Thursday, March 6, 2008

As The World Tourner...

The classic French technique for shaping and turning vegetables is called tournage derived from the verb tourner (to turn). Perfectly shaped vegetables create a uniform appearance that allows for even cooking and beautiful presentation. Turned and shaped vegetables have different names depending on their size.

* Bouquetière – 3cm long
* Cocotte – 5 cm long
* Vapeur – 6 cm long
* Château – 7.5 cm long
* Fondant – 8 to 9 cm long

The technique is to trim the washed and peeled vegetable into the appropriate length, then hold it firmly between your thumb and index finger while holding the paring knife with your other hand. Slice off a side with a slightly curved stroke and keep turning the vegetable until all sides are cut and shaped – traditional tournage vegetables have 7 sides.

Zucchini, carrots, turnip, potatoes, parsnips can all be shaped and turned. It’s just hours of fun! You can guess what I’m doing this weekend…besides venturing out to buy a 5 lb. bag of carrots and potatoes you’ll find me standing over a cutting bowl trimming and practicing my tournage. It takes patience and good knife skills to get these vegetables to be the correct sizes.

After a few dozen failed prototypes, I ended up with six that passed my critical eye. Don’t worry – potato and carrot scrapes are collected and saved by FCI to make soups, etc. Nothing goes to waste in a professionally run kitchen.

Next we glacer (glaze) our turned vegetables – place carrots in a small sautoir, add some water to come about half way up the vegetable (cook one type of vegetable at a time). Don’t crowd them – the vegetables should be able to cook in a single layer with some room to circulate. A tsp. of butter, salt and sugar to add in the caramelization process (don’t add sugar to the carrots – they are sweet enough). The vegetables steam and cook in the liquid with a parchment paper lid that is vented. The water evaporates just as the vegetables are about to finish cooking. Glazing with sugar and butter creates a shiny glaze to the finished vegetable. There are three levels of glazing, à blanc, à blond and à brun (no color, a crème-colored effect and a darker brown color).

Careful cutting, shaping and preparing results in beautiful presentation and properly cooked food – meant to be enjoyed.

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