Sunday, June 26, 2011

You Say Potato, I Say Cocotte

During the first 4 weeks of Culinary School, we learned approximately 31 different knife cuts. Gone were the simpler times when as a home cook I only had to worry about chopping, slicing, dicing and mincing my veggies or spuds.
After every cut was learned, I ended up with some favorites, and some not so favorites. My favorite cuts were the brunoise (broon-wah) and brunoisettes (broon wah zhay).  Essentially it is cutting veggies or potatoes into little 1/16" cubes or little 1/8" cubes.   (Here is a picture of nine of the cuts we have I did twice.)  I am aware that a potato IS a veggie, however thanks to our wonderful friends the French, they've required that we separate the two, and as a result a potato is considered a starch, not a veggie.  Hey, I only follow the rules and ridicule them, I don't make them.

My next favorite cut would be Julienne and Julienne Fine (feen)  Most people know what a simple Julienne cut looks like, but did you know that they each have specific measurements?  

Yup- they do. I mean, we are talking about the French here people, and if I've learned one thing over the past six weeks it is that the French desire to drive every non-French person stark raving mad by a plethora of crazy rules and special names for every.little.thing.  Granted their way is the best, and once you learn their way, it's rather logical and perfect, I just wish they weren't so right all the time, but I digress.  (I seriously don't hate the French in any way, shape, or form. I just enjoy picking on them.  Don't worry, they're used to it I'm sure).

OK, back to the measurements.  A Julienne cut is 1/8 x 1/8 x 2-2 1/2 inches long.  The Julienne Fine cut is 1/16 x 1/16 x 2-2 1/2 inches long.  No, seriously, we actually measure these.  Or, as our Chef Instructor said "Check yourself before you wreck yourself".

My least favorite cut has to be the ever so wonderful Cocotte (coh-cott) or Tourner 
(tore 'nay).  Simply put a cocotte is when you intentionally (and purposefully) cut a potato into a 2 inch x 3/4 inch 7 sided football shape.  A Tourner is the same cut, only done on a veggie, such as a carrot, turnip, parsnip, beet or zucchini.  They look something like that picture on the left.  I actually did cut the 28 cocottes you see to your left, and even after all that practice I still stink. 

I bet you are all wondering "why would anyone want to cut a potato into a 7 sided football shape, and how do you prepare them?  Ah, I'm so glad you asked.  I'm not sure why anyone would WANT to sit and turn potatoes for the heck of it, however they are pretty, and with practice if they are all made roughly the same size they cook pretty evenly and for some reason pretty shapes just taste better.  

Cocottes taste amazing when they are par boiled for a few minutes in well-salted boiling water and then sauted in bacon fat until a little golden brown and crispy on the outside. (Yes, I actually did just post a picture of bacon fat.  Bacon fat is awesome.  Embrace it.)  To finish them, sprinkle with salt and pepper and enjoy.  When you have to cut as many potatoes and carrots as I've had to cut in order to practice you get rather creative about ways to prepare them.  
Another way to prepare these cocottes is to drizzle olive oil into a large bowl, toss in the spuds, coat each one in the oil, sprinkle on a liberal amount of Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, or a little white pepper, and some fresh rosemary and roast them.  YUM!

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