Blanching, braising and sautéing vegetables helps lock in the flavour, colour and vitamins and nutrients. Here are Chef Jason Parsons’ tips for doing these basic cooking techniques the right way.
When blanching vegetables, start with a pot of cold water and a pinch of salt. (Always make sure you have a big enough pot and enough water so your veggies aren’t crowded.) Bring the water to a rolling boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready on the side. Drop your vegetables in the boiling water. Cook the vegetables to your liking and then remove from the boiling water. Immediately place the vegetables into the ice water. This will stop the cooking process and lock in the colour and nutrients. Once the vegetables are cold, strain off the ice water. You can serve the vegetables cold or warm.
When braising, use a shallow pan with a thick base. Start with a small amount of butter and lightly sauté the vegetables. Then, add the braising liquid, which can be anything you want—chicken or vegetable stock, wine, juice, etc. Add enough liquid to cover the vegetables just over halfway. Turn the burner down low, cover the pan and allow the vegetables to slowly braise. You can also do this stage in a low oven. Once the vegetables are tender, remove from the heat and serve.
When sautéing vegetables, make sure they are dry. Use a large frying pan over high heat. You can sauté in butter, oil or bacon fat. (Butter burns at a lower temperature than oil.) Pre-heat your oil in a sauté pan over high heat and add your vegetables. (Do not overcrowd the pan or your vegetables will boil, not sauté.) Do not move the vegetables around in the pan too much. Allow them to brown and build flavour, stirring from time to time. This will vary depending on the temperature of your pan. Also, always season your vegetables near the end of the cooking process as water will release from vegetables when seasoned and affect browning. Once the vegetables are golden brown, remove from the heat and serve.
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