Before you learn to julienne vegetables, you'll first need to know how to make vegetable batonnets. Then, you'll also be able to create brunoise vegetables and a classical dice. But not to worry. These French classical cooking terms simply refer to ways of chopping vegetables so they come out in uniform pieces that look attractive and that cook in the same amount of time. What's most important is that you're preparing and eating healthy vegetables.
Definitions for Chefs and Home Cooks
Julienned vegetables are, in effect, thin, matchstick-sized pieces. Classically French-taught chefs strive for pieces of regular julienne that are perfectly square 1/8 inch by 1/8 inch-pieces, 2 1/2 inches long. Fine julienne strips are square 1/16 inch by 1/16-inch pieces that are 2 inches long. None of this is important for home cooks. If your pieces look small, thin and relatively uniform, you're good to go.
The Julienne Method
Before you begin to julienne, first cut off the tapered ends of your vegetable. Next, cut rounded edges off the vegetable so you form a rectangle with straight sides. Now, cut the rectangular potato or zucchini into 1/4-inch slices. Then, lay the slices on top of each other and cut them into 1/4-inch strips. And finally, cut the strips into pieces 2 1/2 inches long and save any extra pieces for your scrap pile. Voila – you've formed batonnets.
To create juliennes, use the same method as for batonnets in cutting off the ends of the vegetables, forming them into rectangles and slicing them into 1/8-inch slices. Now comes the difference. When you stack the slices, cut them into 1/8-inch strips instead of 1/4-inch ones. Voila, juliennes. Julienne vegetables are simply smaller batonnets.
Your best and sharpest chef's knife works great for julienne vegetables. You need a somewhat heavy knife with a wide, sturdy blade that curves slightly upward at the end. It should have a straight, not serrated, edge and be from 6 to 14 inches long. Or, buy a julienne peeler that looks and works exactly like a vegetable peeler, but that makes thicker strips with squared edges. You'll end up wanting to use your julienne peeler for every meal, making zucchini noodles for stir fries and salads, eggplant or squash noodles for low-carb alternatives to pasta or carrot juliennes for soup.
Using Julienned Vegetables
First things first – don't throw out your julienne scraps. They still contain the same vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as the julienned strips. Use the tapered ends and the bits you've cut off by throwing them into soups and salads. Freeze the scraps or save them in the fridge if you don't use them immediately.
Use julienned vegetables the same way you would larger chopped vegetables, by stir frying them or using them in soups or salads. Or, use the elegant strips as a garnish on meats, grain dishes and appetizers, adding extra nutrients and freshness to dishes.
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.