"The term à la grèque refers to cooked vegetables that are served cold. An à la grèque salad is composed of cooked vegetables sauced with a vinaigrette. The technique is simple: cook vegetables in a court bouillon till they are almost, but not quite cooked through, and shock and store them in the chilled cooking liquid until ready to serve."
The à la grèque part sounds straight forward. Now, onto the “turned” portion of the demo: the mise en place, so to speak.
I have heard a whole class of cooking students groan when the word “turned” or “tournée” was mentioned. It’s a difficult vegetable cut that takes lots of practice. Although there are turning knives (also known as bird’s beak knives) to help, they don’t make it any easier. Only practice, practice, practice. Why turn? Because the vegetables will cook evenly and they look uniform and elegant.
A turned vegetable is one that is cut into a football-shaped piece with five or seven equal sides and blunt ends. The following vegetables can be turned: beets, carrots, celeriac, cucumber, potatoes, turnips, and zucchini. Although not mentioned, I would think parsnips could be turned too.
This is where Knife Skills Illustrated left the reader cold. There is no mention of turning in this handbook. Quel dommage! I followed the three pictures in Le Cordon Bleu Complete Cooking Techniques. There is some instruction in On Cooking as well.
Turned potatoes have different names depending on the size and shape of the cut:
½ inch longer and thicker than À l’anglaise
2.5 inches long
1.5 inch thick
2 inches long
1 inch thick
Shorter, olive shape
1 inch x .5 inch
So, I went out to buy 2 pounds each of carrots, cucumber, potatoes, turnips, and zucchini. After two hours of turning, I was what I considered a “zen master of turning”; however, I’m sure a real chef would not agree!
I did find myself using some techniques to get a football shape. I looked at the vegetable about to be turned, found the best place to start cutting and started at the top. I took more flesh out of the vegetable at the top and bottom and less out of the middle. I did one cut, turned it 180°, and then did another cut. Then I would repeat this on the other “corners”. Finally, I would trim away any lines or corners.
Tip: You don’t need to peel the vegetable first since you cut the peel away as you turn.
Here are some stats: It took me 2 hours to turn 10 pounds of vegetables. After turning, the vegetables weighed 2½ pounds. That means I wasted (or should I say the art of turning wasted!) 7½ pounds. I used the trimmings for a vegetable stock, however, so I guess not all was wasted. Although my end product was not perfect, turning 10 pounds of vegetables helped improve my technique!
. . . . . . . . . .
Running total: $13.88 + $20.00 = $33.88
Butter used so far: ⅛ cup