.) in their shells
•    8 live mussels in their shells, cleaned and bearded
•    1 cup dry Vermouth or white wine, divided
•    (optional) 1/4 cup Pernod, Ouzo, Raki, etc.
•    14-1/2 oz can of (best quality) chopped tomatoes
•    1-1/2 tsp dried, hot red pepper flakes, or more to taste
•    1/2 tsp dried oregano
•    1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped or chiffonade
•    1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
•    Salt and Pepper

The Pasta:
•    1 gallon boiling water (at least)
•    2 tbs table salt per gallon of water
•    1 pound dried pasta; linguine is a common favorite, so is orza


Beard and scrub the mussels if necessary.  Set them to soak in ice water to disgorge their sand.  Scrub the clams if necessary.  Set them to soak in the same water for the same reason.

Peel and clean the shrimp if necessary, reserving their shells.  Peel and clean the calamari if necessary; cut it into bite size rings and tentacle clusters.  Reserve.

If you bought your scallops fresh and in the shell.  Remove and trim them.  Cut them into bite size pieces if necessary and reserve.  Discard the shells.

Allow the lobster tail to defrost and remove it from the shell.  Cut the tail into bite size pieces.  Reserve the meat and shell separately.

Cut the onion in half, chop half fine, and slice the other half as thin as you can cut – as you would for a Lyonnaise.  Reserve them separately.  Mince two cloves of garlic very fine, slice the other two very fine.  Reserve them separately.

Preheat a 12″ skillet to medium high heat and when it is hot, add 1 tbs of olive oil.  When the oil is hot, add the cleaned shrimp, salt them very lightly, and sauté briefly (tossing is better than stirring) until they are barely opaque.  Remove the shrimp and set them aside in a bowl.

Add a little more oil to the pan, if necessary and sauté the calamari just as you did the shrimp – very light salt, and very briefly. Cook them just enough so they lose their translucency.  Reserve in the same bowl as the cooked shrimp.  Calamari will be tough unless they’re barely cooked or cooked forever.  We’re going for barely in this recipe.

Cook the scallops in the same way.  Reserve them with the other cooked shellfish.

Cook the lobster meat in the same way.  Reserve it with the other cooked shellfish.

Cook the shell-on langoustine, prawns, or large shrimp in the same way – only until the shells are bright red.  Reserve them separately.

Pour off any oil left in the pan.  Return the pan to the heat, and add a 2 tbs of fresh oil.  As soon as it’s hot add the chopped onions.  Sauté until they’re completely translucent, and add the minced garlic.  Cook until very fragrant, add the Pernod and flame it off.  Add half the Vermouth.  Deglaze the pan while the wine comes up to heat

When the wine boils, take the mussels out of their cold bath and add them.   Reduce the heat to a low boil / hot simmer and put a lid on the pan.  Cook for four minutes and check to see if the mussels are opened.  Cover, continue cooking, and check again every minute or so.  When all the mussels have opened that are going to open, (about 7 or 8 minutes total, probably) remove with a slotted spoon or spider and reserve in a bowl.

Do with the clams what you did with the mussels.  They will probably cook faster.

Strain the fumet and reserve it in a bowl.

Adjust the flame to medium-hot and return the pan to the stove.  Add two more tbs of olive oil to the pan.  Add the sliced onions and sauté until they are limp and show the slightest bit of color.  Add the sliced garlic and the red pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant.

Return the fumet to the pan.  Add the can of tomatoes, the remaining wine and the dried oregano.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer.  Add 1/2 tsp salt.  Allow the sauce to set up to a light sauce, about 30 minutes.  You don’t want it watery but you don’t want it too thick.  Note: The process will go quickly if you’re still using your 12″ skillet – check frequently.

While the sauce thickens, mince 3/4 of parsley and 3/4 of the basil.  Chiffonade the remaining basil and rough chop the remaining basil.  Reserve the more finely cut herbs in one bowl, and the coarser cuts in another.

Meanwhile bring your pasta water to the boil and salt it.

When the sauce has set up, taste and adjust for salt.  You’ll (probably) need at least another 1/2 tsp.  Stir in the minced herbs and allow them to simmer for five minutes.  Pour the sauce into the bowl containing the shrimp, calamari, scallops and lobster, and allow to steep on the counter.

Cook your pasta in the usual way to al dente.  Strain it.

Depending on how and whom you’re serving it, divide the pasta and sauce into two or four portions.  Add 1/4 or 1/2 the sauce (as appropriate) to the pan, bring it to temp – a minute at most – then add an appropriate amount of pasta.  Toss until the pasta absorbs as much sauce as it can – another two minutes.  If using linguine or other long noodle, twirl it onto a long fork (works better than tongs), and plate it.  Cover it with the remaining sauce from the pan.

Repeat until all the pasta is plated.  Finish by bedding them into the pasta.  Let the langoustine take pride of place on top.  Sprinkle with the remaining herbs.

Mangia bene, vivi felice


The Hosts They Are A-Changing

Posted on | October 25, 2010 | No Comments

CFG will be changing webhosts  from HostMonster to iPage.

iPage says the transfer will be seamless.  But instead of adding posts over the next few days which will complicate the process, I may stockpile a couple and add them when the transition is complete.

The process should be complete by the 28th.  Further updates as needed.

On the off chance that you care, HostMonster provided good service, but renewing meant a substantial fee increase.  iPage provides all the same services at a more reasonable price.  It’s all about the money.


Steeling Away – A Tutorial

Posted on | October 17, 2010 | No Comments

12" HandAmerican Borosilicate Rod - The Best

Why Steel At All?

Knife edges get bent out of shape most as a result of impact  — most often against the board, but also by cutting through bone or anything else hard.  If the edge isn’t bent over too far, it can be trued by rubbing it along a hard, straight rod, commonly called a steel.  Steeling does not make a worn, dull edge sharp; but truing will make restore a dinged edge act sharper.

It’s a cheap, easy, and important part of maintaining most types of kitchen knives.

How to Hold the Steel:

By the handle.

It doesn’t matter whether you plant the steel’s point on your board, or on a towel on your board, or hold it with the point free in space.  It doesn’t matter if you point the steel down, or away from your body in the classic — and recently disfavored by knife “experts” — “chef’s” position (as I do).

What Does Matter?

Getting the knife on the steel at the right angle.  Not hurting the knife by banging it on the steel.  Ow!  Getting the entire length of the knife across the steel in one stroke.  Some other stuff.

What Direction Does the Knife Go?

It doesn’t matter whether you steel backhanded and down, or forehand with the steel held away from your body and the knife moving towards you.  Don’t be surprised if this comes up again.  It’s important.

Another name for a knife steel is rod hone.  Honing is one of those sharpening terms made ambiguous by the ‘net (tube-like interwebs).  Honing means the edge leads and the spine trails, and the action is “cutting in.”  The reverse action — spine leading edge trailing, with the edge being pulled over the sharpening surface is called stropping.

Anything you hone on may properly be called a hone.  Anything you strop on is called (c’mon, guess) a strop.

Sometimes people use the term hone to refer to a hard sharpener, like a bench stone; and the term strop to something softer.  It’s not wrong, just confusing.

Anyway, it’s a rod hone, so always hone and don’t strop.  Don’t ever strop.

Thou Shalt Not:

Never, never, never, ever, ever, ever slap or bang the blade against the steel.  The blade should  be laid on the steel gently.  That doesn’t mean you can’t be quick, but it does mean you must be gentle.  If you hear the knife ring against the steel, you’re doing it wrong.  “Chef music” is all susurration and no percussion.

Never use a “medium” steel or anything coarser.  Never use a “sharpening steel” or “diamond steel.”  At least not if you value a smooth edge, and/or value your knife.  Because the contact point is so small, a rod hone puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the blade and a steel coarse enough to cause abrasion will cause a lot of abrasion — even with a fairly gentle touch.

Don’t waste your money on an oval Dickoron or any other oval, unless you’re (a) using German steel; and (b) know what you’re doing.  Ovals are designed to simulate several different types of steels depending on how the steel is held, it’s tricky and somewhat pointless unless you’re a butcher using Forschners.

Don’t try steeling a highly asymmetric edge, you’ll do more harm than good with anything more asymmetric than 66/33.  Anything more symmetric than 60/40 is totally jake.

Don’t try steeling very chippy or steel with a lot of hardening.  The absolute Rockwell Hardness limit depends on the particular alloy, but I’d say anything harder than 63HrC is problematic.  Again, it’s a function of high force at the contact point and the fact that very hard steels tend to be more breakable then bendable.

Thou Shalt:

Steel your knife gently.

Slow the hell down, but stay smooth.

Steel the entire length of the knife on every stroke.  You should use about half the length of the steel on your small knives, and about two-thirds with your long knives.

Steel your knife with very few strokes.  Two per side might not be enough, but five per side is more than you need.  Can you guess the magic numbers?

The knife should be held at the same angle as the cutting bevel.  It’s possible to true the edge at a slightly more obtuse angle, indeed some people recommend it.  However,  that will cause wear, and may actually leave the knife with bent edge, slightly like a wire aka burr.

If you’re serious about sharpening and steeling it’s worth owning two steels:  A smooth or ultrafine for polishing, and for deburring and/or truing an already polished edge.  A “fine” grooved steel for when your smooth steel no longer restores the edge.  The second steel will keep your knife functioning and off the stones — thus slowing wear from abrasion.  If you’re only going to have one steel, make it a fine and not a smooth.

Clean your steels frequently.  Swarf, corrosion, and ordinary schmutz build up pretty quickly.

Other Stuff, Recommendations:

Mass matters a great deal more than hardness, and a relatively soft steel will hone a relatively hard knife quite nicely.  But you do risk damaging the steel by scratching the ridges, which in turn risks scratching your knives.  Another reason to hone at the edge bevel angle, rather than using a more obtuse angle.

If you have hard knives, invest in a hard ceramic steel like an Idahone fine, or a MAC Black.  Ceramics kick butt for efficacy and economy.  The Idahone is a lot less expensive and available in a 12″ model.  The MAC is slightly more break resistant.

The HandAmerican Borosilicate rod is the finest ultra-fine or smooth rod-hone I have ever used.  It’s hard to say what makes it better.  It works better — and by light years, too.  If you can afford it, you want it.

If you can only afford the dough or storage space for one steel, make it the 12″ Fine Idahone.

Full Disclosure: Mine are (1) a thirty year old (at least) fine Henckels, which has worn over the years down to the  “extra fine” level; and (2) a HandAmerican borosilicate rod.


Dulling Thoughts

Posted on | October 17, 2010 | 1 Comment

There’s a common belief that you can keep a knife sharp for a year or more by using a rod hone aka “knife steel.”  WRONG-O!

All knives get dull.  There’s only so much you can do with a steel. This isn’t just about my standards of sharpness, but everyone’s.

•    A fine or polished steel will true a bent edge but won’t restore one which is worn.
•    A medium, coarse, or diamond steel, will create a coarse edge and an uneven bevel.  While the knife will cut, it will cut more like a saw than a knife.

In a thread about knife choice a Chef Talk member argued that a cook may use a steel to keep her knife sharp; preventing it from ever getting dull; and thus never needing actual, more aggressive sharpening.

It occurred to me the subject of dulling itself — what it is and what to do about it — can use a little demystification.

Q. How does a knife get dull?

A. All work and no play.

Okay, with that out of our systems we can move on to three real phenomena, deformation (bending out of true), corrosion and wear.

•    All knives dull eventually;
•    All knives eventually need to be sharpened if they’re going to become or stay sharp;
•    A steel is not a good way to sharpen a good knife.

Before we get into this, start by visualizing the cross section of a properly sharpened edge as a V.

The cross section of a rolled or waved blade can be compared to a y.

Edges bend from impact.  More often than not it’s impact against the board, but sometimes it comes from cutting through anything hard.  Cutting through bones will do it nearly every time.

Bent edges are commonly described as “rolled.”  That can be refined somewhat into waving and rolling.  While the difference is only a matter of degree, it’s significant as a practical matter.  A waved edge (my term, and not universal) isn’t pushed over as far one which is rolled.  If you’re visualizing the cross section as a “y”, roll or wave depends on the degree to which the tail is bent.

The practical part of the distinction comes in the mending.  Assuming there’s not too much asymmetry or the knife alloy isn’t too hard – it can be easily repaired with a few passes on a rod hone (aka “knife steel”) which trues the edge.  For more about steeling, see here.

The further the edge is rolled, the more truing it weakens it.  And an edge which is rolled beyond a certain point won’t straighten on a steel, instead it will fold over further.  This means treating severe rolls as you would a chip and sharpening them out.

Carbon alloys are more reactive than stainless alloys and consequently are far more prone to corrosive blunting.  Reactive alloys blunt in a couple of ways.

Passivation (not really corrosion, but what are you going to do?) forms deposits on the surface.  In his essay Knife Sharpening Experiments, John Verhoeven describes “Debris Deposit burrs.”  You can visualize the cross section of an edge blunted in this way as a U

Actual corrosion, e.g., rust, eats away at the metal and weakens it causing it to break very easily.  The breaks give the knife a toothy, WWWWW profile (not cross section).  In addition to the other undesirable aspects of too much micro-serration, the edge is inherently weak.  Each tooth is subject to bending or breaking.

Frequent steeling will keep the metal fresh and relatively free from corrosion.  But,  even a polished or ultra-fine steel will scuff up the bevels, and the edge itself – creating (you guessed it) too much micro-serration.

The best practice – and again this presumes knives which can be profitably steeled – is to use a fine, ultra-fine, and/or polished steel as frequently as necessary; and going on to bench stones, an Edge Pro, or other abrasive method as soon as necessary to keep the knife very sharp.


Wear is simply erosion by another name.  In the same way water flowing over a stone eventually rounds it by removing material grain by grain and wearing away the edges, so normal use wears down the edge – which you’ll be kind enough to remember is very thin as a result of sharpening.

Please visualize the cross section of a worn edge as a U, just like a debris deposit burr.

The only solution is to sharpen using proper sharpening gear appropriately.  What “proper” and “appropriate” mean is a very long subject in itself.

Just to kick the subject off, sharpening means using an abrasive to create an appropriate shape while revealing fresh metal.  While you can true an edge, and even scuff it up enough to give it a little bite with a fine to polished rod hone it does not actually sharpen.

Because their narrow contact areas create so much force and because their aggressive surfaces remove blade material so quickly medium steels, coarse steels, “diamond” steels, or any carbide sharpener, etc., are not appropriate for sharpening good knives.


A CTer argued that one can use a steel to keep the knife sharp and prevent it from ever getting dull or needing more aggressive sharpening.   It occurred to me the subject of dulling itself — what it is and what to do about it — can use a little demystification.

L.A.’s Alligator

Posted on | October 13, 2010 | 2 Comments


High end DIY Danish, who knew?

Alligator coffee cake is a Los Angeles thing.  It’s a “Danish,” which as far as I know, was the original creation (the Alligator specifically, not Danish pastry in general, you big silly) of a local bakery, Viktor Benes Bakery, which was located in Beverly Hills adjacent West Hollywood.  Benes was a Czechoslovakian bakery who started his business in Chicago, and emigrated along with it to Los Angeles in the mid forties.  The Alligator’s carriage-trade popularity played an important role in Viktor Benes’ success and ultimate metamorphosis to an (upscale) chain.

An Alligator recipe was originally published in the Los Angeles Times, (I think) sometime in the eighties.  This version reflects rewriting to make the whole thing read better, make better sense, create a better work flow, adjust for the near universal switch to instant yeast, adjust for my prejudices favoring lots of cling wrap, and to add some “how to” for the techniques.  In short, Benes’ ingredients, Benes’ techniques, (mostly) BDL words.

As you may or may not have guessed by now, I’m a compulsive tweaker and reviser of recipes.  That this one remains relatively intact should speak volumes.


Amount:     2 Alligator Coffee Cakes
Difficulty:    Shouldn’t Be Your First Adventure with Dough


1/2 tbs instant yeast
1 cup warm milk (105-115 degrees)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 1/2 cups flour
1 each egg, beaten

1 cup granulated sugar
1 (7-oz) pkg almond paste
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups pecans, ground

Maple Icing:
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup butter
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sift prior measuring

10.5 oz pecan halves, which about 3 cups, which is about 60 – 90 pieces,


Add the dry pastry ingredients to a mixing bowl, and combine them with a fork.  Add the milk and melted butter, and mix until all of the flour is picked up.  Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead to make a smooth dough, about 8 minutes by hand, 5 by machine.

Transfer the dough to a clean, greased bowl.  Cover with cling wrap, and let it rest for 30 – 45  minutes.

While the dough rests, make the filling and icing as follows:

Cream the butter and sugar together.  Add the almond paste, and honey and stir or machine mix on low to form smooth paste. If working by hand, fold the flour in.  Alternatively, if using a mixer, mix the flour in gradually at slow speed, in 3 additions.  When the flour is blended in, add the pecans and mix them in as well.  Cover and set aside.

Heat maple syrup and butter in small saucepan until butter melts. Add sugar, and stir until smooth.  Cover and set aside.

Stop Me Before I Pun Again

Building and Baking the Alligator:
When the dough has rested, roll out on floured board into large rectangle. Spread top with 1/4 cup softened butter. Fold dough into thirds, letter style.  Repeat 3 more times, making four “turns” in total, turning it 90* relative to the last turn before rolling it out.  Then, as before, cover with 1/4 cup softened butter, and fold letter style each time.  If the dough becomes too sticky to roll at any of these turns, allow it to rest, covered, for 30 minutes before rolling again.

In any case, after allow it to rest 30 minutes after the last  before filling.

Before rolling out, preheat your oven to 375F.

Divide dough into two equal portions. Roll one portion of the dough as thinly as possible into a rectangle – about 12″ x 18″. Spread half of the filling evenly on the entire surface of dough.  Fold the dough in thirds to make a 6″ x 12″ rectangle, so all the filling is inside the Alligator.  Transfer the dough to a lightly greased baking sheet (or, you may use parchment or a silpat) and brush with beaten egg.  Garnish the top with half of the pecan halves.  Create a casual, windblown, tousled feeling with the nuts.  No need to be geometric.

Repeat the rolling, filling and folding with the second portion of dough, transfer to the same or another sheet, and garnish as before.

Allow the Alligators rest 15 minutes before baking, lightly covered with cling-wrap.

Bake at 375 degrees 20 to 30 minutes or until GBD (Chefspeak for golden, brown and delicious).

Remove from the oven.

If necessary reheat the icing so it flows, and while the Alligators are still hot, drizzle each with icing.

Allow to cool as long as you can stand it – or until fully cool.  Just, for heaven’s sake, remember that the sweet filling is going to be about 40 bazillion degrees hotter than the exterior.

Got coffee?


Konosuke HD – First, First Impression

Posted on | October 5, 2010 | No Comments

The stars aligned; I read a few reviews; had a birthday coming up;  and — as some of you may remember from Dinches With Knives — had a brief, physical encounter in a parking lot with a Konosuke HD gyuto.  Shortly afterwards, about a month ago, I ordered a 270mm knife from Chef’s Knives To Go (CKTG).  The Konosukes are still very new on the market, and seem to have been backordered largely due to the young manufacturer’s surprise at their popularity.  It’s not unreadiness or lack of experience so much as a real case of “who knew?”

Briefly, Konosuke makes very thin, light, Japanese-handled, western style knives of a type known as “lasers,” “Kate Moss,”  “heroin chic” et cetera. (A mouthful for “briefly,” no?)  Mine is a chef’s/gyuto.

At 270mm long, it’s 175gm (6.17 oz) and 2.1mm thick at the machi.

The most obvious thing setting the HD apart from other lasers like the Tadatsunas, Susisun Inox Honyakis, Sakai Yusuke, etc., is the use of a semi-stainless alloy which Konosuke calls HD.  I understand the alloy has been tested by third parties who cannot identify the components but not the specific alloy.  Whatever it is, it’s some sort of HSS hardened to 61-62RCH ish.

Here’s a link to the rest of the vital statistics.

In addition to all the really cool specialty reasons, I’m generically jazzed just to have a Japanese made knife that I can sharpen lefty.  Besides, it was a birthday present.

Anyway, it got here:

As good looking as a plain knife can be, this is.  The horn cap on the handle matches the ferrule and is a nice touch.  The saya is nicely made as well.

I tested the edge with my thumb.  It (the edge, not the thumb) was adequate for an OOTB Japanese knife but nothing to really inspire fear in the cauliflower conspiracy.

Okay.  Now What?

Unlike anyone else who seems to have written about this knife so far, I’d promised myself not to use the knife until it had an adequate edge.

I pulled my 10” K-Sabatier out of the block to admire the feather-lightness of the Konosuke and was surprised  that the Japanese knife, as light and thin as it was, didn’t feel significantly lighter or thinner than the Sab.  It’s probably balance more than anything else, because the K-Sab hits the scale at close to 10 oz and the Konosuke is a willowy 6.  Don’t try and extrapolate that to your Wusthof Classic though.  As Euro-knives go, French carbon is super thin and sui generis for “feel.”

So, I sharpened it all the way way through my usual progression:  500 Beston; 1.2K Bester; 3K Chosera; 8K Naniwa SS; and HandAmerican boron oxide.  Just for the OCD heck of it, I threw in a ride on a 1/2u strop too.  I sharpened both sides at a very acute angle, around 8*, and with a lefty bias.

The current symmetry is currently somewhere between 2:1 and 3:1 lefty, but I’ll take it more asymmetric the next time I sharpen.

The description makes the sharpening a lot better and more cold-blooded than it actually was.  I was eager, I rushed, I didn’t do the greatest job.  I’m not used to a that acute an angle, hardly ever sharpen lefty, and never to that degree of asymmetry.  I was too impatient to wait for the Beston to fully soak, so I slightly scratched the right side of my new knife just above the bevel shoulder and ended up with imperfect bevels as well.  I cut a little gouge in the 10K.  The heel is sharp, but more symmetric than the rest of the knife.  Mea culpa, mea culpa mea maxima culpa.

Enough with the Preliminaries Already:

I tossed a few aromatics on the board and proceeded to make itty bitty cubes.

The knife is extremely light.  It requires no pressure whatsoever to cut through carrots, onions, celery, peppers, make micro-julienne of old soggy onion peel, or anything else I tried.  If you’re hoping for more it will have to wait for another post.  That’s all the cutting for tonight.

The blade is slightly flexible compared to a typical Japanese gyuto, very flexible compared to a western chef’s.  This is not a knife for splitting chickens.  Nor hares.

While this self-evidently is going to be my primary knife, I’m not only keeping my chef de chef, the 10” K-Sab stays in the block for marginal activities like thick-skinned squash, portioning spares, and that sort of stuff.  At least until the new baby paranoia wears off.  We’ll see how it goes.

It’s a 270mm wa-gyuto (Japanese handled, western style chef’s knife), so of course it’s front heavy.  But because the knife is so light I don’t see either the length or the imbalance as an issue.  Linda, who is not a knife maven in any way, tried it and wasn’t at all bothered.  She was impressed by the effortless cutting.

Yes, it cuts better than a carbon Sab, significantly better.  Even an extremely well sharpened carbon Sab.  Even a better sharpened carbon Sab.

The profile was very natural with my “guillotine and glide” chopping action.   In that respect it is better than the Tadatsuna or Suisun; very slightly different (wider, and a bit flatter) but – and it’s not easy for me to say this — as good as a Sab or Masamoto.

The handle, was very comfortable in my hand.  However, it is narrow compared to a Suisun, Tad, or Masamoto and might not be for everyone.  Several other reviewers have mentioned this, including Jon Broida.  If you don’t wrap your back fingers all the around the handle, I’d say it’s a non-issue.

Have I used sharper knives?  Yes.  Very, very seldom.  KC’s Tad is the only “V” edge knife that comes to mind – and it was about as close to chisel as “V” gets.  Can this knife be taken to match those levels of sharpness?  Yes.  Flatten the bevels, add a skosh more asymmetry, and it’s there.

I’m afraid I can’t give an honest evaluation of the other edge characteristics beyond “gets stupid sharp.”  I was too anxious to really take note of the sharpening characteristics other than to say that sharpening seemed to go very quickly.

Edge holding and maintenance… Quien sabe? Edge holding and resistance to chipping, dinging, and other artifacts of reality are supposed to be the big deal with HD, everyone else seems happy, it’s probably good.  Still, HD notwithstanding, it’s a “laser.” It doesn’t seem reasonable to project that it can take the same levels of abuse as a Messermeister.  We’ll see.

Cutting to the chase:

An absolute joy on short acquaintance.  A little too flexible and lightly built to be a true all-rounder.  Too soon to say “best knife I ever used,” but that’s probably on the way.  Maybe not for everyone but more versatile than expected.

Bottom Line:

So far, it’s better in every respect than I’d hoped.  If you understand that a laser means another knife for the rough stuff, still want one, can pay the freight and stand the wait… order it.


PS.  H/t Mark Richmond of CKTG

Price of their toys – quotations from chairman boar

Posted on | September 30, 2010 | No Comments

Money is always a big thing. You’re already at the point where you’re committed to spending too much. That doesn’t mean wotthehell wotthehell, double down and carry a bunch of debt on your credit card. Nevertheless, buy whatever you think is best — even if it’s $50 more than your second choice and $100 more than the limit you imposed on yourself last week.

The regret of overspending lasts until the next paycheck. The regret of buying something you didn’t like lasts as long as you own it.

Chairman Boar

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    WHO IS BDL, Boar D. Laze, or whatever the hell his name is?

    A Brief Biography:

    Ex-Navy Seal; Ex-Victoria’s Secret model; Turned down a three-way with Sophia Loren and the young Marlene Dietrich (as in the Blue Angel) because had other plans; Knows who killed everyone in The Big Sleep, and why; Chaired the work-group which invented Time, Space, Gravity, Fire and Holiday Sweaters; Prefers Dickel to Jack.

    What is Cook Food Good?

    What’s this site about? It’s about a lot of things
    Forcing myself to work out issues relating to writing a cookbook: COOK FOOD GOOD: American Cooking and Technique for Beginners and Intermediates.
    Getting feedback on my work from you.
    Discussions on basic and not-so-basic techniques. The recipes here are very technique driven. Similarly, the idea behind the book is to be far more about the how than the what – with the goal of teaching you to create your own recipes and tweak other people’s, confidently and successfully.
    How to cook better, as it relates to you (and me too). That is, taking a beginner or advanced beginner to good, restaurant quality. Mostly this will be (more or less) French technique and (more or less) American food. But only mostly, more or less.
    Recipes for this, that and the other.
    Knives and all about sharpening them (which have somehow become a subject on which I frequently get asked for advice): How to choose and how to use.
    The first Cook Food Good Blog was hosted by the website, Chef Talk. However, CT, removed its blog section. If you’re interested in bad writing, poor punctuation and ancient history, you’ll find the old CT posts archived here. One thing about posting on CT, was that it acted as a sort of language and attitude super-ego. Don’t count on it here. This is naked id.

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