Paysanne Cutting – The Complete Guide
Do you ever get the feeling that some recipes make things sound far more complicated than they really are?
Many of us are put off by unfamiliar terms when we look at a new recipe, but some of these are not as scary as they first sound!
So, what is paysanne cutting? Paysanne cutting is a French term used to describe a particular technique for slicing vegetables. A recipe that asks for carrot or potatoes a la paysanne simply means that they should be neatly sliced into small, 1mm-thick slices. The aim is to have all the vegetables the same size and thickness so that they all cook quickly and at the same rate.
Chopping and slicing vegetables is one of those kitchen tasks that professional chefs make look effortless, while the rest of us end up with a pile of unevenly sliced ingredients!
Let’s take a look at paysanne cutting and find out how to take our culinary skills to the next level!
What Is The Paysanne Cut?
The word paysanne is a French term used to describe a particular method of preparing vegetables. In French, it actually translates as peasant or rustic, although to many of us it seems much more sophisticated than that!
This delicate cut is considered to be rougher and more informal than other more precise types of French food preparation, such as julienne or tourne cuts.
However, don’t underestimate the precision of the paysanne cut, as it is much more delicate than the chopped vegetables we are used to!
When using the paysanne cut, the aim is to slice vegetables into neat 1mm-thick slices. These slices are also uniformly shaped, so some initial trimming and preparation of the vegetables are also required.
The outer edges of the vegetable are normally trimmed to create straighter edges. It is then sliced into batons that are around ½ inch wide.
These batons are then thinly sliced to create the finely sliced squares required when a recipe asks for vegetables to be prepared paysanne style.
Paysanne cutting is normally only used in vegetables, and it is most common in firmer types such as root vegetables.
What Is The Paysanne Cut Used For?
The Paysanne cut is used to prepare one or more types of vegetables so that they are all of a similar size and thickness.
This means that they all cook evenly and at the same rate, without one becoming overcooked while the others are still crunchy and raw.
Traditionally, the paysanne cut is used when we want our vegetables to cook quickly, normally by sautéing or in a liquid or sauce.
The most notable example is in soup, and this is how vegetables for a classic minestrone should be prepared.
This cut of vegetable is also excellent for adding to a creamy pasta sauce, or for using when gently poaching fish or chicken. It will also work well in other quickly cooked dishes, such as stir-fries.
Paysanne cut vegetables are not commonly included in long and slow-cooked dishes, as the thin slices will quickly lose their texture, becoming mushy and soft.
For casseroles and pot-roasts, the vegetables are normally cut into larger chunks which will hold their shape once cooked.
Which Vegetables Can You Cut Paysanne Style?
The best vegetables to cut paysanne style are those that have a firm solid texture that hold their shape well.
This includes most vegetables in the root vegetable category, such as potatoes, turnips, carrots, parsnips, winter radish, and sweet potatoes.
You can also use some of the firmer squashes and zucchini to prepare into thin squares using a paysanne cutting method.
It is also possible to cut celery into a paysanne cut, although it will not be in uniform squares like your other vegetables.
Which Vegetables Are Difficult To Cut Paysanne Style?
Some vegetables are impossible to cut paysanne style, either because of their shape, their size, or their texture.
Small vegetables such as fresh peas and beans are very difficult to slice, although we’d love to see you try to cut a pea into 1mm-thick slices!
If you’re using these alongside paysanne sliced vegetables, you could add them whole or roughly chop them into smaller pieces.
Leafy green vegetables, like cabbage, spinach, and chard, will not cut easily into paysanne squares. Instead, roll them into a tube and thinly slice into 1mm-thick rounds, to give you perfectly shredded greens.
If you are adding a flowering vegetable, such as broccoli or cauliflower, alongside paysanne vegetables, individual florets can be broken off to cook alongside your thinly sliced root vegetables.
What Is The Best Type Of Knife To Use For The Paysanne Cut?
So, do you need a special type of knife for paysanne cutting? No, not at all! You’ll likely have a knife suitable for thinly slicing vegetables in your cutlery drawer or knife rack (if you don’t, however, we’d recommend this one).
One important thing to bear in mind is the sharpness of the knife, so if it is not in top condition then take the time to run it through your knife sharpener.
This will not only make cutting easier but also help you to get evenly spaced thin slices.
The style of knife used to chop paysanne vegetables is commonly referred to as a chef’s knife. This is a knife with a long, wide blade, with a sharp edge that curves upwards to a pointed tip.
This is a highly versatile type of knife and can be used for a range of tasks from carving meat to chopping vegetables. And when it comes to creating perfect paysanne vegetables, it has everything you need!
The long blade of a chef’s knife will help to keep your fingers out of trouble, as well as allow you to make long, slow cuts across the vegetables.
The wide blade slides through the vegetables with ease, and the curve of the blade allows you to use the ultimate labor-saving “rocking horse” motion that we see professional chefs use.
One final point to bear in mind when choosing a knife for paysanne cutting is that it should be straight-edged and not serrated. A serrated knife will make it impossible to get the neat, clean, thin slices we are looking for in a paysanne cut.
Step-By-Step Guide To The Paysanne Cut
To figure out the best way to do the paysanne cut, we need to clarify what we are aiming for here. What we are trying to get is slices of vegetables that are all of equal thickness, around 1mm.
These slices should all be around the same size, about ½ inch square. However, they do not need to be perfectly square, and a rounded or sloped edge is absolutely fine.
If you’ve ever seen a bowl of vegetables prepared using the paysanne cutting method, you might notice that they are mostly square. If this is not necessary, why do many of our vegetable slices end up this way?
The reason for this is the trimming of the vegetables that takes place before they are thinly sliced.
They are often cut into batons, with the rougher edges removed. This not only gives a neater finish but also allows them to lie flat on the chopping board.
Try cutting a rounded carrot into 1mm slices and you will soon see why the baton method is so much easier!
So, let’s find out exactly how to do the paysanne cut:
Prepare Your Vegetables
The preparation method will vary according to whatever method you use.
The aim is for pieces of vegetables around ½-inch square, so if you’ve got a stick of celery then it probably doesn’t need much preparation other than cutting the ends off.
If you wish to peel your vegetables, do this before you start cutting.
Larger vegetables, such as potatoes and turnips, will need to be cut into batons. Slice the vegetable in half to give you a flat edge that will be stable on the cutting surface.
If you wish, you can trim the other surfaces to improve the appearance, although this is not necessary.
Cut the vegetable into ½ inch slices, then cut each slice into ½ inch batons. These are then ready to slice into paysanne cuts.
Rounded vegetables might seem tricky to prepare, but they are actually very simple!
Carrots can be sliced lengthways into either halves or quarters, depending on the thickness of the vegetable. Many people cut the lower, thinner section in half, and the top, thicker section into quarters.
These sections now have one flat side, which will sit firmly on the chopping board when slicing paysanne style.
The Paysanne Slicing Method
So, you have a pile of neatly prepared vegetable batons on your chopping board…now what?
Start by slicing just two batons at a time. As you become more experienced, you can add in more batons to make the process faster. Lay the batons side-by-side on the chopping board.
Hold the batons together with one hand (normally your non-dominant hand). So, if left-handed, hold them with your right hand, and vice versa.
The technique used to hold the vegetable pieces in place is commonly referred to as “the claw”. The fingertips should be pointed downwards so that the knife is parallel to the fingernails.
This helps to keep your fingertips safely out of the way of the sharp knife, and they can be pulled back along the vegetables as you chop.
Next, take your chef’s knife and hold it next to the end of your vegetable pieces. Hold the blade above the vegetables, keeping the tip of the knife pointing downwards.
Using a firm, smooth action, take a 1mm thick slice from the end of the vegetable baton.
Repeat this movement until your fingers no longer have enough room to hold the ends of the vegetables safely. These end pieces should be discarded or saved to make vegetable stock.
The trick to doing this slicing action quickly and with the minimal risk of injury is to develop the classic “rocking horse” movement which allows the knife to glide through the food.
The knife is almost rolled downwards and forwards through the vegetable, with the sharp blade doing all the work.
This technique is worth the effort of perfecting, as you will be rewarded with perfectly sliced paysanne vegetables with very little effort.
If you’re still feeling unsure about how to do the paysanne cut, check out this great video!
Can You Use A Mandoline To Cut Paysanne Style?
If you have one, a mandoline can be a great way to get evenly sliced vegetables (we’d recommend this brand if you’re currently looking for one)! But can this useful kitchen gadget be used to prepare vegetables paysanne style?
The problem we have with a mandoline is that it works better with larger vegetables, so it would be difficult to slice the half-inch batons of vegetables that we have lovingly prepared.
However, we can use your slicing tool to help you along the way, cutting out some of the work!
One way you could do this is to slice a whole carrot, turnip, or potato into 1mm-thick slices using the mandoline.
Transfer these to the chopping board and, working with a small stack of slices at a time, cut them into ½ inch square cubes.
Whether this is any faster than slicing paysanne style vegetables by hand is debatable, but it can help if you struggle to get the slices thin enough with a knife.
How To Store Paysanne Sliced Vegetables
If you are not planning on using your thinly sliced vegetables straight away, they can be kept crisp and fresh by storing them in cold water.
Either pop them into a bowl or food container and add enough water to just cover the vegetables. This will be enough to keep them in good condition for several days.
Preparing vegetables in advance does have its downsides, as they will lose some of their beneficial nutrients. However, if you’ve got a large number of vegetables to cut paysanne-style, it can be very helpful to prepare them in advance!
Paysanne sliced vegetables can also be blanched by plunging them into boiling water for a few seconds, then transferring them into a bowl of iced water.
They can then be stored in the freezer, perfect for when you need a quick handful of vegetables to add to a soup or stir fry.
The best thing is that you don’t even need to defrost them beforehand, as these thin slices will thaw in seconds in a hot pan!
What Other Types Of Cutting Methods Can Be Used?
Now that we’ve got the paysanne cut all figured out, let’s take a look at some of the other cutting techniques used in professional cuisine.
There’ll be no need to be terrified by a recipe anymore once you’ve figured out how easy all these different methods really are!
The Rondelle Cut
The rondelle cut is when vegetables are cut into rounds or ovals.
This technique is used on cylindrical vegetables, such as carrots and baby corn. A crosswise cut is used to create a round slice, or a sloped cut at an angle will give an oval slice.
The Julienne Cut
Julienne cut vegetables are sliced into tiny matchsticks, around 3 inches long and 1/8th inch thick. To do this, the vegetable is sliced into thin slabs, which are then very finely sliced to create incredibly thin batons.
The Tournee Cut
This unusual technique is when vegetables are cut into an oblong football shape, with rounded sides.
The tournee, or tourne, cut is normally done for aesthetic reasons. For example, to make potatoes and carrots look more pleasing when served on the plate.
The Macedoine Cut
Macedoine vegetables are finely diced, into ¼ inch pieces. These will cook quickly as a base for soups and casseroles, or can be blanched and added to salads.
The Jardinière Cut
The jardiniere cut is a technique used to cut vegetables into thin batons, normally around 1 inch long and ¼ inch in diameter.
The Brunoise Cut
This technique involves firstly cutting vegetables julienne-style. The thin matchsticks are then finely sliced to create cubes around 1/8 on each side.
The Chiffonade Cut
The chiffonade method is used to cut leafy vegetables into very thin strips.
This name literally translates as “in rags”, although we’re sure your dinner guests won’t see it like that! It is normally used for lettuces, flat-leaved herbs, and spring cabbages.
This cut is used to create decorative lozenge shapes, used to garnish a finished dish. It is made by first cutting the vegetables into batons. These are then sliced on a diagonal angle to give uniform lozenge-shaped pieces of garnish.
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