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
- Serves 2-4
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
fine sea salt, as needed throughout recipe
aromatic cocktail bitters
- 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...