Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: Chiffonade sounds fancy, but that's only because it's French. In reality, it's a simple technique that works for any leafy herb.
The term "chiffonade" -- which roughly translates to "made of rags" -- is one of those bits of cooking lingo, like confit or sous-vide, that intimidates by its very sound. But in terms of actual difficulty, chiffonade comes in at about a 1 out of 10.
The chiffonade technique is commonly used for basil, mint, or lettuces, and it'll make your leafy greens of any size look like a pretty, fluffy pile of ribbon. Here's how to do it:
First, stack your leaves. Start small: You'll want around 10 leaves at a time, according to Fine Cooking, though with a bit of practice you can make your stacks even bigger. We like to layer bigger leaves at the bottom and smaller ones on top.
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Next, roll the stack lengthwise, as tightly as possible. It should look like a cigar.
Now you're ready to slice across the cigar. You'll need a very sharp blade: Our Test Kitchen Manager Allison says that the knife of choice in culinary school was a paring knife, which you'd pull towards you while cutting with just the tip of the blade, to get a very precise, super-thin chiffonade. We usually use a bigger blade, like a chef's knife, and employ a more traditional slicing motion. Allison also keeps things tidy by removing the tips first, and discarding them (or using them for less-exact garnishes).
Either way, the closer the cuts, the thinner and more delicate your chiffonade will be. Continue slicing until you reach the stem.
To avoid the "paper doll" effect -- where the strips stick together -- Allison recommends following through completely with your knife, with a slight forward motion once the entire blade makes contact with the board.
If you're worried about browning, chiffonade your herbs just before you use them. And then voilà, you've got a lovely addition to salads, pastas, fish, or even fruit -- before you could even say sous-vide.
How do you use your chiffonaded herbs? Do you have any tips for achieving perfect ribbons? Tell us in the comments!
Photos by James Ransom