Friday, September 28, 2012

A Magical Root

Dear Boo,

I've spent a considerable amount of time extolling the wonders of the beet, it's sweet, earthy flavor, its deep purple stain, its rough, hairy exterior hiding a smooth, silky texture that is neither potato, nor carrot, nor melon, nor radish, but is also a little bit of all of those things, its ability to pair perfectly with everything from cottage cheese to beef...

But this is not about the beet. 

Sure, the dish you see above was delicious, and got rave reviews: "the highlight of my meal!" said Cousin Sam, "The beets are fantastic!" said our very discriminating uncle, "They weren't disgusting!" said our mother the beet-hater. "I just want to cry while I hold my cookie!" said the wise and self-reflective 3 year old in attendance (also, she ate some beets). But I'd like to draw your attention to the sauce dolloped not so artfully atop this dish (I never claimed to be a food stylist). For in it is an ingredient often overlooked, unsung, or just plain mocked.

Horseradish, people.

who knew it was so beautiful? not I.

What else, praytell, enhances the flavor of both a cocktail, and a roast beef? What is strong enough to blow up your skirt, singe your nasal passages, and put hair on your chest, and yet can be trusted to encrust a delicate piece of salmon or top deviled eggs? Horseradish. 

It makes a frequent appearance at Jewish holidays, atop the oft-maligned gefilte fish or whole and unadorned on the seder plate, and at sunday dinner tables all over the UK. But did you know it is it is also "widely used in research for immunohistochemistry labelling of tissue sections, e.g. in biopsies of subjects suspected to have cancer."? Or that it can be used to treat everything from "urinary tract infections, bronchitis, sinus congestion, ingrowing toenails and coughs." (I'd have to do some more research to know whether one ingests it or rubs it on one's feet to deal with the toenail thing.) And I'm pretty sure that raw, it could be used as a biological weapon. How badass is that???

But seriously. I think it's time we paid more attention to horseradish as a condiment/flavoring/pancaea. I'm not sure hard core foodies would say horseradish actually contains umami, that magical mysterious fifth taste found in things like parmesan, tomatoes, fish sauce, and ketchup, but it comes damn close with its mix of spicy, sour, bitter, and tang (from the vinegar that gets added to the prepared stuff). I'm all for adding it to sandwiches, spreading it on cheese and crackers, stirring it into salad dressing, heaping it on hash browns, dolloping it on a bagel and lox, and introducing it to a few more drinking buddies beyond Ms. Mary. Oh, oh, and what about a take on fried chicken wings with a creamy horseradish dipping sauce!

I'm getting carried away. I just wrote an entire post on horseradish.

Make this and you'll know what I'm talking about.
If you have an ingrown toenail, let me know how that goes too.


The Mouse

Roasted Beets with Horseradish Creme Fraiche 
from Suzanne Goin's Sunday Suppers with Lucques 

4 bunches different-colored beets 
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
1 tablespoon diced shallot, plus 1/4 cup sliced shallots 
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar 
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 
2 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice 
1/2 cup crème fraîche 
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish 
1/4 cup heavy cream 
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper 

 Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut off the beet greens, leaving 1/2 inch of the stems still attached. (You can save the leaves for sauteing later—they are delicious!) Clean the beets well, and toss them with 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt Place the beets in a roasting pan with a splash of water in the bottom. Cover the pan tightly with foil, and roast for about 40 minutes, until they're tender when pierced. (The roasting time will depend on the size and type of beet.) When the beets are done, carefully remove the foil. Let cool, and peel the beets by slipping off the skins with your fingers. Cut them into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. While the beets are in the oven, combine the diced shallot, both vinegars, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl, and let sit 5 minutes. Whisk in the 1/2 cup olive oil. Taste for balance and seasoning. Whisk the crème fraîche and horseradish together in a small bowl. Stir in the heavy cream, remaining 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice, ⅛ teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper. Toss the beets and sliced shallots with the vinaigrette. (If you're using different-colored beets, dress each color in a separate bowl so the colors don't bleed.) Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of freshly ground black pepper, and toss well. Taste for balance and seasoning. Arrange on a platter and dollop (more artfully than the Mouse) on the beets.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am such a fan!! who would have thought? horseradish (why is it called a horse -radish?)

I love it - just adds that zingy tart sweet taste to things bland (like gefilte fish) and you have inspired me to try it all sorts of ways -

You are amazing! I love your writing

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