Exploring alternative ways to prepare familiar plants- be they herbs, vegetables, spices, nuts or fruits - has opened my eyes to the possibilities of each one I experiment with. In this case, the preparation of a commonplace garden and supermarket staple I've never been particularly fond of raw has won me over when steamed and dressed with a seductive rose-tinted sauce. Call me old-fashioned, but creamed radishes deserve a second look. Lemongrass, scallions, a pinch of two different peppers plus a secret ingredient just might woo you to. —Amber Olson
bunches of muti-colored radishes with greens attached (or all red), at least 10-12 radishes
very thin scallions, trimmed, with the white, light green and a bit of the dark green attached
fat lemongrass stalks, root trimmed, bottom third only reserved
1 1/3 cups
water, filtered, spring or good tasting tap water, reserved from steaming the radishes
unbleached all-purpose flour
pinch of fresh ground white pepper
pinch of fresh ground toasted Szechuan peppercorns
Trim the radishes, leaving about a 1/2" or so of the greens attached, root trimmed away, rinse and gently scrub each bulb, carefully rinse the green parts, swishing in water to remove sandy dirt; each bulb cut in half, quartered if quite large.
Rinse the scallions, dry and thinly slice. Set aside. Rinse the lemongrass, dry, thinly slice, then finely mince. You should have about 2 tsp, maybe a bit more. This is a personal taste adjustment. Set aside.
Put the radishes in the top part of a steamer/double boiler pan, fill the bottom pan with enough water, cover the top pan and bring the bottom pan to boil. Steam the radishes for as little as 5 minutes to as much as 13 minutes, depending on the size and the freshness of the radishes. When just tender as you insert the tip of a knife, remove the steamer insert from heat but don't rinse; sprinkle the radishes with some fine sea salt and toss; openly tent to keep warm but don't enclose. Reserve 1 1/3 cups of the steaming water.
Wipe out the bottom part of the double boiler. Melt the 2 TB. butter over medium heat until beginning to foam. Add the flour and whisk to smooth, about 1 minute. Add the reserved water and whisk, reduce the heat to low and cook until it begins to thicken. Add the scallions, the lemongrass, a little salt, a pinch of white pepper and continue to simmer the white sauce another few minutes as it continues to thicken, stirring as needed.
Increase the heat to medium/low, pour in the 1/3 cup of cream and whisk to incorporate. Bring just to the boil, sprinkle in a pinch of Szechuan peppercorns and cook for two minutes.
Liberally add dashes of Aromatic Cocktail Bitters to the simmering sauce. The deeply rose tinted elixir will begin to color the sauce and add a subtle flavor nuance, difficult to discern. Taste and adjust, as this is a new flavor enhancer for most palates.
Gently fold in the radishes. Coat the vegetables with the sauce, simmer a bit to heat all and thicken the sauce as/if necessary. Add more of any of the above seasonings if you feel compelled. Lick the spoon...