Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Ulu Factory's Ulu Knife: The Tiny-Chopping Love of My Life!

It's Christmas season, folks! A lot of you readers have been getting pounded with snow. So far, not out here in Boston. Just a dusting here or there. Still, it's been enough to get one in the Christmas-y mood, and so Chef Reiton and I dug out the old, "secret," family Christmas cookie recipes this weekend and baked up a storm.

The house smelled like browned butter and chocolate as we cranked out batch after batch of fudge ripples, pinwheels, palmiers, peppermint kisses. Chef Reiton's favorite? Pecan dainties.

(Insert a moaning sigh HERE)...pecan dainties. I had never even heard of them until Chef Reiton sent me a Christmas cookie tin eight Christmases ago, a token act that definitely caught my attention—and a piece of my heart (okay, and my stomach. My two friends and I ate almost the entire tinful in one sitting...). Nestled among an insane variety of cookie types were these tiny shortbread rounds, perfectly smeared with brown butter icing and sprinkled with a dusting of tinily chopped pecans. They literally melted in my mouth.

Pecan Dainties, the Christmas cookie of your dreams

Now, eight Christmases later, I was standing in our kitchen (happy sigh), preparing the pecans to be sprinkled so daintily atop the brown butter icing Chef Reiton was preparing at the stove.

I have to admit, chopping nuts is NOT something I have ever enjoyed doing. The results are always just so--unsatisfactory. Yes, I have a "chopper" (the hand-powered Pampered Chef contraption), but it is hard to get even chopping sometimes with it. A food processor either blasts nuts to powdery bits or leaves unusable, large chunks. And as for chopping nuts on a cutting board with a chef's knife? You might as well just grab a handful of nuts and throw them across the kitchen. Not much else happens in such an exercise.

As I stood staring at the bag of pecans, determining which undesirable chopping method I preferred, I suddenly thought, "The ulu knife!!!" (Two seconds later I heard Chef Reiton say, "You know, the blade might be good for chopping the pecans..." We tend to do that a LOT.)

So, what the hell are we talking about?

A number of years ago, my mother-in-law traveled to Alaska and returned with a gift that, since, I don't know how I ever lived without in my kitchen. It's called an ulu knife. It is an ancient Alaskan tool, essentially a curved blade with a handle. The Alaskans once used it for everything, from scraping seal hides to cutting meat.

While I have never used mine to scrape hides, I have used it to chop a LOT, especially herbs. Mom Reiton also gave us a bowl that is specially designed to be used with an ulu. It holds your ingredient in place while you rock the blade back and forth over the food, meaning you don't have to touch the herbs or garlic or whatever as you are chopping them (avoiding getting "little green things" all over your hands, as Chef Reiton once said in regards to chopping cilantro).

Now I could use it to avoid shooting nuts across my kitchen! Hallelujah!

I wish you could have seen it; it was a nut-chopping experience that was mind-blowing, truly. Not only did the nuts happily stay in place, but the rocking motion of the blade in the bowl created the ideal ratio of minced nuts to micro-minced nuts, giving the pecan dainties the perfect balance of pecan flavor and toothsome crunch.

The Ulu Factory's ulu knife and chopping board set

Glory be, now my nut-chopping days are forever changed, thanks to The Ulu Factory! If you want to order the set that Mom Reiton got us, click the image below. We have the 7 1/4" bowl with the 6" blade, but they have other sets, too.

The Ulu Factory's bowl and 6" blade set

Can you believe it? Your unhappy nut-shooting days are over! It will be the best $32 purchase you have ever made. Promise! And don't forget Christmas is right around the corner...the ulu set could make a kitchen-changing gift for your favorite person.

Many happy Christmas cookie-baking days to you all!


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