Discover Kitchen: A Cut Above
As you add more fruits and vegetables to your plate, it is helpful to increase your preparation and cooking technique skills to gain the most out of your ingredients.
Did you know, the way you slice, dice, julienne, or chop has an effect on the flavor of your produce? Food experts know it's true and that's why we spend so much time during culinary training to perfect our cuts.
Different cuts also add different palatability, aroma, texture, and effect the cooking process. When a recipe calls for a certain cut; dice, julienne, chiffonade or chop, the recipe developer has an idea about how each ingredient should be prepped to create the final result. So, recipe directions should be closely followed to effectively achieve the best final dish.
So, what are some of the basic cuts you should perfect? Following are seven basic cuts/techniques to get you started.
1. Julienne: The julienne is also known as the matchstick cut. What you are going for is a thin, stick-shape cut. To make a julienne cut, square off your vegetable then cut lengthwise into 3mm-thin rectangular slices. Then cut these slices into matchsticks. This cut is most commonly used for stir-fries as ingredients cut this way cook evenly and quickly.
2. Brunoise: The brunoise is the finest dice and is derived from the julienne. Any smaller and the cut will be considered a mince. To brunoise, gather the julienned vegetable strips together, then dice into even ¼ inch cubes. This cut is most often used for making sauces like tomato concasse or as an aromatic garnish on dishes
3. Batonnet: Some common foods cut in this style are French fries and crudités or vegetable sticks for dipping. To cut your vegetables into batonnets, square them off then cut lengthwise into ½ inch-thin rectangular slices before cutting them into 6mm sticks. If a recipe for something like minestrone calls for a small dice, first cut the vegetables into batonnets, then chop them down further into ½ inch cubes.
4. Baton: Thick cut chips or steak fries are cut in chunky batons about ¾ inch in thickness. This is the largest stick cut and the intermediate step for the medium dice. Recipes for chunky stews often call for carrots, potatoes and onions to be medium diced, which is what you get after you cut the batons into cubes.
5. Chiffonade: The chiffonade technique is usually used on leafy vegetables and herbs. Some examples include, spinach, kale, cabbage, basil, and mint. This is accomplished by first stacking all the leaves together and roll them tightly, holding them down with one hand and slicing the leaves perpendicular to the roll. A finer chiffonade achieves thinly ribbons of herbs for garnishing, while a larger chiffonade can be used on leafy greens for a sauté.
6. Mincing: Mincing creates an even smaller brunoise, as fine as you can get. Once you’ve brunoised your vegetables you want to continue with a cross section movement. To do this, hold your knife handle with one hand and use your other hand to keep the blade’s tip in contact with the cutting surface, while bringing your blade down into the food, moving back and forth.
7. Crushing: This technique is used to crush foods like garlic and ginger, and it is best accomplished by using a flat surface like a cutting board and using a large blade to press downward on the ingredient. This technique releases an enzyme in garlic called alliinase that produces the typical pungency or garlic aroma, which is not there when it's intact. When garlic is crushed, the enzymatic reaction forms the flavor. This technique is great for adding more flavor to the food you are cooking.
Each of these techniques are designed to produce foods with different sizes and consistencies in order to enhance flavor, taste and cooking consistency.
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