Allagash Four

Allagash Four Belgian Ale

NAME: Allagash Four
TYPE: Quadrupel
ORIGIN: Portland, ME
ABV: 10%
REVIEW: Dark amber, thick head with sweet fruity smell, notes of cherry and peach. Super smooth finish but a little too sweet aftertaste for me. From Allagash: “We brew this beer with four malts, four sugars, four hop varieties and we ferment it four times, using four different yeast strains.” Hence the name, I guess.

goodwilltasting grade: B+

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Porter Braised Short Rib – Wild Mushroom Risotto

Listen. This MIGHT be the best thing you will ever make. Unless you are a real chef, in which case this might be something you make in your second week of culinary school. In any case, this dish is just comfort on a plate.  If this dish were a style of beer, it would probably be a winter warmer.

A couple things to note: you need to step up if you’re going to attempt this dish, and probably set aside a good 2.5 hours of active prep/cooking time. You’ll also need some stamina since you’ll be continuously stirring that risotto for a good 30 minutes. So clear your calendar for the night, pound down a couple Clif bars, and let’s get cooking.

We’ll start with the short rib. You can usually get about 3 pounds at Costco for $20-25. Here I cut them into thirds:

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Season LIBERALLY with salt and pepper. This is pretty much all the seasoning that’s going into this dish so make sure you get a nice coating on all sides.

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Dredge in flour, shake off excess, throw in a hot pan over high heat. For those of you who read my searing tutorial, this is the real way to sear. IMPORTANT: To sear the meat, it has to be in direct contact with the cooking surface, so you’ll have to do this step in batches. Don’t crowd the pan or you won’t get the browning and caramelization you want.

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When it looks like this, take it out and start the next batch.

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See this? This is concentrated beef flavor. Don’t waste it.

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Throw your onions and garlic in without cleaning the pan, sauté and add a little more flour. Keep cooking until the flour browns a bit.

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Add your beer. Just a quick note on the beer: I have tried this recipe with a number of dark beers and found that milder, less boldly flavored porters or stouts work best. Try not to use any imperial beers, because they tend to leave a little more bitterness at the end of cooking, and really you don’t need to be spending that much money on a beer that you’re going to cook down anyway. Definitely don’t use a porter or stout that has added flavors, like a smoked porter or a maple-vanilla-coffee-bourbon barrel aged stout. Keep it simple!

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Return meat to the pot. Don’t forget those sweet sweet drippings.

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Throw in some thyme and some bay leaves, cover, and let the magic happen.

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2 hours later… (I tasted it and added a little brown sugar because it tasted a little bitter. I think that’s the last time I’ll use an imperial stout for this recipe)

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Great on it’s own… or of course with some risotto.

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While the short ribs are cooking, you best be making your risotto.

Start with some dried wild mushrooms:

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This was the first time I ever tried cooking with dried mushrooms and it was a REVELATION. So delicious. Even just adding the warm water/broth to the mushrooms created this deep, rich, umami smell. Believe me, I hate using the word umami but I’ll use it here. So yeah like I said, soak in warm water to hydrate for about 30 minutes.

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When it’s re-hydrated, take it out of the liquid, squeeze gently, and if you want (and I highly recommend this), strain and retain that soaking liquid.

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I’m using a paper towel in the strainer to make sure absolutely no grit remains.

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You can use this liquid in the risotto, in a mushroom soup, or just to add some savory flavor to a gravy or other sauce you might make in the future.

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Now for the actual cooking. Start by bringing some stock to a simmer:

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Next, saute the mushrooms, starting with the fresh criminis.

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When they look like this, add the wild mushrooms.

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Take out the mushrooms, melt more butter, then add shallots.

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Add the raw rice and stir to coat with the butter.  When the grains start to look translucent on the tips, that’s when you add some broth.

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When most of the stock is absorbed (as below), add more. You’re gonna be doing this for a while.  Don’t stop stirring.

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After about 15 minutes, add the mushrooms back in.

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After another 10-15 minutes, your risotto should be al dente. Add some parmesan to finish it, and get ready for a party in your mouth.  Not some lame dorm floor party with pretzel chips and Smirnoff ice, but a sophisticated, scotch and smoking jackets type party with smooth jazz and local celebrities.

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There it is.

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Porter Braised Short Rib:

2-3 pounds boneless beef short ribs, each cut into thirds (2-3 inch segments)
1/2 large Vidalia onion, sliced
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz bottle of a mild porter or stout (such as Anchor Porter, Yard’s George Washington Tavern Porter, or if you’re in a bind, Guinness)
5 sprigs of fresh thyme tied together with butcher’s twine, or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tsp brown sugar
1 cup flour for dredging
Salt and Pepa
Olive oil
Chopped chives, for garnish

Season the meat all over with salt and pepper.  Don’t be bashful.  Coat the bottom of a heavy bottomed pot with olive oil and heat on high until very hot.  Add flour to a shallow dish and dredge each piece of short rib in it, shaking off excess, and add to the pot (do this in batches, you should brown the meat in a single layer and DON’T CROWD THE POT).  Cook all sides of each piece until the flour becomes a brown crust, then remove from heat.  Continue cooking all the meat this way until it is all browned and then reduce heat to Medium-High.

Remove any excess oil from the pot so that 1 tbsp of grease remains, then add the garlic and onions to the pot, stirring until the onions just become slightly translucent.  Add another tablespoon of flour to the pot and let it brown. Add the beer, and as it begins to simmer add the meat back into the pot. Add the bay leaves and thyme.  Lower heat to low, cover pot and cook for 2 hours, or until the meat is fork tender.

After 2 hours, give the sauce a taste. If it is a little bitter, you can add a bit of brown sugar to balance it out. That’s it.

Wild Mushroom Risotto:

1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 oz dried wild mushroom mix (I think mine had porcini, morel, wood ear)
10 oz fresh crimini mushrooms, sliced
8 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup finely chopped shallots
4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan or grana padano

Soak the dried mushrooms in about 1-2 cups of warm water for 30 minutes. Remove the mushrooms and squeeze gently to get rid of excess moisture.  Chop roughly.  If you want, you can strain and reserve the soaking liquid, which is now super flavorful and can be a great addition to soups or sauces.

Bring 7 cups chicken broth to simmer in medium saucepan and keep warm.

Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add fresh crimini mushrooms. Sauté mushrooms until tender and beginning to brown (3 minutes), then add the wild mushrooms. Sauté a bit longer until most of the moisture has evaporated but before the mushrooms get too brown.  If needed, at a little olive oil so they don’t burn. Transfer mushrooms to a separate bowl.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter with olive oil in the same saucepan over medium-low heat. Add shallot and sauté until tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Add rice and increase heat to medium. Stir to coat the rice with the oil until edges of rice begin to look translucent, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 3/4 cup warm chicken broth; stir until almost all broth is absorbed, about 1 minute. Continue adding broth by 3/4 cupfuls, stirring until almost all broth is absorbed before adding more, until rice is halfway cooked, about 15 minutes.

Stir in sautéed mushrooms. Continue adding broth by 3/4 cupfuls, stirring until almost all broth is absorbed before adding more, until rice is “al dente” (tender but still firm to bite) and risotto is creamy, about 10-15 more minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Transfer risotto to serving bowl. You’re done.

Assembly: Place risotto in a shallow dish, top with 2-3 pieces of braised short rib as well as some of the braising liquid (which is delicious), and garnish with chopped chives. It should bring a tear to your eye.

beer pairing recommendation: let’s go with a big stout for this one, like Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout.

(Wild Mushroom Risotto recipe adapted from Bon Appetit)

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Russian River Pliny the Younger (it’s kind of a big deal)

It’s Valentine’s Day, playas. I hope you’re treating your ladies right. If you’re single, I hope you’re enjoying a cold one with good friends. If you don’t have friends, get off the computer right now and put yourself out there man!

Anyway, here is a Valentine’s Day review of a VERY SPECIAL beer I tried around the same time last year. This here is Russian River’s ever elusive Pliny the YOUNGER!!!! This beer only makes an appearance once a year, is released in draught form in VERY limited qualities, and is usually kicked come happy hour (or if you’re in Massachusetts, come closing time, since happy hour is illegal here, which is ridiculous).  Anyway, I tried this at Local 44 back in Philly last year. In case you were wondering, I took a day off from work and got to the bar by 10 am to try it, and I don’t regret it one bit.  It is an incredible beer. So without further ado, here is the review:

Russian River Pliny the Younger

NAME: Russian River Pliny the Younger
TYPE: American Triple IPA
ORIGIN: Santa Rosa, CA
ABV: 11%
REVIEW: Golden amber color, white foamy head, medium-strong hop nose with nice citrus fruit, nice, crisp bittersweet taste with a crisp mouthfeel, smooth, sweet, finish. Huge, smooth, delicious IPA that you wouldn’t know was 11% unless you read the menu. Despite the anticipation, I actually still prefer Pliny the Elder but still very much worth the effort.

goodwilltasting grade: A

By the way, in case you haven’t yet, you should definitely check out my QUICK BEER REFERENCE, where you can find all my reviews in convenient spreadsheet form. Do it.

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Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA

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NAME: Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA
TYPE: American IPA (Blend of the 60 and 90 Minute IPAs and Bottled with Maple Syrup)
ORIGIN: Rehoboth Beach, DE
ABV: 7.5%
REVIEW: Golden brown color, minimal head. Sweet pine bouquet, crisp mouthfeel with a lingering bittersweet finish. Very slight hint of maple makes this a great breakfast IPA if you’re gangsta enough.

goodwilltasting grade: B+

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Deschutes Inversion IPA

Deschutes Inversion IPA

NAME: Deschutes Inversion IPA
TYPE: American IPA
ORIGIN: Bend, OR
ABV: 6.8%
REVIEW: Amber color, golden head. Subtle pine and grapefruit on the nose. Crisp, full mouthfeel with good carbonation. Nice and hoppy with light citrus notes, kind of a flat bitter finish but otherwise a solid IPA. Gets better as it warms.

goodwilltasting grade: B.

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Allagash Curieux

Allagash Curieux

NAME: Allagash Curieux
TYPE: Belgian-Style Tripel Aged in Bourbon Barrels
ORIGIN: Portland, Maine
ABV: 11%
REVIEW: Golden color, foamy head. Caramel and bourbon on the nose, sweet taste with woody, bourbon notes. A bit of a sharp finish but smooth overall.

goodwilltasting grade: B+

 

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Chili-Lime Tilapia – Black Beans – Brown Rice

Let’s be real here. Tilapia is boring. On its own, it’s really just a cheap, tasteless source of lean protein. If tilapia were a Simpsons character it would probably be Milhouse.  Or maybe Hans Moleman. Poor, poor tilapia.

But eating tilapia does have its pros.  Like I said, it’s cheap (I got over a pound for less than three dollars), lean, and it’s fish so it’s a good source of omega-3s (although most would agree that farm-raised fish tends to have less omega-3 fatty acids than wild caught). Tilapia also has decent texture and holds up well to pan frying or even grilling. Finally, but most importantly, tilapia is bland and doesn’t even taste fishy, so you can basically make it taste like whatever you want depending on how you season it.  It’s like a blank protein canvas for your palette! Yippee hooray!

So here’s what I’m gonna do.  We’re gonna go a little Tex-Mex with this dish, starting with my chili seasoning:

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We’re going 2:1:1:1:1 for the seasoning mix, starting with a 1/2 tsp of chili powder (then 1/4 tsp for everything else in case math isn’t your strong point). Add some beef, a little Mexican oregano, a pinch of cocoa powder, and a can of tomatoes, and baby, you got a chili going. But that’s for another day.

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Got some nice looking tilapia filets right here.

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Here’s a tip: season from a good height above your meat, this will allow for more even seasoning rather than splotches of heavily seasoned areas next to essentially bare meat.

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Searing is easy. Check out my post, why don’t you!

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Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid to let it steam while it’s searing. Uncover and squeeze lime on the filet and flip it over.

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Squeeze some more lime on the other side of the fish, cover again, and continue cooking.

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That’s pretty much it for the fish.  Let’s get the beans and rice going. All you need for this is a can of black beans, some chopped onion and jalapeño, some chicken broth, and a little cumin.

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Heat some oil, saute the onions and jalapeño, add a tsp of cumin, then add some broth and the beans. Simmer, stir, and occasionally mash the beans until it’s thickened and the onions are soft (about 10 minutes).

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As for the rice, all I did was cook some brown rice in a rice cooker with chicken broth instead of water, and about half a cup of diced onion.  Easy. Serve the rice and beans with the fish, garnish with avocado and some kickass salsa. Qué Rico!

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Chili Lime Tilapia with Black Beans and Brown Rice

RICE:

1 cup brown rice
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped Spanish onion

METHOD 1: Rinse the brown rice and drain. Throw all ingredients into a rice cooker and press “Start.” Boom. Done.

METHOD 2: Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add a tbsp of olive oil and saute the onions. Once the onions are translucent, add the brown rice and coat with the oil and onions.  Add the broth, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer until rice is fluffy and tender, about 45 minutes.

BLACK BEANS:

1 15-oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup chicken broth1/4 cup chopped onions
1 jalapeño, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
Olive oil

Heat a small sauce pan over medium-high heat, add 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Saute the onion until translucent, add the cumin and saute a little more. Add the jalapeño, chicken broth, and beans. Cook and stir, mashing the beans occasionally, until onions are soft and the whole thing is thickened. That’s it.

TILAPIA:

1 lb tilapia filets
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 lime, cut into quarters
Olive oil

Coat the tilapia filets with about 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. Combine chili powder cumin, garlic powder, smoked paprika, and kosher salt in a small dish. Season the tilapia filets well on both sides with the spice mixture and let marinate for an hour.

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and coat the pan. Add the tilapia to the hot pan (it should sizzle as soon as you put it on). Immediately cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook for about 90 seconds. Remove the lid, and the edges of the top of the tilapia should start to look cooked. Squeeze one quarter of the lime on the top of the filets, flip the filets, cover, and continue cooking for another 90 seconds.

Remove the lid again, squeeze another quarter of lime over the filets, and remove from heat. Serve with the rice and beans, garnish with salsa, avocado, and cilantro.

(beans and rice based off of bon appetit’s recipe)

GAME PLAN:

Here’s the order you should do everything so it’s all done in about an hour. You can do it!

1. Start with seasoning the fish
2. Start the rice
3. While rice is cooking, make the beans
4. Once the rice and beans are done, cook the fish quickly and serve everything warm.

beer pairing recommendation: Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. But really, what wouldn’t go well with this beer?

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(Sort of) Pan Seared Chicken Breast

Okay, so technically this isn’t searing.  Searing is cooking your meat on a very hot surface for a few seconds on all sides to develop a crispy crust, then usually finishing the cooking process in a different medium at a lower temperature, like in the oven or in a braise. This tutorial isn’t that.

Here I’m just going to show you how I like to quickly cook a chicken breast so it’s flavorful, juicy, and tender, with a crispy outer crust. Whatever, I’m just gonna call it a seared chicken breast.

Contrary to popular belief, searing does not “seal in the juices” of your meat.  Here’s a good video about how they figure that. Sure, Alton Brown’s experiment has a small sample size, but similar experiments have been performed by plenty of others with the same results. Despite this, people are still searing their proteins.  Why? Because it’s delicious playa! Come on! Searing creates that beautiful caramelization and crispy crust on the outside, creating more complex flavors and a difference in textures between the outside and inside that makes your food interesting.

All “science” aside, I still like to think that the way I cook this chicken does help to retain a little more juiciness than more traditional searing methods, so without further ado, here’s how I do it:

First, you gotta start with a thin cut of your meat.  A whole chicken breast is way too thick and will probably burn on the outside before cooking all the way through the inside, so I cut it in half horizontally (or in the transverse plane, for you anatomy geeks). Here is a single breast, cut in two with the tenderloin separated, and well-seasoned on both sides:

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Get your pan hot on medium-high heat, add a little oil, and thrown those suckers on there. You should hear a sizzle as soon as it hits the pan.

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As soon as they’re in the skillet, cover it with a tight-fitting lid. You’ll immediately see the lid steam up, and this will allow the meat to essentially steam in its own juices will getting a nice sear on the bottom. Let this cook for about 90 seconds to 2 minutes.

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Once the lid is off, you can already see that the top of the chicken is starting to cook even though it hasn’t touched the cooking surface yet. Check it!

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Flip those bad boys over, cover the skillet again, and cook for another 90 seconds or so.

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You’ll end up with a nice, crispy on the outside, moist and tender on the inside, beautifully caramelized and flavorful chicken breast that you can chop up and toss into a salad, throw between two buns to make a sandwich, or just snack on if you’re trying to bulk after doing some squats.

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Here’s the recipe for the kale salad above, in case you’re interested!

This is a great way to cook any protein filet: chicken, fish, steaks, pork chops, etc. Give it a try, why don’t you.

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Craft Beer Connoisseurship vs. Alcoholism

“When one knows something of the history of a thing, something about its power, influence, and potential, one is (hopefully) less inclined to simply see that thing as a mere medium for intoxicant.”

Are you masking an underlying alcohol dependency under the guise of craft beer “connoisseurship?” Here’s an interesting article regarding this issue that also, strangely, promotes the virtues of low-ABV session beers:

http://beergraphs.com/bb/344-high-functioning-craft-beer-and-alcohol

Also, a discussion about it on BeerAdvocate:

http://beeradvocate.com/community/threads/beergraphs-high-functioning-craft-beer-and-alcohol.152700/

Men (and ladies), my hope is that you are drinking craft beer to appreciate its flavors and complexities rather than to get hammered drunk.  Of course if you do indeed struggle with alcoholism then by all means stop reading this, or any other alcohol-related blog, and please find the help and support you need to beat this addiction.

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Know Your Knives: Grip

What’s the most important tool in the kitchen? Your knife, you say? NOPE. It’s your hands. You could have a world-class chef’s knife made by Hattori Hanzo himself, but if you don’t know what to do with your hands it’s not gonna do you any good. So let’s talk about how to use your knife, mmkay?

The most popular knife grip in the kitchen is called the pinch grip. Here you pinch the spine of the knife right above the handle between your thumb and curled forefinger, then wrap the rest of the fingers around the handle. This grip gives you control, power, and precision during your knife work.

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Now it’s just as important to know what to do with your other hand when chopping, because you don’t want to end up with bits of your fingers in your meal.

While you’re chopping away with your knife in your dominant hand, the other will of course be guiding the food. Now if you don’t get anything else out of this post, please remember this one thing: FINGERTIPS IN!!! I had to learn this the hard way, but you are MUCH more likely to nick yourself if you guide the food with your fingertips spread out, rather than tucked in under your knuckles. Keep the fingertips in, and the knuckles can rest comfortably against the flat side of the blade, and that is a winning combination for no cuts.

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Happy chopping.

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(source: Knives Cooks Love, by Sarah Jay)

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