What does it mean when a recipe says to blanch something like beans?-- Janice
Blanching is the process of rapidly heating a food, usually fruit or vegetables, briefly in boiling water. This might be done to prevent discoloration, to enhance existing color, or to help to remove the skin, as with tomatoes or peaches. The intent is not to cook the food through.
In order to blanch the food, start with fresh, clean product. Bring a large pot of water to a full rolling boil. It is important to have a large quantity of water. If you have too little, when you add the food to be blanched, it will cool the water down, which will in turn throw off your timing. At the same time, prepare a large bowl of ice water.
Keeping the heat up under the pot, add the food to the boiling water. You may have to do this in batches, depending on how much food you have to be blanched. Take care not to splash yourself with the boiling water. As soon as the water returns to a boil, begin timing -- thirty seconds for softer foods, up to a minute or two for firm ones. The recipe should give the necessary timing.
Once the time is up, remove the food from the boiling water, using tongs or a slotted spoon, and put it into the ice water bath to stop further cooking. Once the food has cooled down completely, it can be dried on a towel and then used as needed.
The next step beyond blanching is parboiling, where the food is partially cooked. This is done, for instance in the classic technique of turned vegetables in restaurants, where carrots, potatoes and other firm vegetables are partially cooked prior to service. Just before plating they are reheated along with softer vegetables, such as zucchini.
Parboiling may also be used to remove salty or smoky flavors from foods. Also, some recipes may parboil ribs or other meats to remove some of the fat before further cooking.