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Test Kitchen tips: The art of the chop

January 10, 2011 |  2:52 pm

Maybe you've seen this trick already: Partially slicing through a layered vegetable (onion, leek or fennel for example) to make it easy to chop into similar-sized pieces.

If you haven't, you're not alone. This was a completely new technique to one of my new interns. Jonathan just went through his culinary school's patisserie program, and while he can rattle off tips for making a laminated dough, he never learned any formal knife skills. That changed his first week in the Test Kitchen, when he was asked to chop a bulb of fennel for a soup recipe we were testing.

This is a great technique -- indispensable in the kitchen -- for making quick work of chopping layered vegetables, and it also works well when you want to finely dice garlic and ginger.

We've included the basic steps to the technique, which you can follow after the jump:

Whole bulb of fennel:


1. Trim the vegetable (below): Remove the stalk and trim any excess roots off of a fennel bulb, leaving the root end in one piece (this will keep the layers intact).


2. Halve the bulb lengthwise (with the grain).


3. Place one half, cut side down, on your work surface and slice the half horizontally (parallel to the work surface) into slices almost to, but not through, the root end (you need to keep that end intact). Space the slices according to the size of the chop you need (1/2-inch, 1/4-inch, etc.).


4. Slice the vegetable vertically into similar-sized slices. Slice almost to, but not through, the root end, which will hold the pieces together.


5. Slice across the grain to cut each slice into pieces.


-- Noelle Carter and Jonathan Wing

Photos: Jonathan Wing