Alright, enough of my making nice with our friendly little ingredients and ignoring that gnarly, many legged, hairy looking elephant in the kitchen – the week’s most formidable foe – the horseradish. I’ve had more than a few inquiries on how to expose the edible parts and then what on earth to do with them, as well as one guilty admission, brought out by a few glasses of wine, that one of our members simply got to the point where she could not stand the sight of the beast anymore and threw it in the garbage, never to look back. In an effort to avoid a spike in Hoboken’s violent crime statistics spurred by any potential copycats among us, here are some tips on getting along with your horseradish, as well as two truly delectable recipes for using at least some of it this week.
Preparing the Horseradish
First of all, try to relax a little. You actually won’t end up with so much of the stuff once you get down to the beautiful white flesh, and what you have will store for weeks in the fridge in a little vinegar. Basically, this process will be like peeling and grating ginger, except worse.
Start by using a paring knife or chef’s knife to slice off all the skin, roots, brown parts, green parts, unwanted facial hair, etc., until all that’s left is white. Then either grate what’s left with a microplane or box grater, or cut it into chunks and pulse it in the food processor until it resembles a snowier version of what you’ve always bought in a bottle. The pungency of the horseradish at this stage will be quite dramatic, so if you use it in a recipe that calls for prepared horseradish, cut down by about half and then add more to taste if you want. To store the rest, put it into a glass jar or plastic container, pour some vinegar of your choice over it (most people say white vinegar, and I wouldn’t use, say, aged balsamic, but I don’t think it really matters that much), cover it and stick it in the fridge for up to a month or two.
I found a really entertaining and more thorough description of preparing horseradish at this blog, though I think the author makes too big a deal about how careful you need to be with the smell and your eyes. I did the whole process in about 15 minutes in my kitchen with minimal damage to the air quality or my vision.
I wouldn’t have thought of it, but two of my very favorite other-people’s-recipes in the world – some of the few that I have consistently followed over the years with only the most minimal of adaptations – use horseradish. Neither of these recipes is at all hard to execute, but for people who generally make use of the many quite decent frozen and bottled products out there these days, they will both produce a moment of, “Right, I *could* peel and devein the shrimp to make a stock/haul out the food processor to puree the celery/etc., or I could buy a bottle and have a day….” I’m one of those odd birds who would pretty much always choose to make my own everything – though to this point I must admit that horseradish in a bottle has always done it for me – so I completely think it’s worth it, but you’ll have to be your own judge. In case it sticks, I’m happy to be the enabler of your downward spiral into obsessive home cooking by providing a couple of transcendent recipes and sitting back to watch.
The first is the Barefoot Contessa’s Bloody Mary, available on foodnetwork.com. This is the bloody best bloody you will ever taste. I like to add lots of extra lemon juice and celery salt, but otherwise I think it’s just about perfect.
Williams Sonoma Shrimp Cocktail
The second is the shrimp cocktail from the Williams-Sonoma hors d’oeuvre cookbook. Here is the recipe for the sauce, and please have a look at the book, or come chat with me, to learn how to make a luscious shrimp stock and delicately poach the shrimp in it. Yup, it’s a bit of work. But an otherwise quite self-restrained friend once made herself sick at a party of ours eating too much of this stuff. Okay, and guzzling the sangria. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with shrimp cocktail and a green salad for dinner, or with throwing a potluck party where this is the only thing you make. It’s worth it…or at least you’ll know, after making it once, whether you’re the kind of person who will never go back to non-transcendent shrimp cocktail again or the kind who will never make this again. Think of it as free (well, market price) therapy.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Hors D’oeuvre Cookbook
1 cup ketchup
2 ½ t. prepared horseradish, drained
½ t. Tabasco sauce
1 t. gin
1 t. celery salt
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 T. chopped flat-leaf parsley
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and chill until serving. Keeps well in the fridge for up to a week (improves, even), but if you plan to make it more than a few hours in advance, hold off on adding the parsley until serving time.