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Old 10-12-2014, 01:30 PM   #1
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Always Saute Celery Last?

I was watching a Youtube video the other day and one particular chef said when adding vegetables to a pot or pan to saute always hold off and add the celery after. The reason being that celery is comprised of so much water that it renders too much of it and will prevent the other vegetables, like carrots, onions, and garlic from caramelizing. So many recipes, weather they be European, North American, Latin American, start with these standard vegetables and techniques but yet I have never heard of this cooking tip. What's really funny is that it makes perfectly good sense....

Thoughts?

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Old 10-12-2014, 01:36 PM   #2
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Huh. Never heard of it either, but it does make sense.
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Old 10-12-2014, 02:07 PM   #3
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Onions contain at least as much moisture as celery. I always saute onions first to evaporate the moisture and get them nice and brown, then add carrots, celery and garlic together. If the heat is high enough, the moisture from the latter three will evaporate pretty quickly and they will caramelize. Don't forget to salt each addition, which also helps pull water from the veg.
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Old 10-12-2014, 02:24 PM   #4
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It makes sense, but does it matter? I don't think it's intended for general advice about sauteeing vegetable, and I doubt water content is valid reason for the order of those vegetables.

Celery is 95% water. Onions are about 90%. Carrots are, as we might expect, 87%. Mushrooms are 90%. Tomatoes are 93%. Peppers 92%. Now that doesn't seem like enough difference to make any difference. Quite obviously, we don't expel more than a tiny part of the water, or we would end up with a 1/4 cup of food from 1-1/2 cups of vegetables.

And all vegetables don't go in the pan at the same time. Onions and carrots take longer to cook and are first. Celery goes in before mushrooms and tomatoes. Then greens, if any. Garlic goes in very late. It doesn't stand overcooking.

Note that mushrooms and onions, both with 90% water, need very different cooking times.

Pan temperature should be so high that vegetables brown quickly.It will also help make any expelled water evaporate, but if there's water accumulating and the food is boiling, rather than browning, it's too cool, or the pan is overloaded. I find I more often make batches too large. Residential ranges just don't have high heat capacity. And I end up having to dip liquid out of the pan to get back to browning.

Chef was talking about mirepoix/sofritto (onions, carrots, celery - garlic in sofritto) or the Creole "holy trinity," onion, celery, peppers. For that combination, cooking time calls for onion first, so the effect is more or less the same as thinking about water content.
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Old 10-12-2014, 02:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GotGarlic View Post
Onions contain at least as much moisture as celery. I always saute onions first to evaporate the moisture and get them nice and brown, then add carrots, celery and garlic together. If the heat is high enough, the moisture from the latter three will evaporate pretty quickly and they will caramelize. Don't forget to salt each addition, which also helps pull water from the veg.
If you want to get technical, celery is about 95% water content and onion is around 87%. Not much of a difference but still one, none the less. I can see how celery, being a less dense vegetable may render more of it's water than onion. I should give it a try some day. Sweat equal amounts for the same amount of time and see if there is a difference....

And, no. It doesn't matter. Just thought I would bring up a subject so we could discuss the technicalities.
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Old 10-12-2014, 02:36 PM   #6
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I don't, really. It's close enough for my purposes. The way I've been doing it works for me, meaning there's plenty of caramelization and good flavor in my dishes, so I don't think it would make that much of a difference to do celery last. Let us know what you find out.
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Old 10-12-2014, 02:37 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GotGarlic View Post
Onions contain at least as much moisture as celery. I always saute onions first to evaporate the moisture and get them nice and brown, then add carrots, celery and garlic together. If the heat is high enough, the moisture from the latter three will evaporate pretty quickly and they will caramelize. Don't forget to salt each addition, which also helps pull water from the veg.
I do it just like that too.

It took me years to figure out not to saute' mushrooms with salt, or salted butter. They will never brown with salt. It also took me years to understand removing bacon after rendering the fat for other veggies. No more flabby bacon in the finished dish.
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Old 10-12-2014, 10:11 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Rocklobster View Post
If you want to get technical, celery is about 95% water content and onion is around 87%. Not much of a difference but still one, none the less. I can see how celery, being a less dense vegetable may render more of it's water than onion. I should give it a try some day. Sweat equal amounts for the same amount of time and see if there is a difference....

And, no. It doesn't matter. Just thought I would bring up a subject so we could discuss the technicalities.
Interesting topic, Rock.
Onions may have less water content, but they have more sugar than celery, so they will caramelize nicer. For what it's worth, I always sauté the onion first and then add the celery, carrots, and whatever, and let them pick up the flavor from the onions.
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Old 10-12-2014, 10:42 PM   #9
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I just made a pot roast tonight...it's just about done. I used a 12 oz. chuck roast (I cut up a big roast for smaller dinners). Anyways, all this about veggie moisture content has me interested and gaining experience. I used my 1.5 qt. glass covered oval casserole dish which I am really liking cooking with.

Next time, I'm going to start with bigger sized vegetables with my slow cook pot roast dinner. By the time the 1.5-2 hour cooking time is up, my smaller cut up potatoes, celery, onions, and carrots get rather reduced in size and lose a lot of texture (they become a bit mushy too). I'm going to start with much bigger pieces of vegetables next time. I now realize why they show bigger chunks of vegetables in pictures of pot roasts. Next pot roast, I'm going to put in an onion quartered and not broken up. Same with the potatoes. I'll not halve them. Same with the carrots and celery...they're small size reduced quite a bit and got mushy by the end of the cook time. Also, I know I can thicken the juices after cook time for the gravy effect (from all the water now gathered in the dish) but I'm still surprised how much liquid is given off by the vegetables during cooking.

Ideally tho, I'd rather not add in my potatoes and other veggies after the initial cooking time starts. I like the set and forget method of putting it all together, placing it in the oven and walking away 'till it's done.
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Old 10-13-2014, 01:22 AM   #10
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i've always sauteed veggies in groups based on their hardness, not water content.

that is that things like onions and garlic go together; zucchini, eggplant, and mushrooms go together; and hard veggies like celery, carrots, and fennel get sauteed together or at least around the same time.

peppers are tricky as they fall somewhere between onions/garlic and celery/carrots.
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Old 10-13-2014, 05:53 AM   #11
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I have never heard of that either and I don't see changing something I've been doing as long as I've been cooking now.
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Old 10-13-2014, 06:54 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Caslon View Post
I just made a pot roast tonight...it's just about done. I used a 12 oz. chuck roast (I cut up a big roast for smaller dinners). Anyways, all this about veggie moisture content has me interested and gaining experience. I used my 1.5 qt. glass covered oval casserole dish which I am really liking cooking with.

Next time, I'm going to start with bigger sized vegetables with my slow cook pot roast dinner. By the time the 1.5-2 hour cooking time is up, my smaller cut up potatoes, celery, onions, and carrots get rather reduced in size and lose a lot of texture (they become a bit mushy too). I'm going to start with much bigger pieces of vegetables next time. I now realize why they show bigger chunks of vegetables in pictures of pot roasts. Next pot roast, I'm going to put in an onion quartered and not broken up. Same with the potatoes. I'll not halve them. Same with the carrots and celery...they're small size reduced quite a bit and got mushy by the end of the cook time. Also, I know I can thicken the juices after cook time for the gravy effect (from all the water now gathered in the dish) but I'm still surprised how much liquid is given off by the vegetables during cooking.

Ideally tho, I'd rather not add in my potatoes and other veggies after the initial cooking time starts. I like the set and forget method of putting it all together, placing it in the oven and walking away 'till it's done.
Caslon, same-sized pieces of onion and potato will cook at very different rates because potatoes are much more dense. And we're talking about sautéing here, not braising, so not everything will apply. You might want to start another thread about making pot roast, so things don't get mixed up.
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Old 10-13-2014, 06:55 AM   #13
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i've always sauteed veggies in groups based on their hardness, not water content.

that is that things like onions and garlic go together; zucchini, eggplant, and mushrooms go together; and hard veggies like celery, carrots, and fennel get sauteed together or at least around the same time.

peppers are tricky as they fall somewhere between onions/garlic and celery/carrots.
I stopped doing onions and garlic together because the garlic burned more frequently. When I put it in later with other veggies, it works better for me.
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Old 10-13-2014, 07:02 AM   #14
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I stopped doing onions and garlic together because the garlic burned more frequently. When I put it in later with other veggies, it works better for me.
When garlic is called for, I always add it last when I saute veggis, for that exact reason.
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Old 10-13-2014, 07:25 AM   #15
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After watching many Indian cooking vids, it is interesting to see how they begin their curries. They have different methods than our European derived sauteing. Which is funny because all cooking this way is designed to get the most flavor out of the ingredients, yet different cultures approach it using a variety of techniques...
Sometimes they remove the veg, and continue with other ingredients, adding the veg back later. Or add water with whatever spices to create a thick spicy gravy, almost a concentrated base that they reduce for a few minutes on its own. Most times I see onions cooked until very brown and almost charred in some cases..
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Old 10-13-2014, 07:42 AM   #16
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I have never heard of that either and I don't see changing something I've been doing as long as I've been cooking now.
craig, how long have you been cooking?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GotGarlic View Post
I stopped doing onions and garlic together because the garlic burned more frequently. When I put it in later with other veggies, it works better for me.
if i'm just sweating the veggies over lower heat, i'll do the onions for a minute or two, then make a well in the middle of the pan, add more oil/fat to the center, then add the garlic and finish the onions and garlic together after the garlic toasts just a bit.

if i'm browning, they get done separately.

the first thing that i've noticed about indian cooking is that they toast their spices to start, then begin adding the rest of the ingredients to making the dish where i'm used to adding herbs and spices later, and not toasting them.
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Old 10-13-2014, 07:50 AM   #17
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I have never heard of that either and I don't see changing something I've been doing as long as I've been cooking now.
Don't go changing
To try and please me.....

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Old 10-13-2014, 07:56 AM   #18
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This started off talking about how to get caramelization, so I wasn't referring to sweating.

I've started combining the Indian and European methods, in some cases. I'll start with onions and garlic and, before I add a bunch more veggies with their water, toast some spices and maybe dried herbs in the fat. I save fresh herbs for closer to the end.

And in most Thai cooking, they make the liquid first and sort of poach the meat and veg in that, with no sweating or browning at all. Cooking is endlessly interesting
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Old 10-13-2014, 07:59 AM   #19
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After watching many Indian cooking vids, it is interesting to see how they begin their curries. They have different methods than our European derived sauteing. Which is funny because all cooking this way is designed to get the most flavor out of the ingredients, yet different cultures approach it using a variety of techniques...
Sometimes they remove the veg, and continue with other ingredients, adding the veg back later. Or add water with whatever spices to create a thick spicy gravy, almost a concentrated base that they reduce for a few minutes on its own. Most times I see onions cooked until very brown and almost charred in some cases..
That's a great point. My wife and I both love Indian food and so, around five years ago, I decided I wanted to learn more about how to make it. I went online and bought a cookbook called "50 Great Indian Curries" and every Monday night for several months made a different recipe from the book. Some were awesome; some were just okay. But the one takeaway I got is how different Indian cuisine approaches the question of when to add things. Flavors are always created in layers.

A typical recipe might be done as follows. You might first fry some ginger and garlic in ghee, then saute some of the spices in that mixture. Then add your onions and cook them down to a paste, adding tomatoes after several minutes. Then maybe more spices. Often, the meat is not browned at all, but added directly to the gravy and heated to temperature. It's somewhat backwards (or maybe sideways?) to the way western cuisines do things.
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Old 10-13-2014, 09:28 AM   #20
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That's a great point. My wife and I both love Indian food and so, around five years ago, I decided I wanted to learn more about how to make it. I went online and bought a cookbook called "50 Great Indian Curries" and every Monday night for several months made a different recipe from the book. Some were awesome; some were just okay. But the one takeaway I got is how different Indian cuisine approaches the question of when to add things. Flavors are always created in layers.

A typical recipe might be done as follows. You might first fry some ginger and garlic in ghee, then saute some of the spices in that mixture. Then add your onions and cook them down to a paste, adding tomatoes after several minutes. Then maybe more spices. Often, the meat is not browned at all, but added directly to the gravy and heated to temperature. It's somewhat backwards (or maybe sideways?) to the way western cuisines do things.
A friend who is married into a family from India recently shared this with me: "Indian meals often take a lot longer to prep than western meals. What looks like a simple curry can have up to 18 ingredients. What westerners don't know is that it is often cooked one day and eaten the next at room temperature." My least favourite dishes to make for the photoshoots are Indian. They use far more mise-en-place dishes and require more prep than other dishes. But, I love the end result, just not dealing with all those little dishes.
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