Chiffonade is a fancy word for beautiful, thin ribbons. Once you master cutting basil this way you can create any cut you want.
The first step is to stack your basil leaves into a neat pile. Place the largest leaf on the bottom of the stack and stack them roughly according to size. You will notice the your basil leaves have a natural tendency to curl. It is a good idea to place the leaves so that they are curling upward. This will make them easier to roll.
Once your leaves are all nicely stacked, roll them up like a cigar. Hold the roll tightly so that it does not come undone, but keep your fingers out of the way when cutting. Using a sharp knife, slice the leaves across into thin, evenly sized stips. If your recipe calls for your basil to be sliced chiffonade style, you're done. You will now have a beautiful pile of fresh basil confetti to sprinkle on top of your dish. You may also see this referred to as a julienne cut or julienned basil leaves.
But what if your recipe requires you to cut your basil a different way? No problem now that you know the foundation of how to cut basil.
If your recipe requires coarsely chopped basil leaves, you will follow the same instructions as above, except that when you slice the "basil cigar" across, you will slice it into thicker slices. Once your cigar is sliced, you will then make a few cuts perpendicular to your slices, leaving you with larger pieces of chopped basil leaves.
If your recipe just says "chopped basil" you will follow the same procedure for coarsely chopped basil, but you will slice the cigar slightly thinner and you will make a few more perpendicular slices.
Following the same logic, if your recipe calls for "finely chopped basil" you will follow the same method but make your cigar slices even thinner than you would for chopped basil and you will make even more perpendicular slices.
For minced basil you will follow the procedure for the chiffonade cut and you will slice your "basil cigar" into thin strips. Then you will make slices perpendicular to the ones that you have just made, making those slices just as thin. What you will wind up with is a pile of fresh basil pieces that are similar in size to a jar of dried basil leaves that you would purchase in your grocery store.
So, you see, cutting basil is easy once you master the basics.
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