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Chiffonade is a method of cutting the leaves of herbs and vegetables into thin strips. The technique is frequently used to create attractive garnishes. It is also a popular way to release the aromatic oils in herbs to intensify the flavor.
Leaves for this cutting method must be large enough to stack and roll. Based on this criterion, as well as its popularity in many dishes, basil is generally considered the most popular herb to chiffonade. The process requires five to 10 basil leaves to be removed from the stem and stacked with the largest leaf on the bottom. Starting with the long side of the leaves, the stack must be rolled into a tight cylinder resembling a tiny cigar. Using a very sharp knife, the leaves are cut horizontally to create ribbons.
The chiffonade technique is also frequently used to cut leafy vegetables such as cabbage, kale, chard, spinach and lettuce. The small strips may be used as part of stuffing for egg rolls, as garnishes or as fresh salad ingredients. Some chiffonade instructions warn against cutting herbs or vegetables too thinly as this may bruise the fibers and make them unattractive and bitter tasting. Storage suggestions for chiffonade prepared ahead of time frequently include submersing the cut leaves in cool water to prevent discoloration.
Non-leafy vegetables that need to be reduced to small, thin pieces are generally shredded or julienned, which also involves cutting into thin strips, but without rolling. Some sturdier cabbage varieties can be shredded as well as cut by the chiffonade technique. Shredding is also typically preferred for hard, root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, onions, turnips and parsnips if these items are to be formed into patties for frying or as salad toppings.
If the root vegetables are to be stir-fried, they normally hold up better if julienned instead of shredded. Julienne vegetables resemble matchsticks. They are created by using a kitchen slicer called a mandoline or by cutting the vegetables into thin slices, stacking them and cutting them into pieces about two to three inch sticks.
Other common cutting techniques for vegetables include slicing, chopping, dicing and mincing. Recipes generally instruct which method is preferred. These preferences are usually based on the cooking method used. If a dish requires slow cooking or braising, the vegetables are normally cut into large chunks or slices so they do not disintegrate during the cooking process. Conversely, if the recipe instructs to sauté, pan fry or stir fry the ingredients, the vegetables are normally minced or diced to make sure they cook quickly and evenly.
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