The Making of Wings
Wings for the apple duck, apple swan, pear quail, kiwi fruit songbird, squash geese, melon duck and melon swan are all cut the same way. In addition, individual plate garnishes of simple wing sets can be made from practically any round or even partially round food: olives, radishes, zucchini, plums, peaches, and even strawberries.
The key to successfully making these wing sets is to use a blade that is longer than the food you are cutting across. There is no delicate modelling or fancy sculpting going on in cutting of wings. It is all straight slicing. The wedges (wing sections) will automatically come out with rounded tops, straight sides and pointed ends. Another key to success is controlling the depth of your cuts; use a saw cut. There are two distinct wedge shapes. One is a V. The other is a bit more open and tends to be L shaped. The V wedge is used to make the wings out of the top of a food. The L-shaped wedges are used on the sides of food. In both cases, the wing sets are simply a series of wedges. See how the bottoms of the wedges in each series are all lined up straight? You always begin by cutting the smallest wedge first. Then you make the second to the smallest wedge and so on.
The biggest pitfall in cutting wedges is pushing your knife too far. When this happens, the sides of the next wedge you cut in that set will come out separately rather than in the normal joined position. However, even if this happens once or twice in a set, you can still succeed. Just keep your individual pieces together and when you are putting your bird wings back into the body, go ahead and use the separated sides in their proper position as if they weren't disconnected. Gravity and the tendency for moist food to stick to itself will hold your broken wing sections in place. Now, if every wing in the set happens to come away in two pieces, well, you've just made a rather arduous start on a wonderful salad, but you won't have come very far as a bird carver. Start over and Don't Push On The Knife. Use A Gentle Sawing Motion.
The V Cut
In most cases, you'll be cutting wings out of a piece of food from which you've already cut a slice to make the bird's head. Rest the food on the flat side from which the slice was taken, whenever possible. Whatever you're cutting, hold it firmly on the board.
Hold your blade level and over the center of the top of the food, going from front to back Move the blade 1/8 inch to the right and angle it in toward the center. The slope of this angle should be just like the slope of the right half of the letter V. Saw cut your way into the food. Stop when the cutting edge of your knife is right under the center of the food. Withdraw the blade.
Now make the opposite cut in from the left. It is a mirror image of the first and completes the letter V. Lift the resulting wedge out on the side of your blade and set it on your board.
All successive wedges in this wing set are cut the same way. Just begin each cut a little to the outside of the V-shaped cavity and finish each cut directly under the bottom of the V-shaped cavity.
If you find it hard to make the cut from the left but can do it well from the right side (or vice-versa), it's perfectly all right to give the food a half turn between each cut so you will always be cutting in from the right.
The L Cut
The L-shaped wedges differ only in the angle of the slopes. Otherwise, follow the saw cutting technique for the V-shaped wedges. Cut the more vertical stroke first. Then make the second cut aiming for the bottom of the vertical stroke.
Be sure the second cut (the more horizontal one) does angle down into the food slightly. If you cut up into the food, the side wings will tend to slip down and out of their cavity. The exact distances between cuts and the recommended angles for the wedges vary a little from bird to bird. These measurements are given in the Melon Swan recipe.
Steve's August Recipes
© 1995, Steve K. Holzinger. All rights reserved.
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
Copyright © 1995, 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.
Modified August 2007