Thursday, March 5, 2009

Blanching: It's not just doing a Golden Girl impression anymore

Dear Tricia, Why do you blanch things? What's the point?

Good question, fancy pants. A lot of home cooks don't blanch veggies when they're getting down and dirty in the kitchen. To start off with, let me explain what blanching is, for all of the readers out there who think I'm talking about the promiscuous Golden Girl.
Blanching is when you take vegetables (most commonly green ones) and you cook them in salted, boiling water for about 10 seconds. Then you take them out and "shock" them by putting them in a bowl of cold water. The ice water stops the cooking process. Fun, right? Well what's the point in it, you ask? In restaurants, this is super convenient because you've already started cooking the veggies, and when an order comes in, the cook can just finish them off in a saute pan with some butter in it. It's a big time saver when there are 30 tickets up, and your chef is screaming at you "Just get the %$!& plates out, you %&!@& &*$%!" (Welcome to my life. It's like working on a pirate ship.)
At home, the big reason why you'd want to blanch your veggies is because it keeps their color. Anytime you cook vegetables (or fruit, for that matter,) they start to oxidize, which is fancy-terms for turn brown. Blanching them keeps their color so that when you finish cooking your green beans, they stay bright and colorful as a rainbow... a green bean rainbow.
The most convenient reason to blanch at home is if you're having a dinner party or cooking for a large group. When you have your veggies blanched ahead of time, you can just slowly reheat them in a saute pan and take them right to the plate when its time to serve dinner.
So, some things to remember when you're blanching:

1. Make sure your water is salted. It adds flavor. (Please refer to my post on pasta for more details and other hilarity.)
2. Have your ice water ready. If you take out the veggies and have to wait to get your bowl of ice water, then you're not blanching. You're just unprepared.
3. If a recipe you're following says to blanch for longer than 10 seconds, like some will tell you 5 minutes, go ahead and follow the recipe. But then send the author of the recipe an email that says "That's not blanching: that's just boiling a pot of green beans for a while and then sticking them in ice water."
4. Be happy about your new vocabulary. You're becoming more and more like me every day!

Now, if we could only find a cooking method that shares the same name with Bea Arthur... That would really make my day.

No comments: