TO SAUTE OR STIR-FRY VEGETABLES
The word saute comes from the French verb meaning “to jump”, and sauteed or stir fried vegetables must be constantly moving in the pan. Here are some tips for keeping them jumping:
o After you’ve washed your vegetables, dry them thoroughly. Sauteeing cooks with dry heat, and if your vegetables are wet, they won’t brown.
o Cut your vegetables into small pieces. The exterior of the vegetables are in direct contact with the hot surface of the pan, and cook faster than the interior. If your pieces are large, the interior may not cook through. Vegetables can be cut into long, flat shapes, but thick pieces should only be used for lighter vegetables like mushrooms.
o Cut vegetables into even sized pieces so they will finish cooking at the same time.
o If you’re sauteeing several vegetables at once, cut slower cooking, denser vegetables, like carrots, into smaller pieces. Or, start with the slower cooking ones and add the faster ones later.
o Have your vegetables at room temperature before you start. Cold, refrigerated vegetables will cool your hot skillet and won’t brown.
o Pick a shallow pan that will accommodate all your vegetables in one layer. Vegetables release steam as they cook, and if they’re crowded, they’ll steam, not brown. A shallow pan helps steam escape.
o Start by heating your oil. You don’t need much oil, just enough to coat the surface of the pan so the vegetables don’t stick. You could use clarified butter, or a combination of butter and oil, but your pan will be too hot for butter alone.
o Add the vegetables to the hot pan and stir frequently until they’re browned. If your pan is light enough for you to handle it easily, you can toss the vegetables rather than stirring them (is this the origin of the jump?). If it looks like the vegetables are getting too brown, but aren’t cooked through, reduce the heat.
o You can add seasonings to the vegetables as you saute them. Garlic or herbs can be added from the start, so they have time to release their flavors. Grated cheese or dried fruit should be added closer to the end, so they don’t burn.
Many vegetables are cooked in this way. These are among the most common are baby bok choy, cabbage, mushrooms, snow peas, spinach, watercress and zucchini.