The chef knife is the most important tool in your knife kit. If one were to only own a single knife, a chef knife would be it. It can be used in 90% of kitchen tasks – prepping meat, fish, vegetables, herbs, and more.
When choosing a chef knife, fit is very important. A chef knife should feel like an extension of your hand. STEELPORT has put a lot of thought and decades of combined experience talking to customers about what they want in a knife, into creating our contoured handle design. The shape of a STEELPORT handle and the smooth hand polished transition to the bolster blade promotes proper grip, and lends itself to different hand sizes. The hand-polished spine and finger groove also eliminate any uncomfortable “hot spots” while in use.
A STEELPORT knife also has a taller blade to allow for space for larger hands so fingers don’t hit your cutting board with every cut.
Of course beyond the look and feel, a STEELPORT also stands out as the only American-made dropped forged carbon steel blade with an integral bolster available, besides a few custom-made or auction-only knives.
A delicious, classic, approachable dish that provides a fantastic opportunity to use your Chef Knife on nearly every ingredient, using a variety of cuts, is Ratatouille.
Some recipes (like this nice New York Times Ratatouille by Melissa Clark) call for roasting all of the vegetables separately, then all together, to create a more homogeneous stew-like dish. Our recipe below, created by our friend and recipe developer/food stylist Erica Von Trapp, was inspired by the vibrant colors of the vegetables to create a unique pattern (a sort of pin-wheel-meets-concentric-circle) with the vegetables cut into even ¼” rounds , placed over tomato sauce from edge to center in a FINEX cast Iron before baking the dish. And you can get creative with the design and styling of the vegetables to make your own unique presentation, which is another reason we love this dish.
Regardless of how you design the vegetable in your skillet or baking dish before they go in the oven, ensuring they are all cut to even thickness is essential for the dishes to bake evenly. Using a very sharp chef knife helps you achieve these precise cuts.
Ways we’re using a (sharp!) STEELPORT chef knife in this recipe include:
- Chopping onions – A sharp chefs knife gets the job done faster and with less mess, meaning less onion-related tears
- Slicing the zucchini, squash, and eggplant into even 1/4” disks
- Slicing seeded red bell peppers into 1/4” strips
- Smashing the garlic – Placing the blade of your chefs knife flat on the clove (sharp side facing away from you), then using the heel of your hand to press the blade down on the clove until the peel cracks and the clove is flattened
- Chopping fresh parsley – A sharp edge means you’ll cut the delicate herbs cleanly without squishing them, which can result in leave some of their flavor on the board
- Chopping rosemary and fresh thyme after removing the leaves from their stems with your hands
- Chiffonade fresh basil leaves – Only a very sharp knife will be able to achieve sliver-thin strips of basil that defines a Chiffonade cut without bruising or smashing the leaves
Having the right chef knife, especially for a recipe that requires many different cuts, makes preparing a recipe easier, more precise, and more enjoyable.
We would love to see your Ratatouille creations! If you make this dish (or your own creative variation), be sure to tag STEELPORTKnifeCo.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 50 minutes to 1 hour
- 6-7 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4” disks
- 2 yellow summer squash, cut into 1/4” disks
- 2 medium eggplant, cut into 1/4” disks (discs may be halved or quartered if eggplant is very large to be roughly the same diameter as the other ingredients)
- 2 red bell pepper, seeded, cut into 1/4” strips
- 1/3 cup basil, chiffonade
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed, chopped (plus extra for garnish if desired)
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed, chopped (plus extra for garnish if desired)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/2 can (14 oz) crushed Bianco DiNapoli tomatoes (or other high quality crushed tomatoes)
- 1 cup olive oil, more as needed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 ½ teaspoons Jacobsen Salt Co. fine sea salt + more to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare the vegetables and herbs using your STEELPORT chefs knife.
Heat 12” FINEX cast iron skillet over medium heat and sauté diced onion in 2 tbs. olive oil with a pinch salt for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until gently browned and translucent. Add crushed garlic cloves, and sauté another minute, until just aromatic. Remove skillet from heat.
Transfer cooked onions and garlic to medium bowl (Do not rinse the cast iron at this point, simply set aside) and mix in Bianco DiNapoli crushed tomatoes, chopped herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture back into the base of your skillet.
Layer the sliced vegetables, minus the red pepper, standing up vertically coming from the outside of the skillet to the center, packing them as tight as you can. Meaning: start by placing your bigger sliced pieces against the edge of your skillet all the way around with no overlap. From each large piece, start a row going into the center by laying another just smaller piece leaning against it vertically until you reach the center. After you have fit in as many vegetables as you can to make your design, tuck in the sliced pieces of red pepper throughout the composition.
Season the top of the vegetables with 1 1/2 tsp. Jacobsen Salt Co. sea salt, pepper to taste, and tuck in extra thyme rosemary sprigs and bay leaves. Drizzle generously with olive oil, so all vegetables are coated and covered (will be about 1/4-1/2 cup depending on the size of your vegetables.
Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, remove cover, then bake another 20 minutes or until vegetables are softened and starting to brown slightly.
Remove from oven, let cool a few minutes, and serve in your FINEX cast iron pan with a protective towel around the hot handle and placed on a trivet to enjoy at the table.
Video and photography by Polara Studio, Portland