The Hospitality Guru (cooking) Back to Basics: Cutting Food
The cutting of vegetables can be divided into two main categories.
Rough cutting is the coarse cutting of foods, usually vegetables, which are generally not used for service.
Rough cut vegetables are used to impart flavour and colour to stocks, soups, sauces, braises and stews. After extracting flavour and colour, the vegetables are usually strained and discarded. Mirepoix, a mixture of carrots, celery and onions used to flavour stocks, sauces and stews is an example of a rough cut.
Julienne: Long, thin matchlike strips 3mm x 3mm x 40mm
Food items that can be cut in this way are meats (ham, tongue and beef), vegetables, savoury crepes and orange zest used as a garnish. A julienne is a common precision cut and other sizes are sometimes used.
Brunoise: A very fine dice used as a garnish. To cut, proceed as for julienne, then cut the strips into 3mm dice.
Jardiniere: Vegetable batons 4mm x 4mm x 20mm, used for garnish.
Macedoine: 8mm dice of vegetable or fruit. The fruit for a fruit salad are often cut into a macedoine.
Paysanne: Thin slices of vegetable cut into 15mm squares, triangles, or rounds. Paysanne is used as garnish for soups like minestrone.
Precision cutting is the cutting of food, normally root vegetables, into specific shapes and sizes.
Precision cuts are mostly used as garnishes for soups and sauces, but may also be used as a vegetable for salads and as main dish accompaniments. Precision cuts improve the presentation of a dish by giving a delicate and symmetrical appearance.
Specific culinary terms are used to describe the various uniform shapes and sizes of precision cuts and include:
Turning is the process where root vegetables of different sizes are shaped into the same size and shape. This results in even cooking and eye appeal. The best knife to use for turning is a turning knife, however, a standard paring knife may also be used. The vegetable to be turned is first cut to the required size then held in one hand. The knife is used in the other.
There is a knack to turning vegetables into regular-shaped barrels. One way to learn to even wrist action required for turning is to practise on a hard boiled egg. Hold the egg lengthways between finger and thumb and scrape the blade lightly down the shell until you feel comfortable with the even flow of the knife.