The seventh season of Bravo’s “Top Chef” has begun, and part of the first episode has already made a sharp impression. During the premiere Quickfire Challenge, which is a notoriously difficult test of adroitness and haste, the chef contestants (also known as “cheftestants”) had to cut 10 cups of onions into brunoise as fast as they could.
Brunoise is a way to dice food, usually vegetables. Many consider it to be one of the most challenging standard knife cuts.
The cut is a perfect cube that should measure 1/8” x 1/8” x 1/8”. Although that’s a tiny cut, recipes sometimes call for a fine brunoise, which is even smaller (1/16” x 1/16” x 1/16”). By comparison, the measurement for a medium dice of food is 1/2” x 1/2” x 1/2”.
The brunoise is tricky work, but when there is $20,000 on the line and you’re working with a razor-sharp blade, we truly are talking about a dicey situation.
Other common vegetable cuts include the julienne, which is a brunoise matchstick (1/8” x 1/8” x 2 1/2”). This cut is the best way to start brunoise. Larger matchsticks are allumette (1/4” x 1/4” x 2 1/2”) and batonett (1/2” x 1/2” x 2 1/2”). As you can probably now guess, the batonett is the starting point for a medium dice.
Fancy knife work is more than just for show. Vegetables cut at the same size will have uniform cooking times. If you’re in a rush and size does not matter, mince your food. This just means to cut an item in small pieces.
We could go on, but we don’t want to mince words …