Chiffonade is a knife technique and it is most often seen when cutting lettuce, herbs, or leafy vegetables to produce long, thin strips that resemble ribbons. In French, chiffon means "cloth" or "rag," and chiffonade translates to "in rags." However, most people think of it as "in ribbons" or "little ribbons," instead.
While a lot of people use the term as a verb, to explain how they're preparing something, it's actually a noun meaning "shredded or finely cut vegetables or herbs used especially as a garnish," according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
To use this technique, a chef would generally roll up the herbs or leaves they're going to be cutting. Once the leaves are rolled into a tube or cigar shape they can be sliced, producing the thin strips that are expected with chiffonade. The delicate ribbons that are created by using this type of cut are often used for garnish or decoration.
Chiffonade can be added to a plate, often underneath another dish, or they can be added to the top of a soup or salad. Depending on the herb that's cut this way the goal could be adding more flavor to a dish, or it might be primarily based on increasing the aesthetic appeal through use of a garnish.
It's very important to use the chiffonade as soon as it's been cut, since cut herbs and vegetables quickly lose a lot of their flavor and potency. The edges will also start to get dark, which can be unappealing to some diners and give the impression that the food isn't fresh.
Choosing a broad-leaf plant that rolls easily is the best way to get a quality chiffonade for any dish. This reduces the chances of shredding and other issues, and also makes it easier to get an even cut that produces the expected ribbons.
Something with irregular leaves, such as parsley, isn't a good candidate for this technique, since it doesn't roll easily. When done correctly, chiffonade can add great flavor and an elegant look to many dishes.
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