When you're building the base for a soup or braise, things can get chaotic pretty quick in that pan. To make sure each new ingredient added gets its own quality time with the hot surface of the pan, create a little "clean slate" in the middle of the pan. Here's how and why...
Mixed right in with the other ingredients already in the pan, new ingredients will steam instead of getting sautéd or browned. To prevent this from happening and get all the flavor possible from each ingredient, you want to make sure the new ingredient gets a few seconds or minutes in direct contact with the bottom of the pan.
Just push the veggies and other ingredients already in the pan toward the edges where it's cooler, clearing a space in the middle. Add the new ingredient into this empty space and move it around with your spatula until it becomes fragrant and is no longer raw. Then mix everything in the pan together and continue cooking.
This technique is particularly useful when adding garlic, spices, or other small things that can get lost in the shuffle. None of these ingredients needs to cook for very long, but they benefit from a bit of toasting just to get their flavors to come out.
Give it a try next time you're building the base for a recipe!
Related: Technique: How to Sweat Vegetables
(Image: Flickr member sweetbeetandgreenbean licensed under Creative Commons and Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)