Have you seen them? The khaki Broccoli, the puce Brussel Sprout, the pale pigment of carrot?
If you have experienced this either on your own plate or, heaven forbid, at a restaurant then you have witnessed the negligence to perform the act of Proper Vegetable Blanching!
It’s simple and a good time saving prep action that absolutely must be done when cooked side dish veggies are called for. Well, except for Stir Fry’s- not necessary to blanch anything there.
Put a medium to large pot (depending on how much veggies you’re tackling) of salted water on the burner and bring it to a boil. While that is going gather your veg of choice, clean and cut as desired.
A note here, make a decision on the size and shape you want to cut your veg and then stick to it. You need to consider if one cut piece of carrot is “THIS BIG” and another cut piece of carrot is “this big” they will not cook to the same doneness. Panic, and emotional deflation will then follow. Spare yourself the misery.
When you’ve got your lovely cut veggies ready, plunge them into the boiling water. Take note here also that blanching times vary. The Baby Boc Choy took about 20-25 seconds, the carrots took 3 minutes. And every stove is different too. The idea isn’t to cook the thing too far, but to Al Dente (Italian for “to the tooth”), you want a little firmness left there. The more delicate the veg the less blanching time. Broccoli for instance takes no time at all. But check as you go, insert a paring knife into the veg – it should have a bit of firmness or body, not mushy.
When the time comes to pull them out use a slotted spoon or a wire Spider, or any means that will get that veg out of the pot quickly, and then immediately plunge the veg into a bowl of ice water, this is called Shocking.
A similar thing happens to Finnish people who steam in a sauna then plunge into the icy frigid lake. Makes them all pink and rosy.
You are rapidly stopping the cooking process with this action, thus preserving the beautiful color and healthy integrity of the veg. Drain well.
Once this is done you can hold your veg in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. Which means if you’re having company over that evening you can have all your veg blanched off earlier in the day. One less thing!
This also falls in the category of your Mise en Place– essential for an organized, efficient workspace and work-time facilitator.
When it comes time to heat up the veg at meal time- and you want to do this as close to that time as possible- have a smaller pot of boiling salted water on the back burner that you can slip the veg into to take the fridges chill off. (This is also why you don’t want to blanch too long in the beginning.) Give it 30 seconds or so, then with a wire scoop (or similar tool) pull out veg, let the excess water drain off a bit, then over to the waiting, hot sauté skillet with a little olive oil and butter in there and season with Salt and Pepper.
In professional kitchens a large pot of salted boiling water is always on the back burner all through service. The pot usually will be equipped with 4 individual metal straining baskets that hook onto the pots’ rim making it easy to drop the pre-blanched veg in, heat through, lift and drain and continue to the sauté. Boom, Boom, and Boom. Essentially at this stage you’re just heating through and adding seasoning.
Note: If it is a veg that is not dense and hard, you can cut it and sauté directly. Peppers most times can skip the pre blanch, also frozen corn. Frozen Peas I just sauté them directly with a small amount of liquid like white wine, veg or chicken stock or water and some butter. Don’t drown these darlings in a pot of boiling water for 10 minutes! No.
Because nobody likes mushy peas. Except the British.
Doing the Blanch and Shock process will ensure your veggies are always vibrant and perfectly cooked and nutritious. ~