Friday, October 24, 2008
How to Boil Water - Technique Cooking
Water is one of the key, and most overlooked, ingredients in many recipes and techniques. It forms the backbone of many cooking techniques and must be selected and used properly. Like any ingredient use only the best water that is available and appropriate to the technique at hand. Using nasty tasting, chlorinated water is going to result in poor results and in some techniques (such as yeast based items) disaster. I use non-chlorinated well water that has gone thru a Brita filter - for baking I use distilled water. Never take shortcuts with water -I am serious here - DO NOT use HOT WATER from the tap as a shortcut to getting to boiled water - it tastes NASTY. DO NOT use a small quantity of boiled water where a LARGE POT of boiled water is called for. DO NOT put ingredients in non-boiling water if the technique calls for starting them in actively boiling water (e.g. for most delicate items to be blanched you want them to cook VERY quickly to near the proper point and then shock them in ice water to stop cooking to retain flavor color and vitamins). For the same reason, DO NOT put large quantities of ingredients in boiling water - it drops the temperature too much - cook in small batches shocking as you go along.) DO NOT put ingredients in boiling water if the technique calls or starting the ingredients in cold water and then bringing to a boil (e.g. large pieces of dense vegetables like potato will totally overcook on the outside before the inside gets done if you start them in boiling water). DO NOT use a boiling vessel that is going to adversely effect the flavor or results - I prefer All Clad Stainless or Le Creuset enameled cookware for boiling - some other materials can impart bad flavors or react adversely with acids, etc in boiling water - some do not retain heat when the ingredients to be boiled are added.
Great plain water is fairly tasteless. To allow water to do its job to its maximum potential it needs the addition of other complimentary ingredients. Since my specific topic here is "boiling" water I will focus on the key additives that have the potential to elevate flavor development in the recipe that calls for boiling water. Salt (Lot's of it - think of seawater) and a little sugar, whole peppercorns, bay leaf, and some acid (lemon juice or vinegar) or the additives for "Court Boullion" are wonderful for blanching or poaching - for stocks omit the salt (add it later when ready to use the stock).
As we go along in future posts on techniques that use boling water I will explain the specifics for each use more fully