I have a few foods that fall into the No-Cook Zone. Among these are cucumbers, lettuce and, until recently, radishes. It’s the cold, crunchy, crisp quality of these veggies that I love in salads or as vehicles for dips.
When I run across a recipe for sautéed cucumbers or braised lettuce, the thought of it has always made me shudder. And the one time I tasted warm cucumbers, I knew they weren’t for me. No amount of dill or tarragon or butter could boost those insipid slices.
I was intrigued, though, with the idea of braised radishes. With more body and peppery oomph than a cucumber, they seemed like they might be a good candidate for cooking.
I first consulted my well-worn copy of the Larousse Gastronomique. It advised blanching the radishes before sautéing them in plenty of butter. I tried that and the radishes ended up tasteless and mushy. My worst fear. Sorry, Larousse, this time you missed the mark.
For the next go-around, I decided to sauté them first with shallots and butter, then add some stock – a more traditional way of braising. The result was delicious. The butter and stock reduce to a glaze and the finishing touch of lemon juice and some tender herbs like chives or chervil was perfect with the delicate flavor of the radishes. They tasted like the most mild little turnips and cooked in half the time.
With fresh English peas, another favorite, showing up in the market these days, I decided to add these to the dish as well. They give a pleasant, contrasting pop to the tender radishes and the rosy pink and emerald green colors couldn’t be more Spring like. This is a cheerful, tasty side dish to Spring lamb, roast chicken or salmon.
Butter-Braised Radishes with Peas
½ pound English peas, shelled (about ½ cup)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large shallots, finely minced
1 bunch radishes, cleaned, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
¼ cup chicken stock or broth
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely minced chives or chervil
Bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water nearby. Drop in the peas and cook until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Drain the peas and plunge immediately into the bowl of ice water. When cool, remove the peas with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Place the butter in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat. When the butter has melted and is bubbling, add the shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1-2 minutes, or until the shallots are soft and translucent. Add the radishes and cook another 3-4 minutes, stirring, or until the radishes begin to turn color.
Add the chicken stock and the salt and pepper. Give the mix a stir, then cover and turn the heat down to simmer.
Cook for 10-12 minutes, or until the chicken stock and butter have reduced to a glaze. Stir in the peas and cook another minute to heat them through. Add the lemon juice and the chives or chervil. Taste for seasoning, adjusting with more salt and/or lemon juice.