verbos for cocinarasustar

I first introduced the topic of compiling a comprehensive list of verbs, specific or re-purposed for cooking in a post about a month ago. This is a long and tedious process of searching for verbs, either with English or Spanish definitions, throughout the Net and then compiling them into a consistent list with enough research to create a reasonably short definition and then placing these in  a page at this blog for hopefully the most comprehensive list anywhere on the Net.

With this post today I’ll update my Cooking Verbs through all the verbs starting with A (a small fraction of my in-progress list). I decided to split that list in two sections: a) common verbs with general meaning that can be applied to cooking, and, b) verbs that are specialized and used primarily for cooking.

In the first post about verbs I mentioned that some verbs with common meanings get “re-purposed” into a more specialized meaning just for cooking. So as I crunch through my in-progress I sometimes find verbs that are so specialized and have interesting meanings, so I’ll discuss one, asustar, here. At the final part of this post (please keep reading or skip down) you’ll find the surprising definition, but I want to give the complete background of this cooking verb.

asustar is interesting because a standard dictionary definition is: to scare, to frighten. So how does this get applied to cooking. A somewhat longer definition, from Oxford, in Spanish (with Google Translations) is:

1 Causar un susto o impresión momentánea de miedo. 1 Cause a scare or momentary impression of fear.
2 Producir escándalo o asombro muy grandes. 2 Produce very big scandal or astonishment.
3 Añadir agua u otro líquido frío a un alimento que está en ebullición para que deje de cocer momentáneamente. 3 Add water or other cold liquid to a boiling food to stop cooking momentarily.

The third definition from this dictionary is the typical one used for cooking, which I’d treat as something roughly equivalent to “blanching”, although in most cases “to blanch” (usually vegetables) is to boil thing briefly and then remove and put into ice water to stop the cooking (not as this definition implies, adding cold liquid to rapidly cool down the cooking liquid). But the idea is the same and the consequence, especially for green vegetables, is to preserve the bright green color the initial boiling produces, rather than letting the cooking go on and dull the color.

In one of the really good online sources I found there is a very good definition (all in Spanish) which I’ll paraphrase here (original Spanish from the website and Google translations (a bit beyond the Spanish I’ve learned):

Cuando hablamos de “asustar” dentro del mundo gastronómico esta palabra adquiere una nueva significación. En ningún momento se refiere al verbo de dar un susto a alguien sino que se trata de una palabra que procede del latín y que procede de “suscitare”, algo que significa “suscitar” o “excitar”.

En Mami Recetas queremos ayudarte a que aprendas a cocinar y domines la cocina al máximo y, por eso, a continuación te daremos el significado de asustar en la cocina. De esta forma, conocerás cuál es su significado cuando usamos el término culinario en el mundo gastronómico.

When we talk about “scare” into the gastronomic world, this word acquires a new meaning. At no time does it refer to the verb of giving someone a scare but it is a word that comes from Latin and that comes from “suscitare”, something that means “to stir up” or “to excite”.

In Mami Recipes we want to help you learn to cook and master the kitchen to the fullest and, therefore, we will give you the meaning of scaring in the kitchen. In this way, you will know what its meaning is when we use the culinary term in the gastronomic world.

This is a good preface to then the elaboration of the explanation at this site:

Cuando decimos que vamos a “asustar” dentro del mundo gastronómico estamos haciendo referencia a que vamos a añadir un líquido frío a otro que ya esté hirviendo. El objetivo de esta técnica consiste en romper la ebullición de forma inmediata y, así, conseguir una textura sorprendente. When we say that we are going to “scare” into the gastronomic world we are referring to the fact that we are going to add a cold liquid to another that is already boiling. The objective of this technique is to break the boil immediately and thus achieve a surprising texture.
Por tanto, “asustamos” al líquido que está caliente e hirviendo añadiéndole otro a una temperatura más fría. … y conseguimos hacer que las salsas sean más espesas y tengan una textura diferente. Therefore, we “scare” the liquid that is hot and boiling by adding another at a cooler temperature. … and we managed to make the sauces thicker and have a different texture.
Básicamente usamos esta técnica en la cocina cuando estamos cocinando platos como las legumbres. … por ejemplo, de las alubias que cuando están hirviendo la piel puede volverse muy dura y provocar que terminen rompiéndose. En cambio, si añadimos agua fría a la cocción conseguimos que se “asusten”, es decir, que se evite la dilatación y no se rompa la piel. Basically we use this technique in the kitchen when we are cooking dishes such as legumes. … for example, of beans that when they are boiling the skin can become very hard and cause them to break. On the other hand, if we add cold water to the cooking we get them to “scare”, that is, to avoid dilation and not break the skin.

So that is a fairly good description of a basic cooking technique, but it’s the final bit that I found most interesting:

Otro de los momentos en los que se suele usar esta técnica es cuando estamos cocinando el pulpo. Con esto, se consigue que la piel se conserve y que por tanto el sabor del pulpo quede más suave y fino. Another of the moments in which this technique is usually used is when we are cooking the octopus. With this, it is achieved that the skin is preserved and therefore the taste of the octopus is softer and finer.

I had first encountered this term in my extractions from the Gallina Blanca dictionary, which unfortunately (for you, Dear Reader) doesn’t seem to be available any more; fortunately I extracted the material before this disappeared. So here is the definition I found over a year ago that I found so interesting (originally in Spanish, here with the Google Translation):

ASUSTAR (un pulpo) “asustar al pulpo” es ponerlo en abundante agua hirviendo  sumergiendolo en ella tres o cuatro veces, sujetando con unos palos su cabeza hasta que se “encoja”. Según expertos esto hace queden más finos y los tentáculos no pierdan los llamados botones. “Frighten (or scare) the octopus” is to put it in abundant boiling water sumergiendolo (submerging it) three or four times, holding with a few sticks its head until it “shrinks”. According to experts this makes them thinner and the tentacles do not lose the so-called buttons.

I couldn’t figure sumergiendolo when I first saw this and Google was unable to translate it, but as I’ve mentioned one benefit of actually learning Spanish is I can now understand some words Google can’t translate. So I now can recognize that the lo is object pronoun (it) stuck on the end of the present participle (aka gerund) of the verb sumergir (to submerge).

So this is certainly an interesting verb and totally unique to cooking technique. In fact, though I forget where, I saw a TV episode about the favorite/classic dish in Galacia, i.e. pulpo (octopus). I saw the cook do exactly this procedure, dunking the octopus in a large pot of boiling water and quickly withdrawing it and repeating this multiple times before putting the octopus all the way in the pot. I suspect this is a critical process to improving the texture of the octopus, which is then served, cut into pieces, on a wooden plank doused in olive oil and salt.

This dish is so common in Galacia there is even a name for a restaurant that features this dish: Pulperia, which otherwise might not be obvious. Although in other places this might just mean a grocery store,  Searching Google for “Pulperia in santiago” will yield various restaurants but also many photos of this famous dish.