Q: What is the difference between blanching and parboiling?
A: There's very small difference really. Blanching refers to the process of quickly dipping an item into boiling water and then quickly chilling it by then plunging it into ice water. It's a method used to make skins easier to remove, to reduce strong odors or to set the color of vegetables. Parboiling includes the quick boiling part, but not the chilling part. Parboiling is usually used to precook an item which will then be cooked another way such as braising, grilling or stir-frying.
Q: Are dark and light brown sugar interchangeable in cooking?
A: Yes, usually. Keep in mind the darker the sugar, the more intense the molasses flavor. The dark brown sugar will also burn more quickly, because of the more concentrated molasses. When long cooking times are required, in baking beans, for instance, if you use the darker sugar you may end up burning the beans. When only brown sugar is specified in a recipe, usually light brown sugar is what the author had in mind.
Q: How do I plump raisins?
A: Raisins can be plumped by covering them with a liquid such as water, wine, liqueur, juice or any other liquid that will impart flavor. Bring the mixture to a boil. Cover and steep for about 10 minutes.
Q: What do I do if a recipe doesn't call for cooking with a lid? Should I put one on just in case?
In most cases, if a recipe does not call for a lid, do not use one or you will get different results from what the recipe intended. Covering with a lid creates a steaming process that does not allow for browning and prevents the reduction of liquids.
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