"A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift."

Laurie Colwin

Friday, August 27, 2010

Recycling Fridays: Chiffonade

It’s probably the most guilt-inducing vegetable to find at the bottom of the crisper:  wangy lettuce.

Why guilt-inducing?  Because it’s wangy, and can’t be used for salad, that’s why, and if you believe that salad and other raw treatments is all lettuce is good for, you’ll feel guilt.  You’ll throw it away, its limp, lifeless form an accusation, because in your heart you know it should be good for something, dammit.  It was not its time to go.

No, it wasn’t.  Because yes, you can add it to just about any recipe that asks for a cooked leafy green, and you can still turn it into a dish you’ll be happy to eat, such as petits pois à la Française, or lettuce blanched in chicken stock and sesame oil and drizzled with oyster sauce.  Or chiffonade.

Chiffonade is a French soup, which probably means it hasn’t made an appearance in a cookbook for the last ten years, which is a pity.  It is delicious, and the perfect way to use up your wangy lettuce.  It also has a pretty, poetic name that describes how your lettuce looks after cutting.  Can you see the whirls, frills, and ribbons of chiffon?

I make chiffonade not just out of wangy lettuce, but the outer leaves of lettuce that some people find too robust for a salad, such as cos [romaine], and I’ve found that the darker the leaves, the better the soup.   And because we always have lettuce in the house, I can make it when the cupboard is otherwise bare, in under 30 minutes, to everyone's delight.  Other greens, such as silverbeet [chard] are also delicious in chiffonade, but if you use cabbage you won’t have chiffonade.  You’ll just have cabbage soup.


2 tbsp. butter
1 onion, finely chopped
chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

What you do:
1.  Melt butter over medium-low heat and add onion.  Sweat, stirring often, until translucent.
2.  While onion is sweating, cut the lettuce into chiffonade.  To cut into chiffonade, stack a few lettuce leaves together and roll tightly.  Cut into very fine shreds.  Don’t hurry.  The onion is sweating and you have heaps of time.  (If you have a tight-headed lettuce, such as iceberg, there’s no need to roll leaves.  Just halve or quarter lettuce, place cut side down on board, and shred finely.)
3.  Add lettuce to onion, and stir until it wilts.  Add enough chicken stock to cover lettuce twice, and bring to the boil.  Boil as long as you like, but 10-15 min is enough.  Add a couple of handfuls of rice, and boil for another 15 minutes.  Taste for salt and pepper, and serve.

I dropped a few cubes of muzza - mozzarella - into the bowl because it was my lunch, and after I took the picture I dropped a few more in.

C’est bon!


  1. Adding the mozzarella is inspired.

  2. Is it? Ha! It's something we've always done when we want soup to stick to the ribs a bit more. Courtesy of my ma, I think. My grandmother used to poach an egg in soup. I used to loathe it at the time - I couldn't stomach runny egg yolks - but I love it now.

  3. You know - this looks pretty tasty! And then you went and added in the mozzarella and yep - I was so there.

  4. Thanks, Claudia. You know, this is one of those dishes that you read the ingredients to and think, "Meh. Lettuce, stock, rice... how good could it be?" And yet it is. Even kids love it!


So! Whaddya reckon?