For a quick down and , no that is not right, for a simple garnish that spices up the look of a plate, nothing is easier than a splash of color. One of the easiest ways to get that color is a bell pepper. The french trained chef’s call it brunoise it is pronounced brun wah soft u, soft a. This is just a step above a mince meaning that you slice super thin slices and then turn the pepper 90 degrees and slice the same width again into a tiny cube or very fine dice. This is easier to do than to describe.
Take a red bell pepper lay it side ways on the board with the stem pointing in the direction of the hand in which you hold the knife. Now you want to cut the top and bottom off. Next stand it up and slice through the side of the pepper all the way down. Next we need to clean out the seeds so as to get at the flesh just below it. This is done by once again by laying the pepper on its side, this time with the long cut you just made should be perpendicular to you near the board where you can insert the blade into the pepper through the cut. What we are going to do is seed and trim the pepper in one cut with the knife blade.
Just like life the bell pepper is uneven and sometimes kind of curled up. The peppers available in your normal grocery store are usually pretty straight sided. with the top and bottom removed the pepper will have a big clump of seeds in the center and this will be held in place by three or four ribs. (All you school trained chefs please forgive me, you know brunoise so this is elementary for you, but some peoples do want to know) The place where you made the cut through the side will usually be near one of these ribs.
By inserting your blade at the cut with the pepper on its side you will be de-seeding the pepper and removing the ribs at the same time. The reason this is important is so you will have a rectangular sheet to work with that is essentially flat. Okay, have I lost you yet? I hope not. One final point before we begin, we are going to be cutting sideways with the blade of the knife held horizontal to the board. To do this the pepper should be close to the front side, nearest to you so that the tip of the blade is sticking out above the top of the pepper and the heel of the blade is above the table in front of the board. This gives your knuckles clearance so that you can keep the blade perfectly horizontal.
Now with your thumb on the bottom and your middle finger on the top and the cutting edge of the blade resting sideways on the flesh of the pepper we gently unfold the pepper without breaking it. As it unfolds move the knife up to the first rib and cut through it at the depth of the top of the flesh. When you have gone through the first rib your blade should come out the other side at the level of the top of the skin. As you go, you should watch the tip of the knife blade. It should always remain level, parallel to the cutting board.
Since I am a right hander I would be moving from my right back to my left. (With apologies to lefties) As each succeeding rib is sliced through it will be easier to unfold the pepper. Once all the ribs have been removed the pepper will lay close to flat on the cutting board. the clump of seeds with the ribs attached should come off in one piece.
Next to get the pepper to lay totally flat, we want to make the same cut again. This time we are going to take a small layer of the flesh off of the inside of the skin. Go back to the right and see if you can take the blade and put it into the side of the pepper skin just below the surface of the skin. You may need to guide it with your fingers to get it under the length of the whole side. Move your blade very slowly with short up and down motions until you see the cutting edge just below the surface. The interior of the pepper is translucent so you will be able to watch as you make this next cut. I have demonstrated this manuever with a tomatoe skin in my video about how to make a Tomato Rose.
Doing this carefully the whole length of the pepper will remove any inside resistance of the pepper so it should now be about 3 inches tall and 6-8 inches long. This sounds complicated but it takes less than a minute to do once you get the hang of it. You have now completed step one.
Next we want to make some very close together cuts to make match sticks, also called juliennes. Here is where the 1/8 of an inch part comes in. First things first. Clean the cutting board. Of all the times that I have ever cut myself it has usually happened due to an errant piece of something…probably a pepper seed! Here is how it happens. As you cut, you are watching your left hand, resting your knuckle against the blade with your fingers curled under so you don’t cut a finger.
The place on the blade where you are cutting (with a 10″ bladed chefs knife) will be closer to the heel of the knife. The cut itself is done by rocking the blade down against the board from tip to heel.
As you cut, the tendency is to watch the place where the blade goes through, when lo and behold an errant pepper seed at the top of the board gets caught under the tip of the blade and makes it twist directly into your knuckle. Ouch! Gotcha! As I said clean the board.
Go slow and move over an 1/8th of an inch each time you cut. When you get to the last inch take your holding hand completely over to the left edge of the pepper and slowly push the pepper into the blade. If that is too scary just stop here you will have plenty for the next step. At this point you could just take these matchsticks and soak them in ice water for a couple of hours.
This cold soaking will turn the whole stick translucent and make it curl as well. Using tri colors, red, yellow and green will give an awesome set of curls to garnish the edges of plates and platters. I will add a picture the next time I make some.
To get to brunoise, the next step is to turn the whole set of matchsticks 90 degrees and carefully repeat the process of 1/8th inch cuts to yield the tiny cubes. There is on last step in this process. Peppers by nature have a lot of moisture in them. The little cubes that you have just finished are sitting there on the board just bursting with water.
When you try to use them on your plate as a garnish by sprinkling them over the whole plate or simply around the edge they will clump together because they are too wet. So, take a clean dry towel that has fairly strong fabric and pile them in the middle of the towel. Fold the towel over them and then roll it up in a spiral. Now twist the towel just like you would ring out a wash cloth, you will see the juices of the pepper appear on the outside of the towel. This will not dry them out completely but it will take enough of the moisture out of them so that you can work with them and spread them evenly where ever you want.
I decorated the rim of this plate of sliced wraps. The whole process produced enough for several platters using one of each color and took about 15 minutes.
Congratulations, only a serious student will have read to this point from start to finish. Thanks for reading.