Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Meet Blanch. Blanch appears in a great many recipes and is a basic but versatile cooking method.

Blanching sets the color and flavor of a food. It can be a stand-alone technique or a way of preparing foods for further cooking. Take, for instance, blanched green beans—as is, they’re a classic component of Tuna Salad Niçoise, but for Green Beans Amandine, the blanched green beans are sautéed. Some foods are blanched to remove excess moisture that would otherwise make the finished dish too watery, like the spinach in Creamed Spinach. Foods such as tomatoes and peaches can be blanched to loosen their skins and aid in peeling.

To blanch a food, bring a very large pot of water to a rolling boil. The larger the pot and the more water, the faster the water will return to a boil after the food is added, and the faster the food will cook. And the faster the food cooks, the more appealing its appearance and flavor will be. Add plenty of salt, enough to make the water taste slightly briny.

Add the food and boil until the desired doneness.

The cooking time will depend on the particular food; it can take seconds to blanch bean sprouts, a couple of minutes for broccoli or cauliflower, or several minutes for green beans. Most vegetables should be just cooked through, which is referred to as “tender-crisp”. The best way to tell if the food is done is to taste it. Half a minute is long enough to loosen the skin on fruit. Quickly drain the food (a colander works, but if I’m blanching a variety of foods or several batches, I prefer to use a mesh sieve so that I don’t have to wait for water to boil between each batch), and immediately transfer it to a bowl of ice-cold water to stop the cooking process, this is known as shocking (again, I like to use a sieve to avoid having to pick ice cubes out of the food).

Drain thoroughly.

What a brilliant color, so appetizing!

If you’re blanching a variety of foods, cook each one separately because different foods have different cooking times. Also blanch a large quantity of any one food in batches.

One last note: blanching is sometimes used to mellow the flavor of certain foods. Bacon can be blanched to remove some of the salt, and citrus rind can be blanched to eliminate the bitterness. In this case, the food is added to a pot with cold water and then brought to a boil.


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