The Secret to Perfectly Cooked Vegetables
How to Shock Vegetables
Shocking, or refreshing, refers to the technique of plunging just blanched vegetables into ice water to halt the cooking. (They’ll keep cooking if you simply take them off the heat.) It locks in flavor, texture, and color, and you don’t have to worry about undercooking or overcooking. It’s especially helpful when you’re entertaining―you can do the work hours in advance and reheat just before serving.
Step 1: Prepare an ice bath. Fill a mixing bowl halfway with ice and enough water to cover it. Add about 1/2 tablespoon of salt for each quart of water (so you won’t wash away the salt absorbed during blanching).
Step 2: Blanch. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook your vegetables to the desired tenderness.
Step 3: Shock. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables from the pot to the ice bath. Remove when they’re cold, in about 1 minute.
3 Uses for Blanched Vegetables
Quick Side Dishes
Store your blanched, shocked vegetables in a Tupperware container or a resealable plastic bag for up to five days in the refrigerator. When you're ready to serve them, they need just a three-minute reheat: Place them in a skillet over medium heat with a splash of water and a pat of butter. Try this with string beans, carrots, broccoli, or asparagus.
Cauliflower is supposed to be crispy and golden on the outside and tender on the inside, but the florets are too thick to tenderize with simple sautéing. Blanching, and then shocking, ensures tenderness. For crispness, brown 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat. When the butter starts bubbling, add the shocked cauliflower. Cook until brown, about 2 minutes. This also works with broccoli when you're making a stir-fry.
The reason the crudités sit untouched on the appetizer table for so long may not be that the guests would rather be noshing on the pigs in a blanket. It's usually that half the vegetables on the plate (broccoli, cauliflower) aren't very appealing when they're uncooked. You want them to be crisp, not raw. Shocking solves that problem. Consider pairing the vegetables with a soft cheese (Robiola or Brie) and roasted almonds instead of the more conventional dip.