Friday, January 7, 2022

Les Découpes de Fruits et Légumes - The French Cuts for Fruits and Vegetables

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman

A few of the fruits and vegetables that may be on your menu.
Photograph courtesy of Fondation Louis Bonduelle

French culinary tradition includes naming the cuts used for the vegetables, fries, or fruits on menu listings. Nearly every English-speaking visitor to France will understand a menu offering Steak Frites, but Steak Frites Pont-Neuf is not so well known and won’t be fully translated by Google Translate. Equally, many visitors will know that saumon is salmon, but Microsoft Translator doesn’t help with Saumon et Brunoise de Légumes which the program translates as Salmon and Brunoise vegetables. That’s where this post from Behind the French Menu comes in. The list below describes most of the popular shapes and sizes for fruits and vegetables found on menu listings.

I have had years of enjoyable meals and knowledgeable French dining partners to guide me, and many well-informed people have answered my food-orientated questions. However, as I prepare this post, special thanks go to a very knowledgeable French ‘foodie’ Michel Masse. Michel made suggestions and corrections for this post and also convinced me to stop insulting the French language and change the proposed name of this post from Taillages to Les Découpes. 

Allumettes – Matches. The name is used for a cut of very thin vegetables, usually potatoes, that may be cut to the dimensions of a long matchstick. For potatoes, this cut is often called straw fries or shoestring fries in the USA. The size is about 0.03cm x 0.03cm x 7cm. 


Salade César aux Gambas Sauvages et Allumettes de Panisse – Caesar salad with wild shrimp and thin, matchstick like cuts of panisse.  


(A Caesar salad is not French, nor is it wholly Italian or Mexican. The salad was created in the 1920s by Caesar Cardini, an Italian restaurateur in Tijuana, Mexico. The original recipe was lettuce,  garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, croutons, Worcestershire sauce, and a coddled egg; additions such as anchovies, etc., came later. Now, Caesar salads vary a great deal from place to place. A coddled egg, which is a lightly-boiled egg, was an essential ingredient in the original Caesar salad, now it mostly has been replaced with a regular poached egg or sometimes a hard-boiled egg). 


Pommes Allumettes, also called Pommes Pailles – Straw fries. They are cut approximately 2-3 mm x 2-3 mm x 7 cm long. 

Onglet de Boeuf, Sauce au Poivre, Pommes Allumettes – A hanger or skirt steak served with a pepper sauce and French fries, allumettes


Tartare de Boeuf Maison, Pommes Pailles - Beef Tatare prepared as the restaurant chooses and served with French Fries, pailles.


How to prepare Pommes Allumettes
Photograph and instructions courtesy of Meilleur du Chef

Bâtonnets – The word Bâtonnet means a small stick and may be used for any vegetable cut into small stick shapes, small batons. Bâtonnets will be crisply fried vegetables such as bâtonnets de courgette, crisply deep-fried courgette sticks (zucchini in the USA), or breaded cheese. Most of us find crispy and crunchy bâtonnets extremely tasty; if you begin picking at them, you often find that you cannot stop; you have been warned! For most vegetables, "en bâtonnet" should be 4-5 mm x 4-5 mm thick and 4-5 cm long. 

Your menu may also offer chicken, meats, and fish cuts as bâtonnets, and for those, there are no official measurements, but the shape of a small stick should still be visible in the final product. Bâtonnets will often be on children's menus; no knife or fork required, and then don’t be surprised if the English word fingers is used.

Bâtonnets de Courgettes Panés au Parmesan – Breaded, deep-fried courgettes flavored with Parmesan.

Bâtonnets de Courgettes au Parmesan
Le Journal des Femmes – Cuisine
Les Recettees de Nathou

Bâtonnets de Pommes de Terre - Usually, these are regular French fries that have been breaded and flavored. However, on one occasion, when a friend ordered them, the Bâtonnets de Pommes de Terre arrived as tasty, deep-fried sticks of mashed potatoes, flavored with herbs and cheese. 


Billes  Balls. Ball-shaped cuts of vegetables and fruits. Theoretically they should be the size of marbles which is the real meaning of billes,


Billes de Melon Caramélisées – Caramelized melon balls.



Melon balls

Melon Salad, Mint and Cranberry Vinaigrette

Photograph courtesy of Charles Haynes

Boules – Balls; the term often used for ice-cream servings.

Coupe de Glace 2 Boules (or 3 Boules) aux Choix - A bowl of ice cream with two or three scoops of your choosing.

Glace 2 Boules
Two scoops of  ice cream.
Photograph courtesy of Alpha

Boulettes, Polpettes – Meatballs

Brunoise – A cut in which the food item is first julienned into long thin strips (see Julienne) and then diced into small cubes about 2 mm x 2mm x 2mm. 


Joue de Cochon Braiséeen Vinaigrette de Riesling, Brunoise de Légumes  – Braised pig’s cheeks served in a Reisling vinaigrette with a mixed vegetable brunoise.


Photograph courtesy of Cristiano Cardoso


Chiffonnade - A technique seen with many leafy vegetables and meats that can be thinly sliced; often cured ham, smoked salmon, salami type saucissons, and cold meats.


A chiffonade cut also works well with herbs and vegetables that you will eat fresh, like basil and lettuce; it shows thinly cut, curly food strips. Chiffonade leaves are thinly cut or sliced; however, no chef would cut these leaves one by one, so they will either be rolled and then cut or cut in bunches.


Chiffonnades are often used to decorate or give a subtle taste where a large piece might take over the flavor. When you find very thin vegetable strips floating in your soup or on a serving of fish, that is the reason. 


Les Coquilles Saint Jacques Rôties au Beurre, Chiffonnade de Poireaux King scallops roasted in butter and served on the shell with thinly cut leeks.


A chiffonnade of lettuce.

Photograph courtesy of Meilleur du Chef


Ciselér or Ciselée – A fine cut, usually slices referring to the way herbs are prepared. (For meats and fish, the same word will be used for small cuts made in the skin of a fish or meat, for stuffing with herbs).


Poisson Cisselér

Photograph courtesy of Anaca3

Contisées  Similar to the Cisselér cut, but filled with a vegetable or other flavoring.

Les St Jacques Contisées a la Truffe de Bourgogne – The meat of the King Scallop sliced and stuffed with shavings from the Burgundy truffle.

Émincé – Sliced. Dishes that include slices of chicken, veal or beef. Part of a menu listing, similar to the two below. Émincer – Slice. A cut used for curly or curved vegetables such as cabbage, mushrooms, onions where long straight flat slices used for julienne cuts cannot be made. Émincer may be in recipes but not on the menu.

Émincé de Bœuf Mariné aux Épices et Légumes du Moment – Sliced, marinated beef flavored with spices and the season’s vegetables.

Emincé de Veau à la Sauce à la Crème et Champignons de Paris, Purée de Pommes de Terre – Slices of veal in a cream sauce with button mushrooms and accompanied by pureed potatoes.



Emincé de Boeuf aux Champignons

Sliced beef with button mushrooms

Photograph and recipe courtesy of CuisineAZ


Jardinière or Jardinière de Legumes - A dish or serving of diced cooked vegetables, such as a garnish accompanying the main course. Originally this was a cut used for carrots, and turnips cut 4 – 5 mm long by about 3 cm across. Today a Jardinière de Legumes is often seen with other vegetables, including green beans and potatoes.

The word Jardinière is an old French word for garden vegetables, and it remains in use to indicate freshness. You will also see other uses of the word Jardinière on menus, including a Jardinière de Fruits, choice fruits from the garden served as a fruit salad. 

Pigeonneau Rôti au Four, Purée de Pommes de Terre et Jardinière De Legumes – A young, oven-roasted pigeon, (a squab) served with mashed potatoes accompanied by small-cuts of mixed  vegetables.



La Jardinière de Legumes

Photograph courtesy of Sylvain Torchet

Julienne – On your menu, the word Julienne will indicate vegetables cut into long and thin shapes. Julienne vegetables are around 1mm x 1-2 mm x 2 mm x 5-7 cm long. 


Dorade Royale, Julienne de Légumes à la Crème de Champagne – Gilthead sea bream served with a julienne of vegetables accompanied a by a cream of Champagne sauce.

Cucumbers Julienne
Photograph courtesy of Stacy Spensley

Macédoine – Vegetables and occasionally fruit cut to one of the French sizes for finely cut vegetables. A macédoine should be cubes about 1 cm by 1 cm by 1 cm or less. Great importance is given to uniformity. 


Chair de Crabe, Macédoine de Légumes – Crab meat accompanied by a macédoine of mixed vegetables.



 Macédoine de Légumes

Photograph courtesy of marmiton


Mirepoix or Matignon - The Mirepoix cut is for small cubes cut close to 5 mm 5 mm x 5 mm x 5mm for both fruit and vegetables, Mirepoix is usually added to complement other dishes. (Historically a mirepoix made with vegetables only was a mirepoix au maigre, a lean mirepoix. A mirepoix with ham was called a mirepoix au gras, a fatty mirepoix. Most dishes made today with Mirepoix on your menu will not be specific but usually include onions, carrots, and celery, possibly with added lardons). Despite that, do not be surprised if your menu offers a mirepoix aux fruits; that would be finely cut fruits. (There is a pretty town called Mirepoix in the department of Ariege, but I am not aware of any connection. However, if your visiting Mirepoix in August they have an annual international festival of the art of the Marionette).


Filet de Dorade Grise à la Vapeur, Jus de Crustacés et Mirepoix de Legumes – A filet of steamed black seabream prepared with a sauce made from the juices of crustaceans and served a mirepoix of mixed vegetables.


Flan Caramel-coco, Mirepoix de Fruits Frais- A flan flavored with caramel and coconut served with a mirepoix of fresh fruits.


A Mirepoix in preperation

Photograph courtesy of Desi


Paysanne – In the manner of the country, the countryside. (Some menus translate paysanne as “in the manner of a peasant"). Vegetables cut into thin slices with shapes that correspond best to the form of the vegetable. For example, carrots may be thinly sliced into circular button shapes or half-round buttons, thus utilizing all vegetables as effectively as possible for the dish being prepared. 



Salade Paysanne

Photograph courtesy of Trip Advisor

Pommes Frites or just Frites. French fries or chips can be a culinary feast on their own. The ideal French fry has no fixed size, though most French schools of the culinary arts teach their would-be chefs to cut them 5mm x 5 mm thick and 5 or 6 cm long. An excellent French fry is crispy and slightly crunchy on the outside; it will be colored a golden brown, and on the inside, it will be cooked and tender.  


Steak FritesSalade Verte, Verre De Bordeaux ou Galopin De Biere – Steak with French fries and a green salad served with a glass of Bordeaux wine or a galopin, 125 ml of beer.



Pommes Frites
Photograph courtesy of cyclonebill


Pommes Pailles and Pommes Allumettes – See Allumettes: Pommes Allumettes above.

Pomme de Terre a l'Anglaise – Potatoes in the English manner. While these potatoes will always be boiled, there is a shape associated, with these potatoes, somewhat like a chicken's egg. An exact size is not too important, but your ideal Pomme de Terre a l'Anglaise will be about 5 cm long with a 2.5-3 cm diameter.


Truite Meunière Entière aux Amandes Effilées, Pommes de Terre à l'Anglaise – A whole trout prepared in a Sauce Meunière (butter, parsley  and lemon) with added flaked almonds accompanied by boiled potatoes. (For more about Sauce Meunière see the post: Sole Française - Dover Sole in French Cuisine: Sole Meunière).

Pommes de Terre Anglaise.
Photograph and instructions courtesy of La Cuisine d’Annie.

Pommes de Terre Mignonnette - Large French fries cut approximately 5mm x 5mm x 5 cm long. 

Pommes Pont-Neuf, Pommes de Terre Pont-Neuf, on many menus just as Pont-Neuf  Large French fries also called Frites Parisienne. From my experience the name doesn't come with a fixed size, just large fries; just poetry on the menu for large fries. The owner of the name is the Ponte Neuf Bridge; the oldest existing bridge in Paris. When they began to sell large size fries from pushcarts in the 1830s and continued for over 100 years ago the bridge’s name became part of the fries’ name. The Pont Neuf is the oldest existing bridge in Paris. Some menus listings use the name Pont Neuf for cuts of deep-fried vegetables.


Filet de Bœuf aux Girolles Copeaux de Foie Gras et Pommes Pont Neuf Maison – fillet steak prepared with the wild girolle, chanterelle mushroomsshavings of fattened duck liver, accompanied by the restaurant’s take on Pont Neuf fries.


Pommes Pont-Neuf
Photograph courtesy of Secret de Chef.

Pommes Gaufrette – Potato crisps or potato chips shaped with a lattice-like decoration that looks like a tiny Belgium waffle, fried to a crisp. Your French-English dictionary may translate gaufre as a waffle. However, as you have probably already discovered, few French chefs pay much attention to English-French-English dictionaries and a gaufrette in English is a wafer, and a gaufre is a waffle. So, don’t expect your pommes gaufrette to always look like British wafers.

Côtes de Cochon Fermier, Mousseline De Pomme de Terre, Pommes Gaufret – Pork chop from a farm-raised pig served with a potato mousse and pommes gaufret.



Pommes Gaufret

Photograph and instructions courtesy of Chef Simon

Tagliatelle – Read your menu carefully when tagliatelle is mentioned. Tagliatelle in France does not only indicate a particular pasta; it often indicates cuts of long ribbons of vegetables. Vegetable tagliatelle may be made with courgettes (zucchini), carrots, and more.


Filet de Lieu Jaune, Tagliatelles de Courgettes Réduction

au Sancerre - Pollack is a member of the cod family, with similar white, flaky meat. Here, the fish is accompanied by courgettes (the American Zucchini), sliced in long ribbons like tagliatelle and served with a Sancerre wine sauce. Pollack grow quite large, with many fish weighing in over 8 kilos (18 lbs.), so you will nearly always be served a fillet. 


Tagliatelles de Courgettes au Poulet et Noix de Cajou

Courgette (Zucchini) tagliatelle with chicken and cashew nuts

Photograph courtesy of  Les Fruits et Legumes Frais.

Tournés and Tourner – Vegetables cut into barrel shapes, mostly about 3 cm or 4 cm long; some vegetables such as potatoes have different rules and maybe larger. (There are other barrel cuts with different names).


Râble de Lapin et Ses Petits Legumes Tourné– Saddle of rabbit, served with small, barrel-shaped vegetables. The saddle is the meatiest part of a rabbit.



Legumes Tourner

Photograph and instructions courtesy of Bases de la Cuisine




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Bryan G. Newman


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