We long ago learned better than to waste time browning meat before braising it. Leaning in with bold ingredients like herbs and alliums is a better way to build bigger flavor faster. But the Afghan dish borani kadoo recently taught us that the same doesn’t always hold true when it comes to vegetables.
In Afghanistan, a borani is any vegetable—often eggplant (banjan) or pumpkin (kadoo)—braised with spices in oil, water or stock. But the vegetables first are given a deep sear in a hot pan, then are set aside while the aromatics are sautéed.
Before returning everything to the pot, cooks deglaze it with the cooking liquid, scraping up all the flavorful brown bits that will enrich and add depth to the finished dish.
Boranis, which have the same Persian roots as Greek tzatziki, typically are then topped with yogurt spiked with garlic and often dried mint.
We wondered how the technique would work with a decidedly American ingredient, butternut squash, and were delighted with the results. Rather than roasting squash in the oven, searing it guaranteed flavorful browning. Cinnamon, turmeric and ground coriander lent a warmth that conjured the dish’s Afghan inspiration, and fresh mint rather than dried further brightened the cooling yogurt sauce for a balanced, satisfying dish.