In the culinary world, vegetables have always taken a back seat to meat. Not in Sean Brock's world. "People take vegetables for granted," says the food virtuoso behind McCrady's, the Charleston, S.C., farm-to-table, veggie-centric joint. "I can convert you into a vegetable fanatic."
But achieving that feat isn't as simple as just handing over a recipe card. "Each vegetable has a unique personality and voice," says Brock. And those individual nuances make veggies, compared to your average hunk of meat, harder to get just right. But when done correctly, he says, vegetables can yield incredibly richer rewards.
We recently asked Brock – who rocks a sleeve of tattoos that feature a farmer's market's variety of everything from carrots, to gourds, to tomatoes – for a few rules that can help turn anyone from a kitchen novice to a seasoned chef into a vegetable whisperer. Here's what he told us.
Conventional cooking-show wisdom says to blanch vegetables in salted boiling water and then toss them into an ice bath to "shock" them. "We never do that," says Brock. "Water kills the flavor. The more a vegetable sits in water, the more you're pulling out nutrients and flavor compounds that make it delicious." That said, water is still a great way to transfer heat to veggies, just so long as they aren't touching the liquid.
Your move: Toss your veggies in a Ziplock or food saver bag, and throw that bag into boiling water. "You're just using the hot water to break down and soften (the vegetable). If it doesn't have contact with that water, it still cooks but retains its flavor," says Brock. Try it with anything from spinach, to asparagus, to carrots, cooking each for as long as you normally would blanch them.
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