Turning Vegetables.

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Turning Vegetables.

G'day Jacob'
I've been out in the kitchen prepping a shipload of fresh vegies for blanching - a result of spontaneous visits to some 
local garden markets today. As I sometimes do when I'm in the kitchen, I started listening, at random, to one of the SCS audio lectures which turned out to be the very first podcast: "Knife Skills".
While listening to te podcast, It occurred to me that you've never mentioned turning vegatables. I'd be interested to hear your views on this technique, and, if you use it at all, your own method and and where you like to apply it..

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Back in the old forum, Jacob posted the following video of a friend's turning potatoes. I could only find it on Twitvid, now, and I don't recall how much discussion there was at the time, but here it is:

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Thanks Labradors,

I don't recall that video at all, but I stand corrected. I'd still like to see some discussion on the technique. I don't think any of us would accept that it is purely a way of obtaining even-cooking;  though it may be a secondary advantage. It seems to me that it is more a presentation technique - and I like the opportunities that this presents.
When I first saw this technique being used, my first thought was that it was being used to imitate baby vegies when they were unavailable.

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My friend in this video is a supper old school chef who worked in big brigades back in the old days, hence why he's so good at turning vegetables. I think there are plenty of other ways to cook vegetables evenly; just cubing them all to them same size will work.

Turning vegetables is really just a presentation thing, and when done properly, look pretty cool on the plate. But this also clashes with the more modern approach to food presentation which favors organic looking food which sometimes is plated in an abstract manner. A lot of chef's are trending away from making their food look "fussy," which isn't to say that they take less time plating, they just have a different approach.

I fall somewhere in between, but the reason why old school chefs are good at turning potatoes is because they came up through the apprentice system, working for free for at least 1-3 years. When you have free labor, you can have them turn case after case of potatoes in your cellar. But training an hourly employee to turn vegetables is usually bad for your labor cost, and since the apprentice system is slowly fading away, so are classic techniques like turning vegetables.

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Such a lost technique now a days. Very, very few restaurants use this cut for veg because, as Chef Jacob said, it takes up a lot of labor cost to have your cooks/interns/commis stand there and turn a case of potatoes, carrots, parsnips etc...

I personally like the shape. It has eye appeal and stands out from your run of the mill knife cuts.

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In all the classes I have taken here in Boston, the only chef that showed us anything to do with "turning vegetables" was when we made a recipe containing artichokes.  I hadn't even heard the term before then and it seemed to me like it was specific to artichokes because of the excess external leaves that needed to be removed anyway.  Once "turned" we wound up slicing them in half and then thinly slicing them for a saute, so the only reason for turning them was to get them down to size.  

As Jacob has implied, the reason why I probably haven't been exposed to this technique more than once is that most chefs have moved away from this process because of the labor involved.  Watching the video above, it seems like an incredible waste of product, although it can provide for an elegant presentation.

I'm actually pretty happy I learned the techinque as I hadn't cooked with artichokes before and have now made them several times and have gotten pretty good at turning them. (No Jacob, I am not going to come out to Truckee to turn several   cases of artichokes for you smiley.)

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@ Chef316 I agree: I think the technique allows for some very appealing presentation. I was thinking it would be useful as a way to give the appearance of baby vegetables when they're are unavailable. 

In any case, I'd like to learn the technique, if for no other reason then to add to my knife skills. So if anyone has any tips, I'd be glad to hear them.

@ Elliot I always buy the hearts in cans or jars, which are quite good, but I really like the sound of turned artichokes. I'd be interested in more description on your technique when you get the time.

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@Jacobite,

Not much to it other than to use a utility knife and while holding the artichoke sideways in your hand, cut into the leaves as you turn the artichoke.  Remove several layers of outer leaves this way until you have a firm core left.  Slice them lengthwise and put them in a bowl of water with lemon as they oxidize really quickly.

Remove from the water and slice very thinly and then saute.

Next time I make them I'll take photos...maybe this weekend.  If you can get the baby artichokes they are easier to work with.  Once you taste the fresh version, you will never go back to artichokes from a can or jar.

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Thank's mate.

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There are some good videos on you tube explaining and show the turning or "tourne" technique...check it out! :-)

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@Jacobite,

As promised, here are some photos of how I "turned" some artichokes for a saute.

It's best to start with baby artichokes as they are smaller and easier to manage.

Start by holding the artichoke in your hand while taking a utility or paring knife in your other hand.

Simply cut into the outer leaves of the artichoke and just turn the artichoke as you peel off multiple outer layers of leaves.  Stop once you have it turned down to a "core" size.

Next, you want to top the artichoke and trim off the part between the artichoke and the base of the stem.  Then shave off the outer layer of the stem being careful not to cut the stem off.

 

 

Notice all the waste.

Make sure you have a bowl of lemon water ready to store the artichokes as they oxidize rapidly.

Split the artichoke in two lengthwise and then slice thinly.

Prepare them as you wish.  I sauteed them in garlic, white wine deglaze, rice vinegar, S&P and some butter.

You'll think twice about opening a jar or can in the future.

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It's strange, but I never seem to think of YouTube as a resource site - more an entertainment site; however, I followed your advice, and got some good information. Thanks for the tip.

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Excellent post Elliot. Can't wait to try my hand. Thanks, I really appreciate your time and effort

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It was my pleasure as it gave me an excuse to make the artichokes!

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@Jacobite
YouTube is the first place I heard about Chef Jacob and Stella Culinary (I was looking to brush up on my bread making)....alot of great clinic type videos from chefs around the world, including but not limited to Jacob, Thomas Keller, Grant Achatz and René Redzepi. It's a great resource!

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