Get out your medium pot and fill it with water.
The first key to blanching is to make sure you use enough water. I like to fill the pot well past the halfway point, leaving about an inch or two from the top.
If you don’t use enough water, two things will happen: 1) The water temperature will drop too much when you add your room-temperature veggies. The water will lose its boil, messing up your cooking time. 2) Your veggies won’t be fully submerged. This results in uneven cooking.
So be generous with the water. More water means it takes longer to come to a boil, but you’ll get much better results.
Now add 2 teaspoons of salt to the water. Salty water flavors the food as it cooks, resulting in better tasting veggies.
Turn your heat to high, all the way, and put a lid on the pot. This traps heat in the pot, making it boil faster.
This step differs depending on what kind of veg you got, but in general you want to rinse off the dirt, trim off the tough parts, and cut into pieces that are a good size for eating.In the video, I demonstrate with asparagus. Here are instructions for everything else:
Broccoli – Cut off the stalk and then separate into “florets.” You can pull it apart with your fingers. Then use your knife to slice off the outside of the stalk. The inside is tender and you can cook it!
Cauliflower – Same as broccoli, but no need to trim the stalk—it’s quite tender throughout. Just pull off the leaves.
Carrots – Chop off the stem end, peel, and either slice into ¼” thick coins or cut into sticks. Or dice! Whatever you like. The smaller the pieces, the faster it’ll cook.
Green beans, snap peas, etc – Pinch or scissor off the stem ends.
Asparagus – The bottoms of asparagus are tough, so you want to trim them off. But it can be tricky to figure out exactly where to make the cut. My favorite method is to use a knife blade and lightly press down on the stem, starting at the bottom. With practice, you can actually feel where the fibrous woodsy part ends and the tender part begins—and that’s where you make the cut. (See video) By the way, it is a myth that you can just bend the stalk and it will always snap in the right place. The knife method is much more accurate and helps you avoid unnecessary waste.
More water? Yes indeed!
This water is for “shocking” the vegetables, and this is the second key to blanching. When the vegetables are done cooking, they need to be dunked in cold water to lower their temperature. Otherwise they will continue to cook—and soften, and get soggy. This is why blanching has such a bad rap.
But we are not going to make this mistake, because we are far too smart and cool for that!
So get out a large bowl of water. Make it very cold. To make it even colder, add some ice cubes. (If you don’t have ice cubes, no biggie.)
How can you tell your water is ready?
It needs to be really, really active. Watch the video. You’ll know it when you see it.
If it’s still being shy, sending up an occasional bubble or two, it’s not ready. Be patient.
Add your veggies when the time is right. All at once!
And then immediately set your timer to the correct amount of time:
If there is a range of minutes given, err on the shorter side. You can always taste and add more time, but you can’t subtract time.
When the timer goes off, taste a piece. (Dunk it in the cold water first so you don’t burn yourself.) It should be tender and ever so slightly sweet.
If it’s good, shut off the heat and shock the rest of your veggies. If not, add a minute or two.
Recall from earlier that shocking veggies in cold water stops the cooking process in its tracks. This is essential to preventing overcooked, soggy, lifeless veggies.
Let the veggies rest in the cold water for a few minutes to cool down. Then drain.
Here’s the fun part!
Just like dressing, say, yourself, you can either glam it up or go understated and simple.
In the video, I add a few shavings of parmesan, a drizzle of high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Here are some other suggestions:
Remember to add enough salt. If you’re not sure, taste it. Salt is the key to unlocking the flavor of food, and it’s the difference between a plate of boring veg and a plate of restaurant-quality veg.
Enjoy your beautiful, freshly blanched vegetables!