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How To Use a Mandoline (Vegetable Slicer)

Updated on February 1, 2012

Chef Ming Tsai Slicing

The Mandoline - Making Beautiful Music in the Kitchen

William Shakespeare, in the opening of his great comedic work, "Twelfth Night", declared, "If music be the food of love, play on!" I think it can also be said, "If food be the music of love, cook on!" And what better instrument to bridge the music and the food of love, than that well-named vegetable slicing machine, the Mandoline!

A Symphony of Slices on the Mandoline

Watching chefs like Ming Tsai create heady Asian cuisine or Mario Batali whip up heartful Italian dishes has introduced me to the beauty of the Mandoline. It's amazing to see the grace with which they work their entertaining mandolines. One of the least common kitchen gadgets, the Mandoline was designed to make your mise en place, that is, prepping your meal by slicing, chopping, and placing your ingredients in front of you as easy as whistling a tune. The simplest mandolines let you slide your cucumber, zucchini, or other veggie of your choice up and down a slotted blade, fanning your plate with paper thin slices. The more complex versions feature attachments for more elaborate shapes like waffle cut potato chips.

Speaking of chips, few things bring back simpler days that a plate full of hand cut french fries. But with the mandoline, every cut will be consistent and you'll be able to wow yourself and your family or guests with your homefries or shoestring potatoes. Steak frites, anyone?

How about an apple or pear tart tatine for the holidays?

U. Srinivas (mandolin) and U. Rajesh with ghatam and mdringam

The Mandoline: Safety First

One of my favorite features of most mandolines is the safety knob that the cook attaches to the vegetable to prevent fingers from touching the blade. Nevertheless, I've often seen my favorite chefs on television handling the slicing without the knob, talking and teaching, their digits coming precariously close to falling into the salad. Not so tasty.

So when shopping for a mandoline, look for one that won't be chopping your precious fingers off and obviously, handle with care. Also take precaution when washing your mandoline as well. But best to keep peroxide and gauze on hand just in case. Take care of your hands to keep savoring life. Now, we're cooking!


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