Kitchen Knife Skills – Chop an Onion

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 77,373
    Chef de Cuisine Chris Clime demonstrates some basic knife skills and shows how to chop an onion.

    Chris Clime

    When you’ve mastered Caesar Salad by the age of nine, where else is there to go but into a culinary career? Christopher Clime followed his destiny, and he now finds himself perched at the top of one of the hottest restaurants in town. As Chef de Cuisine at Acadiana, the newest sister restaurant of the popular DC Coast, TenPenh, and Ceiba restaurants in Washington, Clime brings his version of Louisiana-inspired cuisine to the nation’s capital, which he calls home. And make no mistake: home is an important word to Christopher Clime. Clime had a colorful childhood in northern Virginia and in Puerto Rico, where his father was Commanding Officer at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station. No matter where they lived, the Climes were always entertaining – their guests often high-ranking dignitaries – and for the Clime family, entertaining was always a family affair. Graduating at 17, Clime headed straight for Providence, Rhode Island, and Johnson & Wales University. Following his New England training, Clime stayed focused on the South. Post-graduation opportunities were waiting in Charleston, South Carolina, at the very exclusive five-diamond Woodlands Resort, where Clime served as chef de partie, a job he describes as “basically, a jack-of-all-trades.” His six years in Charleston gave him a solid grounding in the techniques, traditions, and flavors of southern cooking. It also brought him to the attention of a major corporation that brings him to Augusta, Georgia as a private chef for its executives and guests at The Masters Golf Tournament, an opportunity he still looks forward to every year, serving lavish banquets often based on Low Country cuisine. But while things were going well and he was receiving rave reviews in Charleston, Christopher Clime’s future suddenly had to be put on hold; his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and had him return immediately home to Virgina. Needing a distraction at one point, he brought his application to Jeff Tunks at DC Coast, and was immediately hired as a tournant (“basically, another jack-of-all-trades position, a kind of substitute Sous Chef”), which suited Clime’s schedule well. After a year of constant dedication to his mother’s care, Clime was ready to take on more responsibility. Clime forged ahead at DC Coast and then at TenPenh, which provided a creative outlet for this young man during a trying time in his life. All the while, Tunks and his team were already planning the third jewel in their crown, and Clime was the logical candidate for Chef de Cuisine. Clime’s youth in Puerto Rico had imbued him with an inherent sense of Latin cuisine. Two years later, Tunks and his partners were set to open Acadiana, a fourth restaurant that would draw its inspiration from the rich culinary tradition of southern Louisiana. Tunks had spent four years in New Orleans, and knew just what he wanted the restaurant to be. He also knew just what he was looking for in a Chef de Cuisine, and again tapped Christopher Clime. Clime explains that authentic Louisiana cooking is what they serve at Acadiana, but with a contemporary, urban approach for their Washington clientele. “We peel the shrimp for you, but flavor it with the same delicate combination of Creole seasonings we found again and again in rural Louisiana – paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, oregano, and cayenne pepper.” Acadiana is enjoying unprecedented popularity, and already, in November 2006, Christopher Clime has been named one of Washington’s Top Ten Hottest Chefs by DC Style magazine. Has it gone to his head? Not at all: he’s found the ideal balance – his beloved southern cooking, right here at home.

    Chris Klien: Hello. My name is Chris Klien, I am the Chef de Cuisine at Acadiana Restaurant, the heart of the Penn Quarter in Washington DC. We are here to show some basic knife skills here in Acadiana Restaurant. I have been cooking for about 17 years, started when I was about 15 years old. I have been in Acadiana now we are almost two years open. We do have some vegetables we are going to show you how to cut. You are going to need a few things to start.

    One you are going to need is a sharp French knife, which is what I have here; a French knife being a knife as such that you can use with a flat edge to cut your vegetables. You are going to need a cutting board, which is very important make sure it is stable you might want to have a cloth, a wet cloth underneath it or so forth or just have large wooden one like I have here. After that, you are going to need your vegetables make sure that you clean them first and of course be very careful with your vegetables, you dont want to cut yourself. Lets get started with how to julienne an onion.

    First you are going to need to take a -- this is a regular Spanish onion, we need to peel it first. We will cut a little bit of the ends off of the roots if you will, put to the side, we will then cut the onion in half as such. Id like to cut the onion in half so that it will not rock on you, you will not cut yourself, you need to be very careful with the knife. We then will peel the outer layer off of the onion like this, try not to remove too much, but you dont want any of the other dirty fibers on it. You need to have to a side towel with you and then you can scoop to the side and keep your cutting board free of any of debris. We are then going to take this onion right here and finish that up the same way as such. Again, make sure the knife is clear, wiper cutting board clean as well.

    We are going to make a couple incisions if you will. You want to go from the root end, which is right here, you want to leave that root end here because thats what connects the actual onion together. So, we want to start off, we want to make two parallel cuts, depending on how big the dice you want, is going to depend on the size of cut you want to do.

    So, we are going to do probably like a medium dice here. We are going to make an incision right over here about and a quarter of inch up like so. One quarter of an inch. Cutting towards yourself, you are always going to hold your hands like this that way you are not going to slip and cut into yourself.

    One more time, again you make another incision like this and if you can see where the knife is like that, its not all the way through, then remove it. We are then going to go and go and make little incisions, not all the way as you can see kind of as such equally, all the way down. After we have done that you can see that we have these little basically little cubicals that you can see that we are going to start to shape up our cuts.

    When you go down always your hand here like this, kind of relax a little bit, have your hand this kind of relaxed not tightened up with your pinky and your thumb connecting together, kind of rest your hand like this and curl your front knuckles. The blade should never cut into you. The blade should be kind of like this to go up against your fingers.

    We are going to go ahead and we are going to take them against our finger and we are going to point outwards so not to cut and if you are a beginner, I would like to do it more out, more pronunciated out so that you are not going to cut yourself and then I will show you how we do it, once you get some practice.

    So, as you go down, you are going to see that the onion cuts down into nice dice. So, that is what you have very, very simple. Then once you get down to the end of the onion, it will kind of be connected together and then you will just cut as so make your julienne and then finish cutting. There is our dice then I will show you how we do it, once you get a little bit of practice, so you get a little professional practice, you can move the other dice into the side. We get our onion, again the root side like facing out. your hand up, not to cut yourself, two incisions. Then you cut it that is about 17 years of practice. Thats how you cut an onion.