The Classic Cuts
This week is all about the classic cuts. These cuts mostly come from French cuisine and can be found in texts coming all the way back from the 1700 - 1800s.These have been used for hundreds of years by chefs everywhere. Once again this is a “Do it this way” newsletter as the recipe calls for a chiffonade not a shred for a reason. No need to take notes on these. We will give you a nice info-graphic to print out and put on the fridge.
Without further adieu [uh-do] the classic cuts!
The largest classification of stick like foods that you can find will be this guy right here. A baton (A ‘stick’)of food can be a little smaller than a standard baguette or as small as 1/16 inch by 1/16 inch. If you are thinking that it is a rather large range then you are spot on. In fact the next few things below can also be referred to as batons of food. Think of it as a parent classification that you can put other subclassifications into. Generally when someone says baton they mean a larger than normal stick of food as smaller cuts can be classified with the terms below
Next in this class is a batonnet (a ‘little stick’). This is the first classic cut with a strict definition. If something calls for you to batonnet a potato than you would be cutting it into 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch x 2 inch long sticks. Like for example French fries, delicious crispy fried potatoes of goodness, are a great example of a batonnet it terms of size.
Allumette means ‘match’ or ‘matchstick’ in French and that is pretty much what we would be cutting our food into if a recipe were to call for us to allumette a carrot. What we would be doing is taking that carrot and cutting it down to 1/4 inch x 1/4 inch x 2 inch sticks. Right about the size of a matchstick … see how that works? Almost like they knew what they were doing.
Almost done with the ‘baton’ cuts here with this one. Now to julienne something you are going to be breaking it down into small strips of food that are 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch x 2inch. Yeah that is pretty small. Mostly vegetables are cut this way and most of the time they are used as a garnish or in a soup.
Alright we made it to the last of the stick cuts. A fine julienne is either a really good looking guy names Julienne or a very small cut of food … or we guess they could be both if you lived on a cannibal island. “Gronk, we need you to fine julienne Julienne” HA! Where were we … right size! A fine julienne is a 1/16 inch x 1/16 inch x 2 inch stick. Son of a monkey that is small. To do this will require skill, dedication, and a good sharp knife (see our next newsletter!) Almost exclusively this cut is used as a garnish and you rarely see it used in any recipe.
Done with the sticks, or baton, … well kinda. Next we are going to get into strict cube cuts that honestly the best or easiest way to make them is to start with a baton and… “That’s great Eric & Lee, but uh … how exactly do I cut those without losing fingers?”
Ooh … instructions are a good idea. Let us take a quick break here from the terms (they can get boring we know we know, so sorry but you will be able to impress at least a few people with your knowledge … besides your mom we mean.) and get you a nice and simple ‘how to keep all your digits around sharp pointy things while cutting up various food items into stick like, or baton, shaped food items.’ (It is a working title we will try to shorten it up a little for the info graphic).
First take your food item, why not a potato for this one like we were making fries. After cleaning and peeling it cut a small slice off the bottom to give you a flat surface to set the food down on your cutting board with minimal rocking. Next begin by cutting long slabs at your wanted size, which would be 1/2 inch in this case. Now take those slabs and stack them one atop the other then cut those into 1/2 inch batons. If you are unsure of your skills with a knife feel free to only do one slab at a time until you are more comfortable then add more.
Alright then shall we get into other cuts?
So to brunoise something you are going to be breaking it down into small 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch cubes. This is pretty strict, unlike a dice, in that a brunoise is an exact cube 1/8 inch x 1/8 inch and nothing else. Were as dicing something is roughly that size a brunoise will be a pile of food that is all broken down into those cubes.
A fine brunoise is a food that has been cut up into 1/16 inch by 1/16 inch cubes. Very very tiny pieces used for adding color without much flavor and mainly as a garnish.
Cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, & zucchini can all be cut into these. What do all of these have in common? Hmm … that is right! They are all cylinder in shape! If you answered correctly you get a gold star, if you answered incorrectly than please start over at ‘Cucumbers,…’ (if you answered incorrectly again do you eat with a cork on your fork and do people call you Ruprecht?) Now a rondelle is a round ‘slice’ of a cylinder food that is about 1/8 inch thick. Pretty easy.
This cut is 100% decoration. You cut any type of food into diamond shape pieces about 1/8 inch thick … that is it.
Chiffonade literally means “made of rags”. That is it, on to the nexxx… you want more? That was not good enough for you? Come on this is starting to feel like school again … fine!
When you need to chiffonade something you are going to break it down into thin strips. Almost exclusively used on leafy greens but can be used for other things as well like tortillas. You would stack the leaves together and then roll them up like a sleeping bag and then cut them into 1/8 inch strips working your way down the length of the roll. When you are done and unroll the strips you have long 1/8 inch strips of basil, spinach, etc.
This is a technique that is similar to a chiffonade but used for larger vegetables like cabbage and lettuce that are pretty much held together already. The cuts are generally larger but once again it has a rather large range of sizes that can fit into the classification. Rough shreds would be good for salads while a fine shred would be great for tacos and garnish.
2 lbs russet potatoes peeled
Reduce the potatoes to 1" batons then chop the batons from end to end to get 1"x1"x1/4" flat cubes. Fine chop the onion and slice the mushrooms.
In a hot, non-stick skillet put 1tbs canola oil and heat until it shimmers. Toss potatoes into the pan and fry until browned and almost done. In a second non-stick skillet brown corn until kernels are nicely toasted, add to the potatoes. Then brown the onion and garlic in the second skillet and add those to the potatoes. After all vegetables are in the pan add in paprika, cumin, salt and pepper and let those simmer for two to three minutes. Garnish with cheese and cilantro before serving.
Whew, we think that is all of them. We know that this was a little different than the other newsletters but there were a lot of cuts to cover for you so you know what you need to do in the kitchen. Remember what we said last week about changing the taste and look of a dish by cutting things incorrectly. Knowing what the different cuts are can save you a lot of problems and knowing is half the battle, G.I. Copyright infringement! Don't forget to check out Peter Hertzmann's excellent Knife Skills Illustrated: A User's Manual for some very detailed info about cuts.
Next week we'll be back with one more newsletter about knives, but we'll be talking about how to maintain them and (best of all!) how to keep a razor-sharp edge on your blade. Great stuff!
One more time please remember to use the pinch and the claw when cutting to save your fingers and to treat your knives with the utmost respect. Next week we will be back to show you how to sharpen and maintain your knives as well as how to clean and store them.
- Lee & Eric