Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Kitchen Gadgetry: Japanese Mandoline (and bonus recipe)

I didn't plan on falling in love with this mandoline. In fact, I registered for an entirely different one, and in the time it went unpurchased on our list, I read so many terrible reviews of it on Chowhound that I removed it. The problem was, I found terrible reviews of every mandoline, models that ranged from $40 to $200. Terrible reviews of every mandoline, that is, save one: a cheap Japanese model sold on Amazon with barely any English on the packaging. Enter the Benriner*, which can be yours for only $20: score!

I like that the Benriner is so simple and flat, making storage a snap. It's also really easy to use once you get the hang of the finger guard (safety first!). As someone without a food processor (I'm coveting the Cuisinart Elite), this mandoline makes certain dishes immensely quicker to assemble. I don't have a photo of my Benriner in action, but I have better: a recipe tailor-made for this little Japanese wonder. Enjoy!

Maggie's Apple and Fennel Pick-Me-Up Salad
(serves 4 easily)

This light salad can stand alone for lunch or accompany any sort of main dish - it's particularly good with fish. Sometimes, I really crave crunchy, lively freshness, and this fits the bill.

1 fennel bulb
1 apple
1/2 red onion
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Several handfuls of salad greens (I know that's imprecise, but I just add to the bowl until I like the overall consistency)

For the dressing:
 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice (about one small lemon)
zest of one small lemon
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper

Using your mandoline's course blade, shred the fennel bulb and apple into long strips and place into a large salad bowl. Mix in sliced red onion (you can use the mandoline again if you'd like) and toasted pine nuts. Once you've mixed your dressing together, blend it into the salad. If you're planning on having leftovers, don't dress the entire salad right away. It'll keep well in the refrigerator for several days without dressing.


If this salad isn't your speed, here's another dish that begs for a mandoline shortcut: Glass Noodle Stir-Fry. Paired with Sesame-Crusted Tuna with Ginger Cream, it makes a fantastic meal (and I didn't even like Hosea).


  1. I adore my mandolin- it's by Cuisinart. I don't use it often enough, but always for this recipe of Frank Stitt's:

    Old-Fashioned Potato Gratin

    4 russet potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1/8-1/4-inch thick
    1 garlic clove, crushed
    1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature
    Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
    1/4 cup freshly grated Comté cheese (or substitute Gruyère)
    1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
    1 1/2 cups heavy cream
    Preheat the oven to 350° F.

    Put the potato slices in a bowl of water to cover so they don’t discolor while you prepare the dish. Firmly rub the garlic clove all over the bottom and sides of a 10-inch gratin dish to coat the interior with its juices. Allow to dry for a few minutes, and then rub the bottom with butter.

    Arrange a layer of potatoes, drained and patted dry, in a slightly overlapping fashion, like a splayed deck of cards, in the bottom of the gratin dish. Season with a good dash of salt and white pepper and a little of each of the two cheeses. Continue layering the potatoes and cheese in this fashion, seasoning each layer and finishing with the cheese (you should have at least three layers). Drizzle the cream along the sides of the dish, so as not to displace the cheese.

    Place the gratin, uncovered, on the top oven rack and bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, or until the cream has been absorbed and the top is crispy and golden. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

    Not as healthy as your salad, but soooo tasty!

  2. This is so going on my Christmas list. I just shelled out $75 for the good grips model, but I'm convinced it will kill me.

  3. No food processor? Tsk, tsk.

    Treat yourself:

  4. I know, J, but the fact is... if I've lasted this long without a food processor, as much cooking as I do, I'm not convinced I really need the most expensive one out there when I finally do take the plunge. But I'd love to hear your hard sell...

  5. great to know! I wanted one of those bad boys

  6. I'll admit it: the power is simply mesmerizing.

    Sure, there are lots of other practical arguments like smoother hummus, shredding or slicing a bag of potatoes in about 3 minutes (putting your crappy mandolin to shame, I might add), making pasta dough in about 1/20th the time, etc. You want simplicity in life? Here's simplicity: On, Off, Pulse. These are all valid, measurable excus---er, reasons.

    But I can't quantify the power. Sometimes I run it for a few minutes longer than I need to, just to feel the excitement that comes from ridiculous angular velocity. I'm not a talented enough writer to describe the intoxicating wave of emotions that washes over me every time I use it, but I suspect it's similar to the feeling that Kim Jong-Il gets every time they launch a missile.

    Next to my immersion blender, it's probably the one thing I would save from my kitchen in the event of a dinosaur attack, primarily because I could kick some dinosaur ass with it.

  7. Hmmm... sounds like a pretty hot boy toy.

  8. You know, I was going to call a 20-second timeout a few comments back, before this really got out of hand, but you know what? When you ask Land of the Lost up there for the hard sell, you get the hard sell, and that's just the way it is. and yeah, sure, he'll throw in an intercontinental balistic missile launch free of charge, why not...

  9. Actually, I was planning on charging for that one. Look for a bill in paypal.

  10. LOVE my Japanese mandoline MORE than my fancy-schmancee French one. Yep, I have both. I had the fancy French one and when I was in cooking school they pointed out the $20 Japanese mandoline. FYI: they too pooh-poohed the French one.

    I tried it out and it's is the first time in my 30++++ years that I actually like the "cheaper" one better!

    Mr. D would be so proud. winkwink.


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