Oh - delicious! We had spring radishes in hand last night, as we showed you. They were all shades of pink, ruby and white - very pretty. We've been meaning to try braised radishes for a long time, and this was the night. Now we're wondering why we waited so long!
Radishes are a quintessential spring food. Bright and crunchy with a peppery bite, they are lovely in salads and on bread with butter and salt. But we had never cooked them, and in fact it's not very often you see them in hot cooked dishes.
And yet their small size and peppery flavor makes them ideal for a quick evening braise.
What's braising, again, you ask? A quick refresher: a braise is a dish where meat, vegetables, (or even fruit!) is cooked hot and fast to brown it for flavor. Then a little liquid is added and the pot is covered and cooked on low until the main ingredient is tender. It's an easy and foolproof way of cooking, and it tends to develop excellent flavor and texture.
Radishes, when braised, still take very little time - a Sunday roast this is not. And yet there is a deliciously rich flavor and texture that comes out of these pretty things. They turn tender, with an initial crispness that collapses in the mouth into a soft and juicy bite. We added a little salt pork for flavor (omit if you're vegetarian, of course; this dish is fine without it) and balsamic vinegar and shallots for depth. Fresh spring parsley brightens this up into a supper side dish we are planning on making again very, very soon.
These aren't so pretty as their uncooked counterparts, of course, but we actually prefer their delicious flavor when cooked and deepened with all these flavors.
Spring Radishes Braised with Shallots and Vinegar
2 large bunches of radishes, about 1 pound
3 large shallots
1 tablespoon butter
2 ounces salt pork, slivered into small slices
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 small bunch Italian parsley, leaves chopped into about two handfuls
Salt and pepper
Trim away tops and bottoms of the radishes, reserving for soup or discarding to compost. (Ours were not in good shape so we let them go.) Slice each radish in half from top to bottom. Peel the shallots and slice into thin rings.
Heat the butter and salt pork over medium heat in a large heavy skillet - preferably cast iron. When the pork is starting to curl up at the edges and the butter has foamed and subsided, add the shallots and cook, stirring, until they start to brown slightly. Add the radishes, placing each cut side down in the skillet. Let them cook undisturbed for about 2 minutes or until the bottoms just start to color.
Add the balsamic vinegar and the water - the water should just come up around the sides of the radishes. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Remove the cover and continue to simmer for about 3-4 minutes, or unti the water has reduced into a syrupy sauce. Add the the parsley and sauté for about a minute or two, until it's wilted.
Season with salt and pepper and serve.
(Images: Faith Hopler)