Julienning And Dicing For The Perfect Soup

Knife Skills

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The start of our knife skills class - the honing steel and how to pass the knife

Just over a week ago, I attended a knife skills class at a great cooking school in Vancouver called The Dirty Apron. Working with knives seems to be my weakness while I am attempt to learn new soup recipes – I have cut a few fingertips. So it is time for myself to get learning!

The class was taught by Takashi Mizukami (bio here). He did a splendid job of explaining the types of knives, how to preserve longevity of knives and basic techniques of chopping, cutting, and knife sharpening.

I would definitely attend another Dirty Apron class in future – I was truly impressed with their time management, service in the dining room, professionalism and the facilities (top notch). See list of classes here.

The three main things I learned from the class are:

  1. Don’t buy a set of ten knives
  2. Use your knuckles, move quietly and think of Michael Jackson when using a 8” chefs knife
  3. Perfecting your dicing and julienning will improve your soups in a few ways

#1  Don’t buy a set of ten knives

Start small. The three most important knives that Takashi finds most handy are:

  1. 8” inch Chef knife
  2. Paring knife (good for shallots)
  3. Bread knife (can use for tomatoes too)

Then if you feel like being a pro, the following are the next most popular  (ranked in order from most popular to least)

  • Chopper knife
  • Boning knife (Good for deboning. The tip of the knife is important.)
  • Slicer knife (Has a thinner blade, more flexible. Can be used for carving turkey.)
  • 4” chef knife
  • Fileting knife
  • Turning knife
  • Tomato knife
  • Meat clever

If you were to have the main three knives, then the next most important piece is a Honing Steel. Takashi says it is crucial. Use it with your knives once a week and do 10 passes per knife.

Looking for good knives? Wusthof is the line of knives The Dirty Apron recommends. Check out www.wusthof.com.

#2 Use your knuckles, move quietly and think of Michael Jackson when using a 8” chefs knife

Ah ha. So this is what I need to do to save my fingertips! Don’t ever hold any piece you are cutting with your fingertips pointing to the knife like this:

But your fingers should be behind your knuckle, like this:

Having your fingers behind the knuckles keeps them very safe. Also try to pay special attention to you thumb and pinkie – keep them behind even further.

Then with the knife against your knuckle, use a smooth exaggerated forward motion (think of Michael Jacksons moonwalk) never lifting the knife high above (unless chopping something very large) and should be quiet . If you are hearing the knife slap down on the cutting board then you are not doing the motion smoothly enough.

#3 Perfecting your dicing and julienning will improve your soups in a few ways
During our class we also learned how to prepare an incredible Grilled Corn and Clam Chowder. Our main focus was on the dicing of the ingredients in a consistent manner using the proper techniques.

Dicing and julienning your ingredients in a consistent manner not only look very pretty, but you will also benefit from your ingredients cooking evenly throughout. It’s odd to serve a soup with different sized chunks of veggies as some may be just right and others may be undercooked.

Below is the chowder we made in class. I tried to focus hard on dicing the ingredients with more consistent sizing and the proper technique we were shown. Looks nice to me, but I know I have a lot of practising to do at home to get better at this!

The soup we made in class was very tasty indeed. I may make this recipe on a special occasion, but I would also modify the recipe a tad with a lower fat version.

Here is the soup recipe from our class:

Grilled Corn and Clam Chowder (serves 2)


  • 100g double smoked bacon (cut into ½ inch dice)
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • ¼ carrot (about 70g), diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 120g unpeeled red skin potatoes, diced small
  • 240ml clam nectar
  • 20 fresh clams
  • 125ml white wine
  • 250ml heavy whipping cream
  • 20ml lemon juice (approx. 1 wedge)
  • 1 corn on the cobb
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chives, finely sliced
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch mix with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • Salt and Pepper

Cooking Instructions:

  1. In a small saucepot, heat white wine over a medium-high heat and add clams, steaming with a lid on until all clams have opened up. Once clams have opened, remove them from the pot, separate the meat from each shell and reserve both the clam meat and juices in the pan for later use.
  2. In a separate saucepot sauté bacon over medium heat until brown and crisp, approximately 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towel and allow to rest. Pour off all but approximately 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pan.
  3. Next, add onions, carrots and garlic to the pan and sauté for approximately 2 minutes. Add in the potatoes, clam nectar and clam juices and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. While the soup is simmering, grill cobs of corn on all sides. Using a sharp knife cut the kernels off the cob and set aside.
  5. Add the cream, clam meat, lemon juice, corn, corn starch, thyme and bacon to saucepot and cook until potatoes and corn are tender.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle the chowder into bowls and garnish with the sliced chives.

Soup Mistress Rating for Grilled Corn and Clam Chowder :

Healthy (+ slimming + low sodium): (2/5) 
Presentation: (4.5/5) 
Taste: (4.5/5)