04 April 2007

Mandoline Chronicles, Cont'd

February, 2007.
Purchase mandoline slicer.
Fail miserably while trying to slice cabbage.

March, 2007.
While practicing mandoline skills, accidentally slice finger. Note to self: always use hand guard.

April, 2007.
Become proficient at slicing cabbage with mandoline slicer!
Celebrate by moving on to fennel.

You may remember a distraught post in February when I was desperately seeking online instructions on how to use my new OXO mandoline slicer to shred cabbage. The post sparked a list of comments with people either voicing similar frustrations or offering tips about how to use the mandoline. Contributing to the comments were two employees of OXO, including the president of the company himself. The OXO folks showed genuine concern for the customers who were unsatisfied with their product, gave some suggestions for proper usage, and then posted information about contacting OXO for mandoline lessons.

I would like to say thank you to everyone who offered advice, and thank you to the people at OXO for making the effort to reach out to your customers and make sure we are happy with your product.

I would also like to say that while I am still not a mandoline expert, slicing is getting easier after heeding the advice from readers. After a few months of practice, and only one injury, which was due to my own carelessness, I can now shred cabbage! It turns out I was doing it all wrong. Only an idiot like me would grab the whole head of cabbage and just start slicing it whole. The secret, unbeknownst to me the time, is to cut the cabbage into quarters and then start slicing with the cut side against the blade.

If you reached this post because you did an online search for tips about using a mandoline, I have compiled everyone’s suggestions into a brief list that will save you the time of going through the comments on the other post. If you have anything to add or change, let me know and I will revise the list.

One more thing…Gretchen, the first of the OXOs to respond to the post, has a beautiful 2 ½ year old boy who has recently been diagnosed with a cancer called Neuroblastoma. Liam will have to go through some aggressive treatment with a relatively long recovery period. His family is chronicling his story at Prince Liam the Brave. Visit their site if you have a moment. Or many moments, because you will want to keep reading on and on about this amazing little person and what he and his family are going through. Oxo created a donations page if you are interested in helping the family.

Tips for Using a Mandoline Slicer
1. Experiment with different types of pressure. Vegetables like cabbage will require a lighter touch, while other vegetables like carrots need heavier weight.

2. Keep the pressure consistent as you slide the vegetables through the blade, even though it goes against your instincts to force your hand quickly towards such a sharp edge.

3. Wet the panel that the vegetable slides along. Some vegetables are inherently moist, and they self-lubricate the panel with each swipe, but other foods are drier and may not glide as smoothly towards the blade.

4. If the hand guard is difficult to control, purchase a fish fillet glove at a sporting goods store, or any glove that will protect your fingers against the sharp edge.

5. If you are slicing cabbage (this is the information I was searching for a few months ago), cut the cabbage into quarters and slice the cut side against the blade. If you are slicing fennel, cut off the bottom, slice the bulb in half, and then slice.

Olive Oil Poached Salmon with Fennel-Orange Relish

The pieces of fennel from the above photos were used in a fennel-orange relish, which garnished a filet of olive oil poached salmon. I know it sounds odd to poach something in olive oil, but it results in a wonderfully delicate and tender texture. Supposedly, when you submerge the fish in the oil and cook it at a very low temperature (low enough that you can stick your finger in the oil and hold it there!), not much oil is absorbed by the fish. Instead, the olive oil seals in the flavor and the moisture.

Olive Oil Poached Salmon with Fennel-Orange Relish
~adapted from Bobby Flay

4 salmon fillets, skin removed
Salt and pepper
2 cups pure olive oil*

Fennel & Orange Relish:
Pinch of saffron (I omitted this for financial purposes and it still tasted delicious)
1 head fennel, outer layer removed, halved and thinly sliced (yay, mandoline!)
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
Salt and pepper
1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 oranges, segmented
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (can also be used for cocktails)
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 tablespoons fennel frond

Season salmon on both sides with salt and pepper. Place in a large high-sided sauté pan and cover with olive oil.
Turn the flame to medium and let the salmon gently poach in the oil until just cooked through, 15-20 minutes. The oil’s temperature should be below the boiling point. You should be able to keep your finger submerged in the oil for a few moments.
Remove the salmon from the oil and drain on paper towels. Serve with the fennel-orange relish and top with a fennel frond.

Fennel-Orange Relish:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place saffron in a small bowl and cover with a few tablespoons of hot water, let sit 5 minutes to bloom.
Combine the fennel, 3 tablespoons of the oil and the saffron, along with the soaking liquid in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a roasting pan and roast until just soft, stirring occasionally, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cook slightly then transfer to a large bowl.
(Since I omitted the saffron, I just drizzled the fennel slices with oil and roasted them almost dry. They browned a little bit but I think it enhanced the flavor of the relish.)
Stir in the red onion, oranges, pomegranate molasses, honey, lemon, parsley and season with salt and pepper.

*The oil can be re-used. Since the cooking temperature is so low, the oil's structure does not break down. I plan to recycle mine. I'll let you know if everything I sauté tastes like salmon.


Aoife said...

I fear the mandoline, but you have given me hope. Maybe someday I'll have occasion to use your tips.

aria said...

hi erielle, i bought a mandoline a couple months back too and am failing miserably. all the instructions are in japanese and i cant figure how to change the blades or use the hand guard. so far the default blade is all i use. a jalopeno, potato, and a carrot have been sacrificed. relish looks wonderful!

Brenda said...

The Liam hyperlink didn't work for me. I am computer challanged, but even the search in blogger world didn't turn it up.

LEO said...

Wow, I'm so impressed with the OXO people that I'm going to go out and buy EVEN MORE of their kitchen gadgets!!! Maybe I'll even write to them and ask why I can't seen to work my fancy corkscrew properly... I swear it's not because I'm drunk or anything. But the corkscrew now resides on the counter next to a pair of pliers. (Is that how you spell pliers? Perhaps it's telling that I can spell corkscrew, but not pliers.) Anyway, this is all to say - I love their products. And there must be something wrong with me (besides excessive alcohol consumption) if I can't operate their corkscrew.

Kristen said...

I am also a mandoline phobic, but with these careful instructions how could I go wrong?

Y said...

Congratulations! You're now Master of your Mandoline! :-D

Susan said...

Whimsical and practical--now that's a great post. Perhaps I can overcome my fear of the mandoline now. I was a victim to its blade about 3 years ago and haven't attempted to try it again.

Erielle said...

Aoife, I'm glad to help.

Aria, that it is a sad story. I hope you didn't pay too much money for it.

Brenda, thanks for letting me know. I fixed it and it should be fine now.

Leo, I always have trouble with fancy corkscrews. I like my simple waiter corkscrew the best. Easiest way to get to the good stuff!

Kristen, I hope they help.

Y, thanks for your advice, it helped alot. If you read this, can you tell me the name of that cookbook you were talking about, the one where the chef uses the mandoline in many of his recipes? Now that I heart my mandoline, I would love to find more reasons to use it.

Susan, I think you should try to use it again. The pretty slices of vegetables are worth it. Just make sure you use the hand guard!

Rasa Malaysia said...

I just stumbled upon your blog and have to say that your pictures are absolutely droolsome and gorgeous. I will have to dig into your archives...:)

Y said...

Hey Erielle, the book is Happy in the Kitchen by Michael Richards.
Good to look at, with some interesting ideas, but not something I think I would use on a regular basis at home. If you want I can show you some pages from the book.

Anonymous said...

Oh I feel like such a doofus for commenting, and at great lengths, too - on your earlier and original post of mandoline woes :(

It's great that you have finally found your way with your mandoline :) Just an extra thought ... I find that if you do cabbage in quarters, it will both increase the time you spend on it (if you intend to do the whole head), and increase the production of ever-smaller strips. Halves, in this sense, work better.

Thanks for sharing all these tips again; your recipes and photos are fantastic! You're on my bookmarks :D

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

Gretchen said...

Dear Erielle et al,

This is Gretchen from OXO writing. I wanted to thank you for your kind words about my son, Liam. He is truly a prince who has shown nothing but poise and grace while dealing with a very difficult situation that would leave most adults angry and despondent. Liam has cleared many, many hurdles but we still have a long road ahead of us. Thank you for spreading the word about my son. We truly believe that the more people who are thinking about him and keeping him in their thoughts and prayers, the better. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a huge city of people to care for a child and his family dealing with cancer.

On another note, I'm back at work. If anyone has mandoline concerns, please let us know. We have a new mandoline coming out this fall that I have a feeling will be the ticket for those who find the straight blade mandoline challenging.

All the best and please everyone, use the guard!

Gretchen Holt

Peter M said...

I was searching around, looking to see who made this dish and voila...here it is!

I just made this 2nite and I echo your sentiments...light, flavourful and none too hard.