Potato Dice Size for Clam Chowder?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by kuan, Nov 10, 2009.

  1. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    What's the standard dice size for potatoes in New England Clam Chowder?
     
  2. phatch

    phatch Moderator Staff Member

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    Well, for home cooks like me, it's going to be what ever you grew up with. Which was about 1/2 inch.

    I currently like it a bit smaller than that now.

    But I've been served chowders with bigger and smaller potatos than that.
     
  3. amazingrace

    amazingrace

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    This is probably my own peculiar quirk, but I like the dice for clam chowder to be small, so that there is some of everything in each spoonful. Nothing larger than 1/4 to 1/2 inch. However, that is my preferrence only for the clam chowder. For other soups I want larger chunks. Go figure! :look:
     
  4. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    I like potatoes with each bite too but was just wondering. I'm sure it's 1/2" too.
     
  5. oldschool1982

    oldschool1982

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    I like to use a 3/8th to 3/4" dice. Really it's more random than that at times since I hand dice for a more rustic look. Still .............when I had it available, I ran potatoes through the 3/8th plate on a fry cutter and then just diced them from there. But we're talking 20-30 lbs for a batch of chowder.

    To me it's nice to see the bigger chunks as well as the chunks that have cooked down a bit. Maybe not a chunk in every bite but definitely some potato. To do this I prefer adding half the potatoes in two additions yet...........I won't thicken with the roux until the potatoes are 99% cooked. IMHPO..... The potatoes really do a great deal to thicken and this means less roux.

    Of course I don't use roux for Manhattan style chowders still the potatoes get diced just the same.

    Been actually thinking of making a nice roasted Chile and corn chowder with chicken out of some peppers I have from Hatch, NM. Maybe when the weather gets a bit more conducive later in the week. Yeah that sounds really good!:thumb:
     
  6. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    I prefer the spuds to be about the same size as other ingredients in a chowder. Even though 1/2" is the standard I usually cut them spaller than that, so they're similar in size to the actual clams. Probably something like 3/8".

    Couldn't say for sure because I'm not obsessive enough to worry about precise measurements. Ideally, however, the diced potatoes should be the same size so that they cook evenly.
     
  7. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Just as an aside, "dice" is actually a technical term, referring to a specific size of the cubes.

    In classic cookery, each size cube in a recipe is determined by its name. So, for instance, if the recipe says "cubed" in means the largest of such procedures. If I recall correctly (and Lord, you don't want to depend on that), cubes are 1/2". Next down is diced, with a dice being 1/4". Etc.

    Personally, I never paid much attention to that name-to-size thing. But if anyone is concerned, I'm sure BDL would be glad to post the complete list.
     
  8. just jim

    just jim

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    I prefer 1/2 inch or 5/8 inch.
    No matter the size, in a large enough kitchen eventually people will try to increase the size to get the job done faster. Pretty soon you have 1 inch chunks, or worse.
    One place, we went so far as to put a little drawing of the proper sized square on the recipe sheet.
    And then some comedian decided to cut the square out and append the recipe to state "potato must fit through this hole". :lol:


    And yes, we had some idiot attempt to pass the potatoes through the page.
     
  9. kuan

    kuan Moderator Staff Member

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    That's OK as long as you have HUGE clams! :D
     
  10. just jim

    just jim

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    Whole geoducks?

    :peace:
     
  11. jock

    jock

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    I like spuds and in chowder I would prefer to cut them 1/2" - 3/4". However, my wife who is not a potato fan likes them almost a brunoise! Well, maybe not quite that small but enough to almost melt into the soup.
     
  12. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Sure thing KY.

    In professional kitchens it varies a little according to the exec (the chef with a brief case), especially if (s)he's FOJ from somewhere metric. That said...

    Dice = 3/4"
    Medium dice = 1/2" (from baton)
    Fine dice = 1/4" (from batonet)
    Brunoise = 1/8" (from allumette)
    Fine aka Micro Brunoise -- nominally 1/16", but really as small as you can chop (from julienne)

    I use different parts of my chef's knife -- like the rivets, spine at the bolster, spine at the tip, etc., as a guide to get the first few planks and sticks right. After you've got properly szied sticks, properly sized dice are automatic. Just take your time, and don't worry about perfect consistency. By the time you develop it, you realize how boring it makes the food look and feel in your mouth and you have to force yourself to vary your sizes a little. After all, you don't want your food to look like it's been prepped by a machine or in a Chinese prison.

    Usually, to make something like clam chowder, I peel, then block the potatoes, reserving everything but the peels. Then I cut consistent dice from the blocks, and "rustic," irregularly sized pieces from the curved sections cut off during blocking.

    Also, I use some of the trim to boil, rice or puree, and replace some of the flour in the roux.

    BDL
     
  13. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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    Hi kuan,

    I don't know if there's a standard size potato when making a properly made New England clam chowder. However, when my wife and I drove to the east coast and up to the northern part of Maine we stopped at (nearly) every place we drove past that sold clam chowder. All up the east coast I found no consistency from bowl to bowl.

    hmmmm...now I have a taste for some chowder :rolleyes:

    dan
     
  14. duckfat

    duckfat

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    Julienne is 1/8 x 1/8. If you chop them smaller they will be un-even but perhaps I'm not getting a clear picture or what you mean by chop. It's a whole lot faster to cut fine Julienne (1/16 x 1/16) than trying to split a Julienne or in the case of a potato, Allumette. Not that I can think of many times I would use a fine Brunoise except as a garnish. In which case most chefs will want them as perfectly symmetrical as possible.



    :lol:
     
  15. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Why uneven, DuckFat? Or maybe we're not envisioning the same thing.

    For argument's sake, let's say you want everything perfect. Start with a potato and trim in to form a rectangle. For now, discard the "round" trimmings.

    Plank the potato at the size you want. Let's say 1/4 inch. Then cut the planks into sticks, also at 1/4 inch. You have what most people would call a julienne.

    Line up the sticks and cut (chop) them into 1/4-inch cubes. Everything, depending on your knife skills, is perfectly even.

    Do that at 1/8 inch, or 1/16 inch, or 1/2 inch. Doesn't matter, the cubes will all be the same size.
     
  16. duckfat

    duckfat

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    Any one calling 1/4" sticks Julienne is ill informed. I don't mean that in a negative way but a Julienne is a very specific size. I was taught 1/8 x 1/8 x 2" but technically they can be 1-2" long. For dicing the length is really a moot point. If you take a true Julienne at 1/8 x 1/8 and you want a fine Brunoise out of that the only option is to split each and every strip one by one again to a fine Julienne before you dice them. Which is fine at home cutting a few pieces but time consuming and less precise as you have to align your edge on every single piece, one x one. If you just "chop" Julienne strips then you will wind up with many un-even pieces. You cant make them all equal and 1/2 the thickness by just chopping. This is a long winded way of saying I agree with you but if you want a fine Brunoise you need to start with a fine Julienne. That may sound like splitting hairs and at this size it pretty much is. However if you pass chopped Julienne strips to the Chef and try to pass them off as a fine Brunoise you probably won't make that mistake twice. :lol:
     
  17. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Ahhhh. I think that's where the confusion comes in. If I need a brunoise I would set out to create that, not try and convert a julienne.

    BTW, if you have a 1/8th inch julienne and want to convert it, you have to split it twice. The first cut will give you two sticks measuring 1/16 x 1/8. You'll then have to split each of those, and wind up with four 1/16 square sticks.

    I can't imagine even doing that at home, with just a handful of sticks, let alone in a restaurant environment.

    If you just "chop" Julienne strips then you will wind up with many un-even pieces.

    Are we just dealing with semantics here? So, ok...you've got your 1/16 inch square sticks. You then cut them every 1/16th inch to create the final dice. Why would any of them be uneven? Unless you consider "chopping" to be a knife that's out of control.
     
  18. duckfat

    duckfat

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    I don't know how you would go about cutting brunoise with out cutting Julienne strips first. If you can my hats off to you.
    Semantics? No not really. You can't "chop" a fine Brunoise from Julienne. You have to have a fine Julienne to cut fine Brunoise and there's no way to dance around that. If you're good enough to slice Julienne strips into perfectly even pieces then you my friend have made a fine Julienne. That's a precise cut and not chopping. The only way to "chop" a Julienne into a fine Brunoise is to dice the Julienne strips as finely as possible and continue to chop or dice them as small as possible which appears to be what BDL meant. Fine for home but not a Brunoise as the pieces will not be even. Knife skills are all about detail and in this case size really does matter. ;)
     
  19. boar_d_laze

    boar_d_laze

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    Arguing about linguistics in this way is pointless. I someties call the final cut across the stick to make the dice a "chop," and so do other people sometimes.

    Yes.

    Let's not waste too much time on terms which are vague.

    What BDL (or I as I like to call me) meant was that in order to make brunoise or fine brunoise (or any other dice you desire) you first block the food; cut it into appropriate sized "planks" aka slices; cut the planks into the appropriate sized sticks; and then cut appropriate sized cubes from the sticks. In other words, to get 1/8" cubes, cut 1/8" x 2 - 2-1/2" thick planks, then 1/8" x 1/8" x 2" - 2-1/2" sticks -- and, if you can do that, cutting 1/8" cubes is so similar it's practically automatic.

    As far as I know there are no universally accepted sizes for the variously named sticks (baton, batonet, allumette, julienne, etc.) or dice. As I said before, the precise dimensions comes from the head chef and not only vary from chef to chef but from millimeters to fractions of the inch. If I say 1/16" but actually mean 1.5mm, what's to be done about it? If my brunoise are 3mm and my fine brunoise are 2mm, because it's my kitchen and that's the way I like it; or because I can't cut evenly at less than 2mm, what then?

    To give that 2mm some context, the spine of my go-to gyuto (aka knife) is 2.75mm at the handle. If you can cut actual brunoise, much less fine brunoise, you have some skills.

    I don't know if the way I do it is the only way to do it or even the best way to do it; but it's the way which makes sense to me, the way nearly everyone who can do it does it, and the way I'm likely to keep on doing it until somebody stops me.

    No biggie,
    BDL
     
  20. duckfat

    duckfat

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    There you have it. We agree. A fine Brunoise is cut from a fine Julienne. You are not going to get a fine Brunoise by chopping up a Julienne cut. Once a Julienne cut is made it's no longer a plank or a slice. It's 1/8 x 1/8. You are going to have a real hard time turning that into a fine Brunoise. In short all I was saying is that it's a whole lot more efficacious to start with the proper cut.:thumb:


    Each shape has a delineated size. At least in a classic sense. You already posted them. They may indeed vary by small amounts in practical application but a Brunoise is still a precise and proportionate cut. You can flatten a clove of garlic, mince it and call it a Brunoise if you like but that certainly doesn't make it so. There is a considerable difference between a 1/8 x 1/8 dice and one half that size. No ones going to bust out the rule book and start writing citations but I'll wager a cold beverage we can both immediately see the difference between a Brunoise and a fine Brunoise.