Have you ever dined in an Italian restaurant and, after relishing the delicious main course, said to yourself, ‘I will replicate this dish at home.’? But no matter how many different recipes you tried, you just could not get the taste right; something was always missing. Perhaps, the problem isn’t with your recipe but the way you garnish it with finely chopped herbs.
In Italian cuisine, the garnishing is paid as much attention as the meat or pasta in the main course. Some chefs would even say that the crux of taste in a dish lies in the herbs used. Therefore, it is necessary to pay close attention to your herbs. In American cuisine, food is usually topped with chunks of parsley or thyme, but that is a big no-no in Italian cuisine; instead, to ornate your dish, you must finely chop or dice your herbs. Do not have the skill or finesse for fine chopping? Worry not, we have prepared a guide with tips from Italian uno chefs to help you master the skill of chopping almost any herb!
How to Slice & Dice Fresh Herbs
For Italian cuisine, fresh ingredients get a lot of attention. Instead of the sounds of cans, Italian kitchens exhibit the vigorous roar of an active knife on a chopping board. And more often than not, that knife is slicing its way through the delicious native herbs of Italy.
Fresh herbs not only compliment the taste of a dish but hold medicinal and spiritual purposes as well. This reputation is due to their intense aromatic qualities: they have an undeniable ability to transform recipes from ordinary to extraordinary in a dash, making them ever-famous globally.
Introducing fresh herbs into your cuisine will bring out the best flavors of the dish and enhance the color and texture of the meal. Below are some steps on how to best chop, dice, slice, tear, and tease your herbs to create the most flavors for your dish.
- Always select the best herbs. If you are unaware of how to know for sure, check for signs of distress or rot in them: avoid herbs with too much brown coloring, feel slimy, flops over like a mop, or smells rotten. Use only the green and the leafy parts of the plant.
- Once you get the herbs home, rinse them well, drying them gently with paper towels. If you rub too much of the plant, you will rub off the aromatic oils, dampening the taste. Hence, be gentle.
- Select a part of your kitchen that has a large working area. You may buy a large cutting board or remove some items from your countertop that get in the way.
- If you are cooking with herbs that have woody or thick stems, such as rosemary, thyme, or basil, strip off the leaves by running your fingers down the length of the stem.
- If you are using something like cilantro or parsley, remove the lower stems first. You will note that the bulk of the herb is on top, so focus on working from the top-down.
- Once this is complete, line up the herbs on your cutting board.
- Begin chopping. The best way to chop is by using what is called the Hinge method. Hold the knife firmly, but not too rough, in your dominant hand. Then, place your other hand on the top of the knife, down by the tip. Keep the knife’s edge on the cutting board by pressing your hand down while moving the hand that is holding it upward. Raise your knife or cutting tool up and down rapidly, but make sure you always keep the pressure on the tip. The tip of the knife will act as the hinge and help you slice through those herbs safely and effectively.
- Once you have moved the herbs around and displaced them, use the knife to draw them back into a neat pile and begin to re-chop, so everything is even.
- Once that it all looks even and clean, drop the herbs in a roaring stew or sprinkle them on an oven cooked pizza. Dig in!
Far too many people have lost fingers because of mistaking a pinky finger for a stem of rosemary. Always watch what you do to minimize your trips to the emergency room.
Below are a few tips to help you keep all ten fingers & toes:
– People say you can tell everything about a chef by the knife they use: nothing says bad cooking more than dull, dingy knives that can destroy a food’s texture. Hence, make sure to use a sharp knife with a wide blade, such as a chef’s knife or a Chinese cleaver, when cutting through herbs.
– Don’t use serrated-edge knives when cutting herbs: they are meant to cut through coarse items like bread and will not cut your herbs evenly.
– Make sure your cutting board is clean before you even start shopping. Never put raw meats on the cutting board before chopping herbs – as you can contaminate the herbs with bacteria.
– Herbs will also absorb “off” flavors leftover on the cutting board, so make sure that you clean everything thoroughly with soap and hot water.
Say Goodbye to Drab Dishes
Once you have acquired the art of cutting herbs, there is nothing holding you back from creating restaurant-quality dishes. With a handful of finely cut herbs, your dishes will not only taste better but also will be aesthetic enough to catch the eyes of everyone sitting at the dining table. Practice these tips today to improve your culinary skills and create delectable dishes that stand out on the table!