Skillet charring vegetables is a seemingly simple way to get produce on the table. But too often, the results disappoint.
The problem is the nature of the heat. Tossed in a pan with oil, vegetables are exposed to intense and dry heat. This does a wonderful job of searing the exteriors. Unfortunately, that intense heat generally is just that—too intense.
Cooked in this manner, most vegetables char outside before their insides become tender. Leave them long enough for the interiors to cook and the exteriors end up unpleasantly burnt.
Our solution? Sear and steam. For vegetables cooked perfectly inside and out, we combine techniques—all in one pan. We start by searing them in oil in a hot skillet to develop browning and flavor. We then add a scant amount of water and cover the pan. The liquid produces a burst of steam that tenderizes the vegetables in just a few short minutes; the moisture evaporates by the time the dish is done so the flavors are bold and concentrated, not thin and dilute.
The technique also works in reverse. Arrange your vegetables in the skillet, then drizzle in oil and a small amount of water. Cover, bring to a simmer and when the vegetables are about halfway tender, remove the lid. The water evaporates and the produce sears in the residual oil.
Timing varies by vegetable, but this technique works on everything from green beans and asparagus to cauliflower and broccoli. Steam, sear, then season as you like.