Today we are going to go back to the basics and talk about food garnishes. Typically when I am headed out to do a party one of the last things I will do is to go into the walk-in and grab a bunch of vegetables and whole fruits and a few sprigs of fresh herbs. Of all the vegetables that can be used for plate and platter garnishing, the carrot is the most versatile. It can be peeled into ribbons, cut into matchsticks, and made into brunoise for fine chunks of color. Carrots can become butterflies, eagles, small daisies or large tulips. With specialized tools they can be krinkle cut or cross krinkle cut, shredded for birds nests and spiral cut for long strand borders.
In a previous post I mentioned using the spiral cutter to get strands of carrot or beet. These strands can be used by themselves or as a base to put other colors on. One of my favorites is the tulip. It is easy to do using a small paring knife or a Birds beak paring knife. Peel the carrot first then holding the carrot by the top in your left hand with the top up, take the birds beak and grasp it with your fingers leaving your right thumb to push against the bottom of the carrot. Now you are going to make a series of 5 cuts around the carrot, twisting or turning the carrot about 40 degrees for each incision. With your thumb on the bottom of the carrot start the cut about an inch above it and cut in toward an imaginary line in the center of the carrot at about a 45 degree angle. After you make the first cut turn it an make you second one so that it overlaps the first just a little then repeat until you have gone completely around the carrot. At this point you have cut through the center line all the way around the carrot and the flower will fall off into your hand. There will be 5 points and some tiny vee shaped pieces on the flower, remove the little pieces and you will have your tulip. If the vee shaped pieces are still stuck to the flower you may have to carefully cut into that groove one more time to get them out.
Another method of getting flowers is shown below in a video. Taking a large block of carrot at it’s thickest point (the top third or so) You can make a variety of cuts into the side of the carrot and shape your flower into a daisy or mumm. By carefully cutting vee’s into the side of your carrot you can get many shapes. A butterfly is easy to do with 3 small vee’s to outline the feelers and two shallow vees for the wings and two more vees on the bottom to outline the body. You can then sharpen the outline with a wooden skewer or the tip of your birds beak to increase the roundness of the contour. When you are finished you have a long block that you can now cut several identical butterflies or flowers to decorate you plate or platter. Look at the two videos below for even more ideas. Here is are some pictures of a butterfly that I used as a garnish for a passed appetizer tray.
The butterfly carrot is not exactly perfect but you get the idea. The actual block that you start with is about three inches long and you make a series of cuts as illustrated in the video below. Once you finish with your cuts you have a whole block that can be sliced into many duplicate pieces a eighth of an inch thick. Do it carefully! Comments? Let me know what your experiences are.