Sometimes chefs forget that not everyone understands all cooking terms or that there can be a misunderstanding about a term. Sometimes even “celebrity chefs”, some of whom are not really chefs, just celebrities, will bandy about terms and misuse them. I often get asked in my classes about things that I don’t give much thought to such as what the difference is between a rolling boil (the liquid is ALL jumped up), a boil (the liquid jumping steadily)and a simmer (the liquid is at a very slow jog) or what how does one “fold” an ingredient into another ingredient? (a deep up and over motion). One technique I get asked about a lot is BLANCHING.
The best way to preserve the color and the nutrients of vegetables is to blanch and shock them. Blanching means: to boil them briefly in water. Shocking means:to cool them quickly with a dunk in an ice bath. This technique also helps firm the flesh of a fruit while loosening the skin, which makes peeling (peaches or tomatoes, for example) easier. And it works for herbs, too: Blanch and shock basil before making a pesto for a sauce that stays bright green (not brown!) even after it’s been tossed with hot pasta or stored for several days.
How to Blanch and Shock
Pot of SALTED boiling water.
Large bowl of ice water.
Cleaned and cut veggies.
Boil the vegetables briefly without covering.
Check for desired doneness-you still want them very crunchy-this is not cooking through.
Plunge immediately into the ice water.
How long? Think of what you are blanching. Is it rock hard, like carrots slices? Then maybe 3-4 minutes. Delicate like spinach? 60 seconds, tops. For skinning things like tomatoes and peaches, 90 seconds to 3 minutes. Pull a tomato out of the water, if the skin can be pierced by your fingernail and peeled, drain and shock immediately. If you wait until you can see a break in the skin, the fruit will have begun to cook and you will have a mealy result.
When do you start to count the time? For hard veggies, after the liquid comes back to a boil. For soft things like herbs, immediately.
Why Blanch? To hold color and to get rid of the “raw” taste (such as string beans in a salad).
Why Shock? To stop the cooking.
And now you know.