Steal Back Some Time with Melissa Clark’s Ingenious Tip for Blanching Greens

published Feb 28, 2021
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

There are a lot of great reasons to blanch greens like collards, kale, and Swiss chard. When you give your greens a quick hot water bath it helps them keep their bright green color and draws out liquid, which means that when you sauté them later on, the greens won’t just stew in their own liquid. Blanching is also a necessary step for when you want to freeze your greens, because it keeps them from degrading in quality.

Blanching greens is one of those kitchen tasks that feels like it should be easier than it is. In reality, it requires boiling a large pot of water (which you then discard), an ice bath to cool the greens off quickly afterward, and some way to get the greens from the boiling water to the ice bath. It’s not that it’s so hard — it’s just that it seems like it could be easier. Well, New York Times food writer Melissa Clark posted a tip on Instagram this week showing how it can be.

Here’s her tip: She starts by boiling the water in an electric kettle, which is already a time-saver. Then, instead of adding the greens to the water, she pours the water over her chopped greens. This lets her use just enough water to cover the greens. Then instead of setting a timer on a pot and then moving the greens to an ice bath, she just leaves them sitting in the water until it cools before draining them to use in her dish. She said she plans on sautéing the greens with garlic and a spice mix after she’s done!

The classic blanching technique uses salt water to add flavor during the boiling and shocks vegetables in ice water after to immediately stop the cooking, but given that she plans to continue the cooking right away, this version seems to cut out the unnecessary extra steps. Or you could probably add the salt to the greens before pouring the water over it.

Every cook has a different tolerance of how important a step is versus how much work (and how many dishes) it takes. If skipping the ice bath saves you 10 minutes of waiting for water to boil, five minutes of cooking time, and five minutes of dish-washing time in exchange for a tiny incremental loss of flavor (if any), you might relish the opportunity.