Okay it’s time to put on our fancy schmancy pants and discuss prepping vegetables. Today on Tuesday’s Tip with The Kitchen Whisperer we’re learning about fancy cutting or should I say classic formal cutting of vegetables. If you’ve read a cook book or watched any tv show out there you’ve heard the terms: Julienne, Chiffonade or Brunoise. While there are multiple other cutting techniques I think these ones are the foundation cuts you need to know. While you may or may not know what they are, it’s not as easy as you think and it does take a bit of practice to one, get it right and then two (more importantly) making sure it’s consistent. It’s all about repeatable quality here folks. (for those that work with me, love how I threw that last reference in there? LOL)
So today we’ll go through what each of these mean and more importantly how to get those types of cuts. No more recipe confusion or hodge podge style cuts of vegetables. Remember, we eat visually so it’s not so much that the food has to taste amazing but it also makes the food more appealing it if looks good too.
Probably my earliest exposure to these phrases: Julienne, Chiffonade and Brunoise come from watching Julia Child and Jacques Pepin on channel 13 when I was little. Yes, instead of watching The Munsters or Brady Bunch I was into Julia and Jacques. Sure I loved the other shows but there was just something about Julia and Jacques that captured my attention.
Julienne: Means to cut the food item is cut into long thin strips, similar to matchsticks about 4 cm in length. Think of shoe string fries or match stick carrots. To do this isn’t hard but it does take practice.
→ Trim off the edges of the vegetable to lie flat. You want a flat surface on it prior to cutting to make your cutting easier. Slice the vegetable length way as thin as possible. Stack the slices and cut paper thin strips length way. Use this method on vegetables hard like zucchini, carrots, celery, peppers, sweet potatoes, white potatoes and so forth. This is not recommended on onions or soft vegetables like tomatoes.
Chiffonade: “Chiffonade” means little ribbons in French, referring to the little ribbons you create while cutting. It’s a chopping technique in which herbs or leafy green vegetables (such as spinach and basil) are cut into long, thin strips. Essentially you can use to cut up any flat leafy food. It works great on things that you are going to eat fresh, like basil and lettuce and helps you cut uniform, curly, strips of food quickly and elegantly.
→ Gather the leaves into a neat stack, roll the stack up lengthways and slice them the same width. Rolling them can make it easier, but too big a roll will be harder. Its fine to roll up herbs such as basil, but not ideal for lettuce or anything you will serve raw as it may bruise them and the final result won’t be as crisp. As cabbage and lettuce leaves are already in layers, its easier to cut them into wedges and then take smaller portions of that wedge, gently pressing them flat to slice the same way without rolling to maintain crispness.
Brunoise: Brunoise is a culinary knife cut in which the food item is first julienned and then turned a quarter turn and diced again, producing cubes of about 1- 3 mm or less on each side, or 1/8-inch dice. In France, a “brunoise” cut is smaller, 1 to 2 mm on each side, or 1/16-inch dice. Some typical vegetables for a brunoise are carrots, celery, leeks, and turnips.
→ Prepare a stack of julienne cut vegetables. Brunoise is precisely the same method as Julienne, but with an extra final stage. Group the julienne into a neat stack and cut the sticks into small cubes every 1 to 2 mm on each side to make small cubes.
Now keep in mind in order to do these you’ll need patience and a super sharp knife. So please, go slow and practice. And if you screw up a cut, don’t throw your ‘screw ups’ away! It’s still food and still could and should be cooked!