This maneuver neatly reduces bumpy, bulbous, and otherwise wildly irregular vegetables into tidy strips of uniform size and shape that resemble—what else? Matchsticks.
Step 1: Wash & peel Wash and peel the vegetable, if necessary.
Step 2: Grasp knife Grasp the knife in your dominant hand, holding the handle close to the blade with three fingers: your middle, ring, and pinkie. Curl your forefinger around one side of the blade while holding your thumb on the opposite side.
Step 3: Hold vegetable With your non-knife-wielding hand, hold the vegetable firmly on the cutting board close to the area you will cut.
TIP: Curl your fingers so that the tips are firmly planted on the vegetable and the knuckles point outward—in the food world, this is called the "claw grip."
Step 4: Cut off ends Cut off the ends of the vegetable.
TIP: Keep an empty bowl next to your cutting board so you can place the trimmings in there instead of running back and forth to the garbage can.
Step 5: Cut crosswise Cut the vegetable crosswise into 2-inch segments.
Step 6: Cut off sides Cut off the sides of one section. It should now resemble a block with 4 long flat surfaces—this will make it easier to cut uniform pieces.
Step 7: Slice into slabs Slice the segments lengthwise into 1/8 inch-thick slabs.
TIP: Keep the point of the knife on the board and use a steady rocking motion to slice—not saw—the vegetable with the full length of the blade.
Step 8: Stack & slice Stack the slabs on top of each other and slice them again into 1/8 inch-wide sticks. What remains should resemble a pile of... you guessed it.
FACT: The wooden matchstick industry was a powerful political presence in 19th-century Europe, before the advent of electricity.