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What Does Chiffonade Mean?

What does the term "chiffonade' mean in cooking?


"Chiffon" is the french word for cloth or rags, so making a chiffonade translates essentially to making rags, usually of leaves of basil, mint or other greens.

To make a chiffonade, stack five or so leaves of whatever you are cutting into a pile and then roll them up into a tight cigar shape.  Rolling is done along the length, meaning parallel to the center rib.  Then using a sharp knife, cut across the roll at a perpendicular (90º) angle to make thin slices.  Lightly lift and toss the strips to separate and unroll them.

If you have ever hand cut tagliatelle or fettucine past, the process is rather similar, but working with leaves instead of sheets of rolled pasta dough. 

For readers concerned about leaves turning brown from being cut with a knife, don't be.  The browning comes about from the reaction of enzymes from inside the cells of the leaf with other parts of the leaf.  A sharp stainless steel knife will cause about as much cell damage as tearing but is a lot faster.  Once the leaf is bruised or damaged in any way it will start to brown, however, regardless of what method you use so the closer to serving that you make the chiffonade the better it will look.

A chiffonade makes a simple and elegant garnish, or can be used in dishes like Insalata Caprese or pizza to incorproate herbs.

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