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 The mandoline is a slicing machine that works by cutting product over a mounted knife blade.  Why it is called a mandoline and not a washboard—which it more resembles—is anyone's guess.  It has folding legs and an assortment of adjustable blades that slice firm products, such as potatoes, radishes, carrots and apples with great precision and speed.  It cuts French fries, julienne and wider strips, as well as rippled and waffled slices.  Most mandolines have a safety guard/pusher-on-guides device to hold and move the product so that fingers don't become product (a clear and present danger).  There are at least two brands of all stainless steel mandolines (Bron is most available) and fiberglass-framed mandolines by Matfer (shown below with glove) and by Oxo.  I prefer the Matfer only because of its superior frame, which is easy to clean and dry and won't bind up in the joints as the stainless steel ones do. 

I've yet to see the mandoline safety guard/pusher device in use in a commercial kitchen.  The devices are awkward and slow.  All designed by lawyers, no doubt.  I was much relieved when my chef at the Old George Town Club in Washington D.C. handed me a safety glove and 20 lbs of potatoes.  In his kitchen, working safe and fast trumped derring-do.  I trashed the guard/pusher and use a glove at home and have bought them for friends who have the machine. 

Is the mandoline worth $150, plus $25 for a glove?  Maybe yes, if you like les crudités -raw vegetables, if you prepare a variety of potato dishes, if you have always wanted to deep fry your own pommes de terre soufflees - puffed potato chips and French fries, if you make county-class apple pies and tarts, and if slicing all that product with your chef's knife has become a chore. 

Here is the classic potato dish that the mandoline was made for. 
Please refer to abbreviations, if needed.

Potatoes Gratinée
Yield: 6-8 servings
•  4         large Idaho potatoes 
•  pad     butter
• 8 oz     half and half or whipping cream
• 3/4 C   grated fresh Parmigiano Reggiano cheese or cheddar
• 1         garlic cloves chopped or pureed
•  S/P

1. Butter a 14x9 or 12x12 inch pan
2. Add chopped garlic, salt (quite a lot) and pepper to cream and mix with a
    stick blender
3. Peel (optional) and thinly slice potatoes with a mandoline, about 3/16" thick 
4. Immediately, layer sliced potatoes in overlap pattern
   ·   Drizzle on cream mixture (stir often to get the garlic)
   ·   Add light sprinkle of cheese
5. Repeat for 3 to 5 layers
6. Cover with foil
7. Bake at 400F for about 45-60 minutes for 3 layers; 60-80 minutes for 5 layers, 
    until potatoes are fork tender
8. Hold
9. Brown top under broiler before serving


Notes:  Ham is a nice addition to this dish (about 1.5 cups). See photo
            See also Potatoes Ashley



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