How to Boil and Reheat Vegetables

Most vegetables may be cooked by boiling, although different techniques are used to enhance the flavor and texture of various kinds. Green vegetables such as asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, French beans, marrow and peas are plunged into sufficient boiling salted water to enable them to float freely whilst cooking. When cooking such vegetables it is advisable to cover the pan with a lid and bring them back to the boil as quickly as possible, then remove the lid immediately to allow any volatile acids to escape. This helps to retain the chlorophyll and so gives a good color. To prevent some vegetables from discoloring when cooked in this manner a small amount of lemon juice is added to the boiling salted water. Globe artichokes, cauliflower and seakale are such examples.

Root vegetables may also be boiled by barely covering them with cold water, adding salt and bringing them to the boil, boiling them steadily until they are cooked. It appears that this method is fast losing favour in the industry, the preference being for the conservative method described above.
Cabbage type vegetables and spinach are cooked by placing them into a small amount of boiling salted water, covering them with a lid and boiling them steadily until they are cooked. Root vegetables such as carrots and turnips are cooked in a relatively small quantity of cold salted water to the volume of vegetables, covering them with a lid and boiling steadily until they are cooked. This method is sometimes referred to as the conservative method of cooking vegetables.

Some vegetables, e.g. Jerusalem artichokes and salsify, are cooked in a preparation termed a blanc to prevent them from discoloring. This consists of water, a small amount of flour, lemon juice and salt.

Root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, swedes and button onions may also be boiled by a method termed glacé. The vegetables are barely covered with cold water to which salt, sugar and butter is added. The liquid is allowed to evaporate completely during the cooking of the vegetables.

To test if cooked

Stated cooking times can only act as a guide as to when vegetables are cooked. In the final analysis experience will help to make the decision. Factors influencing the length of time the vegetables should be cooked for include quality, size and prior storage conditions as well as ensuring that the vegetables are actually boiling for the prescribed time.

The appearance of the vegetable may be used to gauge when it is cooked and can be used for certain types of vegetable with a fair degree of accuracy, e.g. turnips become glassy looking or transparent when cooked as does marrow, seakale, salsify, celeriac and swede. However, it is not an accurate method for testing. especially when the aim is to cook vegetables to the exact degree. and can be misleading
The method most favored by those with experience is to feel whether the vegetable is cooked. (Persons who have yet to gain this experience find it difficult to make decisions in this way and prefer to taste them to gauge if sufficiently cooked.) Gently remove a sample of the vegetables from the cooking liquid using either a perforated spoon or a spider to allow the hot liquid to drain off. Test between the fingers by exerting an even gentle pressure. The vegetables are cooked when there is no apparent resistance or hardness. (See also, however, individual recipes for alternative or more appropriate ways of testing to see if particular vegetables are cooked.)

It is important to bear in mind that most types of vegetable need to be undercooked, the word “undercooked” being used advisedly. (Alternatively the terms “nutty” or “al dente” can be used meaning just undercooked but by no means hard.)

Retention of boiled vegetables

It is trade practice to cook some types of vegetables in salt water in advance of customer demand for the following reasons:

(a) the vegetables are to be served cold, e.g. asparagus and globe artichokes;

(b) the vegetables, once boiled, are to be subjected to a second method of cookery, e.g. cauliflower and salsify subsequently deep fried in a yeast batter;

(c) the vegetables are to appear as boiled vegetables on a menu.

Once the vegetables are cooked they should be “refreshed”. This means reducing the temperature of the cooked vegetables as quickly as possible to prevent further cooking by either replacing the hot liquid with cold water or by transferring the vegetables to a container of cold water. The choice as to which method to use depends on the nature of the vegetables themselves, some are more delicate than others, and whether they have been slightly overcooked by accident, in which case they need to be cooled with extreme care and speed. Transferring them to a container of cold water is perhaps the best method to use.

Appropriate ways to refresh particular vegetables are outlined as follows:

(a) Less delicate types of vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, corn on the cob. French beans, spinach and peas. Place the Saucepan containing the cooked items in a sink and allow cold water to run gently and steadily onto the vegetables until they are cold.

(b) Broccoli, Cauliflower, marrow and vegetables of a rather delicate nature. Place the saucepan containing the cooked items in a sink. Tie a cloth around the tap to prevent the force of the running water concentrating on one particular area and breaking the vegetables before proceeding as in (a).

(c) Asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower (alternative method to (b)). Transfer the cooked vegetables gently to a container of really cold water.

(1) Cabbage, curly kale, spring cabbage and the like do not lend themselves readily to this method of cooling in cold water as they become watery and inedible.

(2) See also individual recipes for alternative or more appropriate ways of refreshing particular vegetables.

Once the vegetables have been refreshed they should be stored on a tray, preferably stainless steel or plastic (aluminium is far from ideal as cooked vegetables discolor when they come into contact with the metal), in a refrigerator at a temperature of 8°C. It is important to allow air to circulate between the vegetables, therefore do not pile the items on top of each other. especially when storing delicate items such as asparagus, cauliflower and broccoli. For best results these vegetables should be layed on a damp cloth and covered with another damp cloth or cling film.

Reheating of vegetables boiled in salt water

Vegetables boiled in salt water should be reheated in a chaudfont – a saucepan of salted water (using approximately 15 g salt) just below boiling point. The vegetables should be placed in a vegetable strainer or basket and put into the hot salt water chaudfont. After a few moments the vegetables should be hot through to the center. Drain completely of water before transfer ring to the service dishes.

(1) Vegetables best suited to this method of reheating include asparagus and sprue, broccoli, cauliflower, marrow. French and runner beans, peas and corn on the cob. See also, however individual recipes for alternative or more appropriate ways reheating particular vegetables.

(2) If the chaudfont is used continuously for any length of time without changing the water, or is used to reheat several different types of vegetables, then the flavor and general appearance of the vegetables will be damaged beyond repair. The flavor of each vegetable will become contaminated to those of the others with a strong or distinctive flavors smothering the flavor of the more delicate. In addition, then a likelihood that pieces of different vegetables will find their way into the service dish of another vegetable.

(3) All boiled vegetables when served should be free from all traces of cooking liquid. They should be a natural fresh colour and well seasoned. They should be cooked to the nutty stage, a point that needs to be considered when reheating vegetables because they continue to cook when subjected to this process.

General summary

The following is a summary of particular points which require special attention when cooking vegetables by boiling.

(a) The vegetables should be of the finest quality when purchased and in top class condition.

(b) The length of time between delivery and use, storage conditions and stock turnover are also vital factors which must be taken into consideration.

(c) Correct preparation of the vegetables is just as important as correctly cooking them, therefore due consideration should be given to this aspect.

(d) The correct type and size of saucepan used is very important, as is the use of cold or boiling water to commence Coking and the addition of sufficient salt.

(e) The vegetables must be cooked for the correct length of time, and should not be allowed to go off the boil during cooking.

() Once cooked, those vegetables cooked in salt water should not be retained for any length of time in the liquid in which they have been cooked.

(8) If the vegetables are to be retained for future use they should be quickly cooled, once cooked, to prevent further cooking. Those cooked in salt water should be refreshed in cold Hater, drained and stored in a refrigerator at 8°C for as short a period as possible.

(h) If the vegetables are reheated in a chaudfont the correct procedure must be followed.

(i) The length of time the vegetables are held and the Temperature they are held at either in a hot cupboard or bain-marie are all factors that will have an effect on the quality of the vegetable when served to the customer.

Gratinated Vegetables

Light gratination may be applied to boiled vegetables. They are coated with a Cheese Sauce, sprinkled with grated cheese and melted butter and placed under a salamander grill to color (gratinate). They then appear on the menu as Légumes Mornay or Légumes au Gratin.

Certain boiled and steamed vegetables may be sprinkled with grated cheese and melted butter then placed under a salamander grill until the cheese has melted and golden. The vegetables then appear on the menu as Légumes Milanaise and is generally applied to asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, marrow and seakale.

(1) Broccoli flowers and the tips of asparagus presented in this manner are not coated with the sauce but are brushed with melted butter and covered with kitchen foil as an added protection to prevent them from drying out under the salamander grill.

(2) The flavor of cauliflower and marrow is enhanced by heating the vegetable very gently in butter in a pan on top of the stove before coating with the sauce. The vegetables should be seasoned to taste with salt and pepper from the mill but not allowed to color.

Creamed vegetables

Boiled vegetables may be bound either with cream or Cream Sauce and appear on the menu as Légumes à la Crème. Once cooked the boiled vegetables (generally shaped for this practice) should be drained of all surplus liquid. They should then be gently simmered in the cream until the cream has slightly reduced, or be carefully incorporated into the cream sauce. They are then seasoned to taste.

Glazed vegetables

Glazed vegetables are cooked in a minimum of liquid together with salt and butter. During cooking the liquid evaporates leaving the vegetables with a distinct sheen and a glazed appearance.

There are two methods of glazing:
(a) White glazing is known as glacé à blanc and is applied to carrots, turnips, swedes and button onions. The vegetables are generally shaped for this method of glazing (with the exception of the onions) – diced, paysanne, barrel-shaped, or in batons or rondels – and may be used as a garnish to accompany a range of meat and poultry dishes. They may also appear as dishes in their own right.

(b) Brown glazing is known as glacé à brun and is applied to button onions usually as part of a garnish, as in Braised Beef Bourguignonne.

(1) Salt should be added with caution because the reduction of the liquid will inevitably make the vegetables salty.

(2) When cooking root vegetables such as carrots, turnips and peas in this manner a little sugаr may be added during cooking in order to complement their natural sweetness.

(3) Turnips when glazed may be completed during the last few moments of cooking by adding some brown sugar and allowing it to caramelize.

(4) When cooking several vegetables in this manner which are to be mixed once cooked (e.g. carrots, turnips and swede) they may also be cooked together. First begin cooking the swede and the carrots and when these are practically cooked add the turnips. The aim is to bring all the vegetables to the point of glazing at the same time.

(5) When cooked the vegetables should have a sheen, he cooked to the correct degree and have a natural color. They should not be over-salty or over-sweet.

Vegetable purées

Boiled vegetables such as carrots, turnips, Jerusalem artichokes and spinach can be passed through a sieve or a machine to make a purée. Vegetables which have been puréed in this way are termed Légumes en Purée.

(1) It is more effective to use a machine first, followed by a sieve in order to achieve a very fine purée.

(2) Once prepared, vegetable purées may be refrigerated for future use in earthenware or plastic containers.

(3) To reheat vegetable purées place a little butter in a shallow sided saucepan and allow it to melt. Add the purée and heat, stirring with a wooden spatula.

(4) For service season the purée and serve in a vegetable dish in the shape of a dome. Decorate with a scroll effect over the surface using a palette knife.

(5) Turnips and swedes have a high water content and need the addition of dry mashed potato to give them the correct texture. The amount of potato added should not be allowed to distort the flavor of the vegetable to which it is added.

Vegetable purées bound with cream or cream sauce

Certain vegetables may be bound with cream or Cream Sauce. This method is generally associated with spinach and carrots and is known as en Purée à la Crème. They are served in exactly the same way as vegetable purées with a band of cream on the surface.

Vegetables Polonaise style

Some boiled vegetables, e.g. cauliflower, broccoli, may be served with a coating of a mixture of white breadcrumbs shallow fried until golden, sieved yolk and white of hard boiled egg and chopped parsley. Once cooked the hot drained vegetables are placed in a serving dish, seasoned with salt and pepper from the mill. They are then covered with the combination of golden fried breadcrumbs. sieved egg white and yolk and chopped parsley.


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