Continuing with week #2 of our Basic Kitchen series…
Last Monday I explained about Boiling Water and the proper way to do it, as well as tips for boiling water effectively if you have an electric stove. We also went over the how-to for boiling pasta and rice.
This week, I thought we’d take a look at the preparation of foods before cooking them. For instance, cutting techniques. Recipes often state “chopped” or “diced” or even “julienne”, but how many of us actually know exactly what each cut looks like? How do we know if we’re performing it right? And….do we even care??
I know a lot of us are trying to move around quickly in the kitchen, to beat the clock and get the meal on the table before Husband gets home or before the kids are screaming they’re hungry. Some of us plan our meals but do not prep ahead of time (or don’t have the TIME to prep ahead). Some plan and prep every detail of the meal ahead of time. And still some are rummaging through the pantry and fridge at 5:30, to have dinner ready by 6:00! Whichever type of cook you are, I think it’s important to know HOW to read the recipe’s instructions for the planned out meals as well as the planned-in-5-minute meals.
Chefs take pride in the PRESENTATION of their dishes, not just in the taste. They also know that different cuts are appealing in different ways for different dishes, as well as UNIFORM cuts allowing uniform cooking.
Big chunks of vegetables cooking with tiny pieces of vegetables are not going to all cook at the same rate. The smaller pieces will either be overcooked (or burned!) before the big ones cook, OR the big chunks will be undercooked when the small ones are ready. If we take the time to learn to uniformly cut our pieces, we will actually help ourselves cook better-tasting meals!
So, before I get to rambling about putting thought and effort into our dishes, here’s a list of some of the cuts I have come across in recipes:
(NOTE: Some of these I’ve only seen once or twice, while others I see in practically every recipe I use. So, don’t think I use crazy difficult French recipes every day, when you see some of the more obscure types of cut!)
Dice (large, medium, and small)
Julienne (and Fine Julienne)
Brunoise (and Fine Brunoise)
Now, I will go over what I know of each type of cut and the measurements I have found that make each one different.
The exact measurements are as follows:
Large Dice – 3/4 inch x3/4 inch x 3/4 inch
Medium Dice – 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch
Small Dice – 1/4 inch x 1/4 inch x 1/4 inch
I know we aren’t all going to get a ruler to measure our cuts every time we are dicing, but it might be a good idea to do it the next time you’re dicing something, just to get an idea of each size…so you can do it the next time. After a few times of practice, we can probably just eyeball the measurement and become pretty good with making each one uniform.
I have only attempted this cut twice. It was mostly because I had just seen that movie Julie and Julia, and I felt inspired to master cooking. 🙂 I didn’t do very well, and I really haven’t taken the time to practice. I do hope to try again, though, and get it down.
The measurements for a proper julienne cut are 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch x 2 1/2 inches. HERE is a photo of a julienne cut.
I love the look of this cut for carrots. I don’t know why, it’s just cute. 🙂
Fine Julienne measures 1/16 inch x 1/16 inch x 2 inches. That seems very difficult to do, and I have not yet come across that cut in a recipe yet. I would be nervous of chopping my fingers off to get 1/16 inch cut.
I have not yet tried this one or read it in any of my recipes, but I would love to be able to point out “I did a batonnet cut on those potatoes” some day. 🙂 Yes, that’s dorky. It just seems pretty cool to a)KNOW that type of cut and b)MAKE that type of cut….properly. 🙂
The batonnet cut measures 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch x 2 1/2-3 inches. And it is pronounced bah-tow-NAY.
This cut is also know as the “matchstick cut.” It measures 1/4 inch x 1/4 inch x 2 1/2 inches and is pronounced al-yoo-MET.
I tried this cut once, as far as I can remember. It turned out alright. Again, another cut I think it’d be cool to say I know and can do. 🙂
Pronounced BROON-wahz, this cut measures 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch. Yes, it’s tiny! I haven’t attempted this yet, nor have I read it in my recipes.
I was googling “brunoise” to see what types of food you might perform this cut on, and I found it’s used for fine salsas. I read it is best used on onion, tomato, celery, carrot and turnip. To perform this cut, it’s recommended that you julienne the item first, then make the cuts for the brunoise. There is also a Fine Brunoise that measures 1/16 inch x 1/16 inch x 1/16 inch. Yikes! I would definitely lose fingertips making that one!
Interesting, but I don’t know when specifically I’d use it. Just something to practice…you know, in the spare time we all have to sit and make different cuts of foods. 🙂
So, no matter what type of cut your recipe calls for, we can know exactly what it’s referring to and how to make it. And be sure to use safety when cutting anything! Have proper control of your knife and hold your food item with your fingertips turned in, to avoid any unnecessary ER visits!
Oh, and before I go, I found this step-by-step for how to chop an onion that I found pretty interesting. It’s different than what I’ve seen on the cooking shows. Enjoy!