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Culinary Term of the Week: Blanching

October 9, 2009

by Chef Gusteau

Blanching is a very interesting culinary process based on the many uses it has for a variety of foods.  Very basically, you submerge a food item into boiling water for a very short period of time, typically anytime between 15 seconds and a minute.  The smaller the item, the less time you will need.  Then you pull out the food item and immediately submerge it into a ice bath (combination of ice and water).  You might ask why one would even bother boiling a food for such a short period of time. The goal is not to cook the food…go figure.  What you are really trying to do is just start a cooking process.  This quick intense heat will loosen the skins on vegetables and nuts.  It will also brighten the color of the food.  Ever wonder why the basil oil you saw at your last dinner out was so bright green. You guessed it, the chef blanched the basil before pureeing it up with oil.  Ever wrestle with peeling the skins off tomatoes, even cherry tomatoes?  Well, first cut a small “x” at the bottom of the tomato and blanch it…skin practically peels itself.

So why the ice bath? The ice bath will quickly stop the cooking process.  It will stop delicate items like tomatoes and asparagus from overcooking.  The ice bath also sets the bright color you achieved during the boiling process.  You can also hold the items in the ice bath for a short period of time before you use them, perhaps to keep them cold and crisp for a salad.  Just don’t keep them too long or some of the flavor will leech out.

So what are you waiting for…blanch something and have fun!

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