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Slow-Sauteed Winter Vegetables

Brussels Sprouts and Leeks with Lime-Ginger Butter

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By Susie Middleton
from Fine Cooking #126, pp. 62-67

I don’t know about you, but for me, the most difficult part of hosting a holiday meal is getting everyone to sit down at the table when dinner is ready. A close second: Making sure every dish is ready to serve at the same time. That’s why I love slow-sautéing vegetables. Instead of cooking over high heat with near-constant motion as in a typical sauté, my slow-sautéed vegetables cook slower over lower heat, resulting in deep, intense flavors with only occasional stirring, which means I can tend to other aspects of the meal while the vegetables cook.

A slow-sauté is the perfect technique for dense winter vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, Brussels sprouts, and squash, all of which need moisture to cook through but also benefit from deep browning. In a three-step process that takes about 25 minutes start to finish, the vegetables are snuggled in a partially covered skillet and cooked without much stirring over medium-high heat. The tight quarters and partial covering steams the vegetables as they cook, so they become tender without drying out. During the second half of cooking, the lid is removed, the heat is lowered, and it’s all about letting the vegetables get nicely caramelized as the moisture cooks off. Then a final addition of a bright flavoring like citrus juice or vinegar enhances the caramelized vegetables.

Aromatics, herbs, and butter boost flavor. With this style of sautéing, there are a couple of opportunities to add fl avor. During the longish cooking, aromatics like onions, leeks, garlic, or shallots soften and contribute their sweet and savory flavor while hardy herbs like thyme and rosemary infuse the dish and make it wonderfully fragrant. Once the vegetables are cooked through, I usually add a bit of butter for richness along with the aforementioned bright flavorings. And then I call everyone to dinner.

These delicious sautés pair well with holiday favorites like beef tenderloin, turkey, and ham, yet they come together quickly enough to make a great weeknight side dish as well. Served alongside chicken cutlets, pork chops, or steak, they’ll enliven the plate with color, flavor, and texture. And if your family is slow to the table, whether for the holiday feast or simply Tuesday night supper, there’s one other great thing about these sautés: They hold well, too.

Steam, Brown, and Finish

Steam: Closely packed vegetables plus heat plus a lid creates steam, which helps cook the vegetables through without drying them out.

Brown: When the lid comes off, the liquid evaporates, which promotes browning. Aromatics (like the leeks here) may be added at this stage.

Finish: Bright ingredients like citrus juice, ginger, and fresh herbs added at the end of cooking punch up the flavor of the sauté.

Carrots and Parsnips with Bacon and Thyme   Broccoflower and Cremini Mushrooms with Garlic and Rosemary    
Carrots and Parsnips with Bacon and Thyme   Broccoflower and Cremini Mushrooms with Garlic and Rosemary    
Brussels Sprouts and Leeks with Lime-Ginger Butter   Butternut Squash with Spinach, Raisins, and Pine Nuts    
Brussels Sprouts and Leeks with Lime-Ginger Butter   Butternut Squash with Spinach, Raisins, and Pine Nuts
The Perfect Pan

The perfect pan

A slope-sided 12-inch nonstick skillet works best for these recipes and fits enough veggies to serve four to six. A well-seasoned cast-iron skillet is a good alternative, but you might want to add a bit more olive oil. You’ll need a lid, so if your skillet didn’t come with one, improvise with a lid from another pot or cover the pan with foil or a baking sheet. If you want to double the recipe, use two pans.

Photos: Scott Phillips


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