This is a great technique that works well with all sorts of vegetables, especially those that don’t have a lot of moisture content. The vegetables benefit both from the magic of browning and steaming.
This past week, I’ve tried this technique using broccoli, parsnips and celery. It all turned out great. You could also try it with carrots, whole endive, leeks, potatoes and/or turnips. To prepare the vegetables, cut them into bite-sized pieces, such as cubes. You don’t want them too small or too big. If you’re using broccoli, separate the stems from the florets.
Start off by heating a small amount of oil or butter over medium-high. You may, at the end of cooking, want to reduce the cooking liquid down to a glaze. In that case, use butter — it will work better.
Add your vegetables and let them brown without disturbing. The secret here is timing, especially if you are cooking many different kinds of vegetables. Firmer, thicker vegetables will take longer to brown than thinner, more delicate ones. Broccoli stems take longer than florets. So don’t add everything at once. Rather, add the ones that need the longest browning time first, let them sit there a couple of minutes without stirring, then add the rest. Once browned on the bottom, stir them around and let them brown some more.
Now, add your cooking liquid, just enough to halfway cover the food. Start with ¼ cup and build from there. For the liquid, chicken broth is going to be a safe and flavorful choice always, but here is another opportunity for experimentation. For example, you might try combining some stock with wine or sherry, or use apple cider for a nice seasonal flavor (toss in some apples, too — why not?). Water is also ok. Season with salt, pepper and whatever else you like. If you want to make a glaze at the end, sprinkle in some sugar at this point.
Now, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and let the vegetables finish cooking until tender. You’ll know they’re tender when you can easily pierce them with a fork. Some people like crunchier vegetables, some people like softer. Cook it until it’s how you like it.
Remove the lid and raise the heat to high. Let the remaining liquid boil away, tossing the vegetables frequently, until you have a thick sauce or a glaze. Got some fresh herbs all minced up? Garnish and serve.