I’ve been following along with my Rouxbe course pretty solidly for a few weeks now, and most of the exercises I’ve come to recently have been dealing with vegetables and specifically with boiling vegetables. (The next lesson will be steaming, but for now we’re at boiling and simmering.) I’ve learned a few very useful things. Did you know that vegetables are generally broken up into three categories? They are! Green vegetables, white and red vegetables, and orange and yellow vegetables. Boiled green vegetables should be cooked uncovered without an acid; white and red should be covered and have an acid added halfway through; and orange and yellow vegetables can go either way. (They’re the bisexuals of the vegetable world. Racy!)
In any case, I haven’t made a “real” recipe for this adventures in cooking lesson, even though I bought the ingredients for one. My house is full of leftovers and it just doesn’t seem like the time. So instead I present to you one snack and three exercises. Onwards!
The snack: Avocados with vinaigrette
First up, a little snack of avocados with a vinaigrette. The avocado recipe (viewable to non-members) uses a mustard vinaigrette, but I don’t have any dijon mustard and wasn’t going to buy a whole jar just for one recipe — I’m not a huge mustard fan — so I made a curry vinaigrette instead. (Curry powder, olive oil, powdered ginger, salt, and pepper.) In fairness, I may have made it a bit too strong, as it was very spicy, but it was also very tasty. I ate the whole thing by myself, all 500-ish calories worth. (Healthy calories, but calories nonetheless.)
If the goal here was to convince people to like avocados, they didn’t really need to go very far to convince me. I already know I like avocados. I tend to avoid them because: 1. they’re expensive, 2. they’re often over-ripe, and 3. they’re very calorie-dense. But oh, so tasty.
Exercise #1: Understanding cooking times when boiling
In this exercise, you bring a pot of water to a boil and throw in 10-15 green beans. Then, starting at the 2-minute mark, you take them out one at a time, shock them in an ice bath, and put them on a plate. At the end, you see the difference in how they look and taste.
Marc did the taste test with me. We found that up until about 3 minutes, the green beans were still quite crunchy and not fully cooked. The sweet spot — when they had just the right amount of bite and were the brightest green — came around the 4-5 minute mark. Even at 6 minutes they were pretty good. Starting around 7 minutes they started to get quite mushy, by 9 minutes they were losing most of their taste, and by 10 minute they were a tasteless, mushy blech. (And we went up to 17 minutes, because that’s how many I made. The things I do for science…)
Exercise #2: Blanching and parboiling broccoli
The next exercise was similar to the first, except using broccoli. The idea was to take three batches of broccoli florets and blanch, parboil, and fully cook them, respectively. In the end you were supposed to replicate a picture that involves the florets cut in half where you can clearly see the differences in doneness by how much white is showing along the inside of the stem.
Since no cooking times were given, I decided to do this one more or less like I did exercise #1, taking nine mostly-same-sized florets and taking them out at one-minute intervals. Sadly, I didn’t get the nice progression of Rouxbe’s picture. Even though the florets at 2.5 minutes were much crunchier than the mushy ones at 10.5 minutes, they all had the white core inside the stem clearly visible when cut open.
Also, I think I left my florets in the ice bath too long. I wanted to make sure they were cool, so I left them in for about 45 seconds, but on most of them the floret heads were completely mushy and falling apart. So… less time for the next batch. Good to know.
Exercise #3: The potato experiment
This one was actually quite similar to an exercise I did back in March, in which I cooked one batch of pasta in unsalted water and one in salted water. This time the subject of the experiment wasn’t pasta but potatoes, and the salted water also got a couple of bay leaves.
Yes, the salt-water potatoes were much tastier. Yes, the unsalted-water potatoes were bland and uninteresting. I’m not sure I tasted any of the bay leaves, though, and I may have used too much salt in the water. (Maybe I would have needed less, except that I quartered the potatoes before I put them in the water, so the flesh was directly sucking up the water.)
In any case, I feel this is an argument that Rouxbe won six months ago and I’m not entirely certain why I was doing it again, but… oh, well. I have a few potatoes in my fridge to add to the leftovers.
Next up, like I said, is steaming, and I’ve still got a few backlogged recipes and exercises I need to get to: cutting up a whole chicken, roasting a whole chicken and making gravy from the drippings, and a green bean, cheese, and pine nuts dish that I have the ingredients for and should really make before the green beans go bad. I’m sure I’ll get to it.
Oh, and one one final note: I’m now officially halfway through the Rouxbe course! Yay! It’s only taken half a year! (Sigh…)