06 February 2007

I Would Like to Join a Mandoline Support Group.

Cole slaw that would have been made in half the time had I
been able to use my mandolin correctly.


Is there a mandoline support group out there somewhere? A forum for clumsies like me who cannot figure out how to use their new (and expensive) mandolins?
If so, I would very much like to join.e

A few weeks ago I bought a shiny, new mandoline that I was so excited to use. All day long at work, I daydreamed of coming home and slicing cabbage into little, thin pieces. I counted the hours until I could effortlessly slice away in my kitchen, watching delicate, slender strips whirl off the blades and into neat little piles on my counter.
Alas, disaster struck. Instead of producing beautiful and elegant slivers, the mandoline tore the leaves into huge, sloppy chunks, violently destroying the cabbage as well as my hopes and dreams.

In a fit of frustration, I hurled the cabbage mess onto the floor and stomped off to the computer to do some online research. I googled “mandoline directions.” No good. I googled “using a mandoline to slice cabbage.” Nothing. I even googled "mandoline retard" in hope that there was someone out there like me who could help. No success.
Disgruntled, I returned to the kitchen and glared at the mandoline and felt a little bit better when I saw how how ugly it looked with all that ruined food stuck between its teeth. But then I saw the box, and I became enraged again. The OXO box has a beautiful picture of red cabbage, all cut up into tiny, little pieces. Now I know for sure you should be able to slice cabbage on a mandoline!

OXO, you misled me. I bet you used a knife to cut that cabbage, didn't you? That’s what we had to do. My dinner guest got stuck doing it, because I was so exasperated by the entire experience. She did a great job slicing that cabbage the old-fashioned way. The knife worked great, OXO. But I was hoping the mandoline would work great, too.

So if anyone knows of a website that shows people in great detail how to slice cabbage on a mandoline, I would be eternally grateful for that knowledge.

In return, I offer you a tasty cole slaw recipe. Ewwwww…..cole slaw? Wait!
Before you say ewwwwww…..coleslaw again, hear me out. This isn’t real cole slaw! It does not have mayonnaise in it!
No mayonnaise, joy of joys! Instead, the dressing is a mixture of peanut butter, soy sauce, and other ingredients often found in Asian dishes. I would so much rather eat rice wine vinegar than mayonnaise.

I served this cole slaw with a beef and broccoli stir fry, but I see no reason why it can't accompany any meal that you would serve traditional cole slaw with.



Cole Slaw with Asian Flavors
~from All Recipes
~Note: This makes a lot of salad. If you would like the eat it the next day, split the vegetables in half and only add the dressing to half of the salad. Store the other half of the dressing separately, then combine when you are ready to eat. Otherwise, the dressing makes the cabbage go soggy overnight.

Ingredients:
* 6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
* 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
* 5 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
* 3 tablespoons soy sauce
* 3 tablespoons brown sugar
* 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger root
* 1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic

* 5 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
* 2 cups thinly sliced red cabbage
* 2 cups shredded napa cabbage
* 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
* 2 carrots, julienned
* 6 green onions, chopped
* 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Directions:
First, make the dressing. In a medium bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, oil, peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic.

In a large bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients. Toss with the dressing just before serving.

33 comments:

d. chedwick bryant said...

My chef bought the cheaper mandolin even tho he probably wanted the pricey one. He uses it with ease and & often.
I will talk with him and see if he has any tips for you.

Jess said...

The dressing sounds lovely. I will put it on cucumbers.

Though I appreciate your mayonaise-less cole slaw because mayonaise is not really food and it's great to see someone acknowledge that, I still can't quite bring myself to ingest cabbage.

I must be picky.

;-)

Oh, and I owe you a recipe for chocolate bourbon pecan pie from ages ago.

eatchicago said...

I hate my mandoline. My wife bought me a professional (expensive) mandoline a few years ago. Every time I pull it out, it's a disaster. Just the other day I needed to slice six onions thinly. I tried the mandoline and wound up remarking to my wife, "The one thing this mandoline is good at making is 'a mess'". Also, it has so many parts that it takes about an hour to clean.

Just give me a sharp knife.

Fer said...

This sounds so delicious and fresh! I love rice vinegar!

aria said...

oh i'v been wanting and needing a mandoline for so long but always forget or decide not to get it. they are expensive! that coleslaw look wonderful, it has some of my favorite flavors, i can tell its mouth watering!

Y said...

Initially I read "mandoline support group" as a group for those who are obsessed with using their mandolines for absolutely everything. I bought a cookbook recently, by a chef who is quite likely a member of that group. As for your group, I wonder what the problem could be! You need a decent sized chunk of cabbage (maybe a 1/4 cabbage, as long as it fits the mandoline) with tight leaves, and the mandolin blade adjusted to as small a setting as possible - I'm sure you're doing all that already, so can't imagine what could have gone wrong. Salad dressing sounds great though - and refreshing enough to soothe those frayed mandoline nerves.

Kristen said...

I'm terrified of my mandolin... scared I'll slice my fingers right off!

I bet the people who own the sites that came up after your mandolin retard query will really get a kick out of their blog stats :)

Kate said...

I think the secret to getting good results with mandoline is the amount of pressure you exert on the product being cut. Cabbage would require a lighter touch, than, say a carrot. Try it, maybe it will work better.

I love a good asian style slaw, all those lovely cabbages make such a great flavor. And anything with peanut butter is worthy in my eyes.

chef yum yum said...

A couple weeks ago I was at a garage sale (which was bizarre, because who has a garage sale in Chicago in January?), when I spied, tossed haphazardly and terrifyingly into an old plastic bag, an almost brand new mandoline. The woman explained that she had only used it once, since it was so scary sharp. Desperate to get it off my hands, she sold it to me for $5!

I have yet to try it (right now it's curled up under my baker's rack, still in that mangy old bag). Perhaps you could contact Garage Sale Lady as a possible Support Group partner?

harriet said...

I will happily join your mandoline support group, especially if it will help save my fingertips from being turned into cole slaw. My fancy mandoline (a wedding gift) came with an explanatory video, which I scoffed at. What kind of an idiot needs a video to learn how to use something so simple? Apparently I do. Unfortunately, it seems to have been thrown away.

Karen said...

Erin,
I bought the Oxo a few months ago. I was expecting great things, but I have to say I cannot stand it. It doesn't work well at all. The food holder is awkward to use, and forget about making nice julienne slices of carrot or fennel. I'm giving it away.

However, I HIGHLY recommend the Benrinner slicers from Japan. They are the best. I have two, and they've been faithful, sharp helpers in my kitchen.

Also, if you have a Costco near you, they have a professional mandoline there now for 40 bucks, made by Miu. I couldn't help but purchase one the other day. The regular retails price is somewhere around $100 at Cooking.com.

Happy slicing!

Anonymous said...

OK Everyone,
This is OXO. Yes, really...OXO. It pains us to read that some of you are finding using a mandoline frustrating. I promise, we really tried very hard to design a safe, easy-to-use, and affordable mandoline. What can we do to help? If anyone is in the NYC area and wants to come to OXO (we're located in the Chelsea Market) for a lesson, we would be happy to give one. If anyone is in the Chicago area and would like to visit us at the upcoming Housewares Show (3/10 - 12) for a mandoline lesson, let us know and we can make the arrangements. We're serious. We want to end your frustration. You can contact me at suggestionbox@oxo.com.

Hope to hear from you soon.
Gretchen @ OXO

Erielle said...

Chedwick, that is so sweet of you to offer that! If you are able to do that, I look forward to hearing your chef's advice.

Jess, I think the dressing would be delicious on cucumbers. And cucumbers are easy to slice in a mandoline, so I'll probably doing that, too.
Oh, yes, the bourbon pie recipe! Whenever you get the chance!

EatChicago, oh the mess it made! I'm so sorry about your onions! Did you end up using your sharp knife after all?

Fer, can you eat it with a spoon?

Aria, just wait until someone gives you a gift card, and then the mandoline will be free!

Y, is the core of the cabbage the side that is exposed to the blades? I just grabbed the whole head of cabbage and started slicing. Maybe that's my problem, that I should really be working from the inside out instead of the outside in.

Kristen, I realized that I was spelling mandoline without an 'e', like the musical instrument, so the sites that were coming up were all about how mandolin is a just a retarded guitar. If I had been in a better mood, I would have laughed. Well, I'm laughing now.

Kate, I never thought of pressing lighter. I will definitely try that. Thanks for the tip!

Chef Yum Yum, that is so bizarre that you found a garage sale in January in Chicago. Congratulations on your bargain purchase! That rocks! Let me know how it works for you.

Harriet, a video is precisely what I need! Well, now that I know one exists, I have hope and I will keep searching the internets. Maybe someone is trying to sell their mandoline videotape on ebay?

Karen, thanks for the tip on the Benrinner slicers. Good to know, good to know. I might just have to resign myself to only cutting potatoes and apples and cucumbers on the OXO. We'll see. I'm not giving up!

Gretchen, thank you so much for taking the time to write. That is really wonderful of you to reach out to your customers and invite us for a lesson. That's exactly what I (and others) need! I'll be there! Is it BYOM?
(If it makes you feel any better, the mandoline works like a charm on apples and potatoes and cucumbers...it's just cabbage, carrots, and peppers so far that I have tried and miserably failed with.)

Y said...

I would place the cabbage cut-side against the blade, if that helps..?

Karen said...

Erielle,

I just checked back and saw that I'd addressed you as "Erin" in my previous comment.
Sometimes I'm just a big melon-head.
I should start drinking in the mornings, too.

So sorry, and a little embarrassed!

Karen

lee said...

When I read that your mandoline had stuff stuck in the teeth I thought "Does she have the julienne attachment on there?" I don't have an Oxo but to do cabbage you just need the flat slicing blade set to whatever thickness you might want and definitely cut the cabbage into manageable quarters first. Good luck! I think I may write a whole post aboout mandolines because I love mine.

Anonymous said...

I have a Matfer mandoline from Williams Sonoma. I love it. My wife is terrified of it. I find the hand guard awkward at times. It's all about the force against the blade. You should use nearly none. When I slice things like cucumbers (in either direction), I like to use a small kitchen towel to protect my fingers. Onions, small or large, are pretty easy to slice. I've never tried cutting cabbage, but obviously, you'll want to cut up the head into sections that fit with in the width of the blade. I'm guessing the panel that you put the cabbage on in front of the blade was dry. I'd try wetting it with water for some lubrication. The onions and cucumbers sort of "self lubricate" as you cut. As far as clean up, it's a little more involved, but worth the effort for evenly sliced veggies. Hope this helps.

Erielle said...

Y, I will definitely try that. Thank you!

Karen, no worries! I was drunk so I didn't even notice. Just kidding!

Lee, wow, you are like a kitchen gadget detective, deducing that my problem was using the julienne setting! I never even thought to use the regular slicer. A genius, you are. Thanks so much! I look forward to your post about your mandoline.

Anonymous, I get alot of joy from evenly sliced vegetables, to I take your word for it that the clean-up is worth it. Thanks for the tips on wetting the blade and pressing lighter. I have to get myself to the market to get some cabbage so I can try all these new techniques!

Kate said...

Wow, I'm considering a drive to Chicago (we're in Minneapolis) to learn how to use my Oxo mandoline. It's been great for simple slices of cucumber but I attemped waffle cut sweet potato the other night and it was a complete disaster. Perhaps lubricating the blade would help.

Vanessa said...

Erielle-

Got here from Slashfoods and had to comment. I was so excited about my, yes, OXO mandoline but after using it twice it's been in "time out" atop my fridge.
Thanks for writing in OXO -my faith is tentitively restored - I'll be stopping by next time I'm by the Chelsea Market.

jjlook said...

I want to join, too...
My parents couldn't figure out how to use their Bron mandoline, and I figured that I could, but now I am terrified of it. I got it set up properly (they had it at all kinds of crooked angles) but beyond that, I don't know how to use it...
anyone with a Bron instead of OXO?
Or maybe someone at a cookshop in Vancouver?

Gretchen said...

Erielle et al,

It's OXO again. We have a video of Chef Mario Batali demonstrating how to use a mandoline which we were thinking about posting on our website. Based on the feedback, maybe it would be a good idea. (Again, it pains us to hear that anyone has had a less than satisfying experience with our mandoline, or, for that matter, with any OXO product. But we can't improve something that we don't know needs to be improved so I hope this inspires all of you to let us know when we've let you down.) Even if you don't own an OXO mandoline, I'm sure anyone who has had troubles with a mandoline will benefit from watching the video with Chef Batali. One of the keys to using a mandoline, regardless of brand, is using consistent pressure. (Something that might go against good judgement - intentionally pushing your hand towards a super sharp blade.) But it make a difference. And we're serious about the lesson...it's free...just contact us and we'll set something up.

Gretchen @ OXO

Erielle said...

Kate, that's a good a reason as any for a road trip to Chicago! Then you can totally justify it, because it's educational.
Waffle cut sweet potatoes sound awfully delicious.

Vanessa, hopefully we will soon take some lessons and become mandoline superstars!

JJLook, sadly, I don't know anyone who who owns a Bron slicer. But maybe the techniques are the same as OXO, and you could transfer them.

Gretchen, yes, post the video! That would be so helpful to see a video demonstrating the less obvious slicing techniques, especially for those who won't be able to make it to Chicago or NYC. Will you let us know if the video does end up being posted? If it does, I can revise the blog post so anyone else who stumbles across it will know where to go to learn more.
I have some vegetables in my kitchen right now that I am going to go practice on, using your advice and that of others who have offered it in these comments.
Again, thank you for writing and trying to help us. It says alot about your company.

Anonymous said...

Mandolines!..Oh Yes this great and dangerous if not used with care and grace kitchen gadgets.

I have to agree that one of THE BEST I HAVE USEd are the Benrinner slicers from Japan!!

Inexpensive, razor sharp and easy to clean!

Paul

Anonymous said...

Guess what? Have just spent 20 mins shredding cabbage on my new Oxo Mandoline thinking - why didnt I invest in a decent knife! Thought I'd run a google search for some support and here you are!
Many thanks - I feel alot better now. Very nearly self actualised !!!
Many thanks from New Zealand

Anonymous said...

Try using a fish filet glove and you will not cut your hand. The glove is some sort of metal and plastic mesh.Get them at a sporting goods store.

Anonymous said...

I picked up a good mandoline on eBay a while back and found it intimidating indeed. It wasn't so much the horizontal main blade. It was the insert with the little X-acto blades standing vertically like little soldiers.

So I invested in a cut-resistant glove. Fears quelled. Mandoline now very useful.

Bonus: Glove fits both hands. I can wear it on my left and wield the oyster knife in the right without piercing the web between thumb and index finger.

Alex said...

Hi. This is OXO again, but not Gretchen this time. This is Alex, President of OXO. I am sorry that our communications regarding the demonstration dropped off. Shortly after Gretchen’s last posting and about a week before the Housewares Show in Chicago, Gretchen discovered that her 2 ½ year old son Liam has cancer (more information about that at www.princeliamthebrave.blogspot.com ). Of course, Gretchen’s priority shifted to where it should be – by her son. And OXO shifted a lot of its energy as well into giving them the initial support they needed.

We just returned from a very successful Housewares Show where OXO launched our second Mandoline, which will be in store in a few months. In any case, I am not here to pitch our new product, but to apologize for the lack of follow up on Gretchen’s last posting. If any of you should find yourself in the New York City area, please contact Katherine Sall at 212 242 3333. We would welcome a visit from you and would be pleased to give you a demonstration on how to use any OXO products that you may have trouble using – hopefully not too many.

Best regards,

Alex

Erielle said...

Paul, thanks for the recommendation.

Anonymous, glad I could help. I used the tips that people left and they were very helpful. I have successfully sliced cabbage since this post, thanks to the support group!

Anonymous, good idea.

Anonymous, sounds like these gloves make life alot easier. When talk about piercing the web between thumb and index finger, is this from direct experience?

Alex,
Thank you for writing. I visited Liam’s site and was incredibly saddened by their story. Mandoline troubles seem so silly after reading about him. What a beautiful child. It sounds like he is in wonderful hands.
I was out of town when OXO was in Chicago, so I missed the Housewares show. But the next time I am in NYC, probably this summer, I will give a call and stop by. I have been having much more success with the mandoline these days after everyone’s helpful words of advice. I hope to create a follow-up post that incorporates all of the suggestions.
Thanks again,
Erielle

Anonymous said...

Karen, this is a very interesting post you got on mandoline angst :) I had arrived at your post while Googling for a better way to slice cabbage ... Sad to say, the comments here have not indicated any other option save for a sharp knife.

Anyway, I think it's great that even OXO has taken the time to commment on your woes. I run a hamburger joint, and one of the main ingredients of a Malaysian burger is sliced cabbage (to replace costly lettuce in this country.)

I use a Benriner mandoline too, to slice my cabbage and I must add to the many comments in here, that it is indeed the best piece of equipment to do the job; cost-wise.

When I first started using the mandoline, I managed to slice every single finger (and nails) including my thumb on it :p I agree with every other comment about the mandolines especially the Benriner, for being ultra-sharp! However, as time went by I began to get better at it, and now average a sliced pinkie every 6 months :p Therefore, I find the suggestions to use cut-resistant gloves (not available in these parts) highly praised and recommended.

On my suggestion as how to get perfectly-sliced cabbage on a mandoline: Yes, pressure has something to do with it but far less as it's made out to be. It's the *angle* of which you put the cabbage to the blade.

1. Confirming suggestions here, select only tightly-wrapped heads of cabbage; meaning the leaves are not loose to your handling.

2. Cut the cabbage into half with a large knife, bottom-up right thru the core.

3. Place the TOP part of that half-head facing the edge of the blade. Yes, you will most likely have a good part of the cabbage sticking way out of the cutting path of the mandolin ...

4. Slice using firm and consistent pressure on the OUTER edge of the cabbage, making sure the TOP of the cabbage remains pointed towards the blade. As you do so, the cabbage will gradually "rotate" and you will end up with a quarter of what you started with.

5. Slice the now-protruding INNER part of the cabbage as close as possible to the core - you don't want to have sliced cabbage core for your slaw :p

6. Continue slicing the other quarter of the cabbage, still making sure you work the OUTER part , with TOP still pointing towards the blade. You will notice the only way you are going to do this is on the opposite side of the mandoline - no matter, but be careful as most good mandoline blades are angled on the board; the opposite side might, by natural forces, slide the cabbage awkwardly during slicing - keep a firm grip. Great mandolines have ridges, grooves and guides to help you stay true on course ;)

7. You will most likely end up with a rectangular piece of cabbage now, with the core in there. This is where it gets tricky ...

8. Put the TOP of that chunk of cabbage head at an approximately 30 degree angle to the mandolin; meaning that the core BOTTOM is facing you and off the surface of the mandolin.

9. Work it, making sure the leaves of that chunk is roughly at a 90-degree angle to the mandoline/blade. This means your pressure will be at the TOP part of the cabbage head now, TOWARDS the blade (scary, I know but it's the only way to go.) Any more angle, you will end up with huge leaves and not slices of cabbage.

9. You might find that you will need to actually lift the entire cabbage UP and away from the mandoline after each pass, as the TOP of it will have its leaves flailing about. Do so, but make sure you got the TOP leaves firmly in contact with the mandolin and TOWARDS to blade on your next pass, and so on, until you get to the less-limp part of the leaves. Remember to slice right up to the core's top, to ensure that there won't be any loose young leaves left at the top of that core.

10. The chunk will then "rotate" and you will find yourself slicing it all the way around with the core bottom rotating towards the edge of the blade: 3-quarters way thru, you should turn the remaining chunk around and face the core bottom towards the blade instead. Finish it off putting your pressure now on the BOTTOM instead. You will the end with just the core on top of the mandoline - and *perfectly* sliced cabbage on the bottom :D

NOTE ON PRESSURE: Use just enough to maintain firm contact and alignment with the mandoline, and NEVER more. A good mandoline with a sharp blade will slice true this way. More pressure will just make your work harder, not to mention the likely possibility that you will lose grip or slip your fingers down towards the blade ... ouch.

WHEW - am sorry for such a long "comment" ... but as you will know by now, I'm very passionate about prepping food and my business - and the equipment needed :D

Due to the ever-increasing amounts of vegetables I need to process these days, I'm now looking for equipment that will do this job on bulk-level; hence my search for suppliers of electric food slicers, particularly from Chef's Choice (www.chefschoice.com). They are primarily for meats, but am pretty sure they will work cabbages just as well but in much bigger quantity in one go (1, 2 heads on the feed tray.)

Karen - hope all this helps, and wish you fantastic coleslaws!

Uncle Burger (www.uncleburger.com)
ChefThings.com (www.chefthings.com)

Erielle said...

Uncle Burger, thank you so much for the thorough explanation! That's so interesting about how the cabbage will rotate itself as you slice.
Awhile after this post, I wrote a follow-up post that listed everyone's advice. I will add your suggestions to that soon.
Do you cook the cabbage before it goes on the hamburgers, or put it on raw? That sounds delicious. I might prefer that to lettuce. Thanks for your great ideas!

Anonymous said...

Hi Erielle,

The cabbage is served raw on my hamburgers. Not my preference, but the customers'. I personally prefer them lightly sauteed with butter - heavenly!

Uncle Burger

Anonymous said...

I have a Bron mandoline and initially I found it daunting. The instruction booklet that came with it was useless. It did not even tell you (no drawing) which way to insert the guard. I even took it to a Williams-Sonomas class on mandolines but the instructor was stuck when asked how to use a Bron (they sell other brands at WS). Finally I went to Bron's website and they have a video that you can watch (in a tiny two inche screen for some strange reason) and it was very helpful. I returned to my kitchen after watching it, and managed to slice paper thin cucumbers and radishes for a salad. One thing I learned is that the guard is a pain and not worth the effort. I would like to get one of those mess gloves for protection though.

I have not heard good things about the OXO. The classic Bron really is good...once you get the hang of it.