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Hot radishes make your mouth water for more

The recipe for this shepherd’s pie includes horseradish and an Irish stout beer.
The recipe for this shepherd’s pie includes horseradish and an Irish stout beer.

In winter, we love to feel the burn.

On blustery days, hot radishes, a staple of cuisines worldwide, open our sinuses and conquer our colds. They stimulate our appetite and make our mouths water. Prime rib and sushi wouldn’t be the same without them.

Horseradish, daikon and wasabi — the most popular of the hot radishes — share more than common cabbage cousins. They all contain allyl isothiocyanate, which stimulates our noses as well as our tongues. (Mustard and mustard seed have this compound, too.) Although ingesting too much can be physically painful, this compound also makes us feel warm — a satisfying asset for any cold-weather food.

“I am lucky in that I rarely catch a cold or have congestion issues, but I would go straight for the horseradish or wasabi if I did,” said Terri Gilliland, who owns Lucky Dog Ranch in Dixon, Calif., with her husband, Ron, along with Lucca and Roxy restaurants in Sacramento.

On their ranch, the Gillilands raise their own all-natural beef. Horseradish is an indispensable condiment with big beef roasts such as prime rib.

“My favorite part of having prime rib is the horseradish,” Gilliland said. “The one time we made it ourselves, it was so strong, I thought we made a misstep, but then read that using fresh root is always going to produce a much stronger version than one you would buy.”

“Prepared” horseradish — the stuff that comes in a jar — is a mix of fresh grated horseradish preserved with vinegar and seasoned with a little salt and a dash of sugar. To make your own, use 1 cup grated fresh horseradish root to  1/2 cup white, rice or wine vinegar, then season to taste. It will keep in the refrigerator for weeks.

Horseradish also spices up sauces, mashed potatoes and even apple tarts. Eaten in Europe for centuries, it’s been part of American cuisine since the first colonists.

Wasabi, a treasured delicacy in Japan for more than 1,000 years, has had a rise in popularity because of sushi and other Japanese cuisine. Wasabi — or wasabi substitute — has become as prevalent in flavorings as its western cousin, horseradish.

Horseradish and wasabi are actually closely related, with both members of the cabbage or mustard family. Wasabi is often referred to as “Japanese horseradish.” Likewise, horseradish is known in Japan as “Western wasabi.” Because wasabi is so expensive, horseradish is often substituted for real green wasabi.

While horseradish is an edible root, true wasabi is made from the plant’s rhizomelike stem. Wasabi is a tricky herb to grow; it’s native to the banks of ice-cold mountain creeks, with its roots constantly bathed in chilly running water. Horseradish is far less finicky. Harvested year round, it’s sweetest and most available in winter and early spring.

Meanwhile, daikon is a dependable (and delicious) workhorse. This oversized radish not only serves as a spicy condiment but doubles as a salad or root vegetable, tasty both raw or cooked.

Suzanne Ashworth of Del Rio Botanical in West Sacramento has plenty of hot radish experience, both as a farmer and cook. Del Rio supplies several Sacramento-area restaurants with organically grown radishes as well as many other vegetables.

“My favorite horseradish recipe includes tomatoes, so it is best made before it freezes,” Ashworth said. Her hot tomato relish uses a lot of late tomatoes as well as onions, bell peppers and  3/4 -pound horseradish.

Ashworth recommends a wasabi cousin as a substitute for pricey wasabi — wasabi arugula.

“Regular ‘wasabi’ is just mustard and horseradish, dyed green,” she said. “Wasabi arugula has a different, more fleeting heat — like expensive wasabi has. Cut into small strips, it is eaten like wasabi.”

Wasabi arugula, available in some farmers markets, also can be processed to resemble green wasabi paste.

“Daikon, peeled, is just like a breakfast radish,” Ashworth noted. “But with the peel, it is spicy. I eat it without the peel.”

Shepherd’s pie

Recipe courtesy American Lamb Board.

2 pounds American lamb stew meat, or shoulder or leg, cut into 1-inch cubes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large yellow onion, diced

3 carrots, peeled and sliced into  1/4 -inch-thick rounds

3 stalks celery, sliced  1/4 -inch thick

8 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, halved

2 garlic cloves, minced

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 cups lamb stock, or low-sodium beef broth

1 cup Irish stout, such as Guinness

2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks

1 cup sour cream

3 tablespoons prepared horseradish

1 cup frozen peas

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Season the lamb with 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and several grinds of pepper. In a Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, cook the lamb, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.

Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to the pot; melt over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery, mushrooms and garlic, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with flour, and stir it in. Pour in the stock, 1 cup at a time, stirring to combine completely with each addition. Add the stout, rosemary, and 1 teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Return lamb to the Dutch oven, cover, and place in oven to cook until the lamb is tender, about 1 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, put the potatoes in a large saucepan and add enough water to cover by 1 inch. Season generously with salt, cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Uncover, reduce heat to medium and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain well, then return potatoes to the pan. Cube 3 tablespoons butter and add it to the potatoes. Start mashing the potatoes, and then gradually begin adding the sour cream. Stir in horseradish; season with salt.

When the stew is done, remove it from oven; increase the temperature to 400 degrees. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Stir in the peas and pour the stew into a 3-quart baking dish. Spread mashed potatoes evenly on top; use a fork to make decorative lines or peaks. Cube the remaining 1 tablespoon butter and dot the top. Bake until potatoes are crusty and browned in spots, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand for about 5 minutes, then serve hot.

Horseradish and dill cream cheese mashed potatoes

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced

 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

 2/3 cup heavy cream

 1/2 tablespoon dried dill

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

2 tablespoons bottled horseradish

Salt and ground black pepper, to taste

Place the potatoes in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the temperature to medium-high to maintain a low boil. Cook until tender, about 25 minutes.

During the final 5 to 10 minutes of cooking, in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the butter, cream and dill. Once the butter melts, mix well and set aside.

Drain the potatoes. Return them to the pot and mash them.

Use an electric mixer, whisk or masher to lightly beat the potatoes. Mix in the butter and cream mixture, then the cream cheese and horseradish. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 6.

Crispy salmon with horseradish aioli

If you can break up the timing/prep of this recipe, make the aioli in advance so it’s chilled by the time the fish is done.

Fresh horseradish is worth having on hand, so don’t be worried if you have to buy a larger piece than is called for here. It brings a bright intensity to the aioli. (The flavor will mellow after a day or two.) Grate it fresh as you need it to make your own cocktail sauce, a dip with sour cream or creme fraîche (for fish, chicken or prime rib); add it to a slaw or mashed potatoes. It lasts in the refrigerator in a food-safe plastic storage bag for weeks; wrap the cut side with a damp paper towel.

One 1-inch-wide piece fresh horseradish

About 6 leaves flat leaf parsley

2 large egg yolks

 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 tablespoon water

 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil

 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

 1/2 lemon

 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

4 skin-on salmon fillets, 6 to 8 ounces each, preferably center cut

Wondra or all-purpose flour, for dusting

Peel the horseradish. Use a Microplane grater or the small-holed side of a box grater to grate the horseradish to yield 2 tablespoons. Mince the parsley to yield 1 tablespoon.

Combine the egg yolks, salt and water in the bowl of a food processor. With the motor running, gradually add the  1/2 cup each of canola and olive oils (one after the other) to form an emulsion close to the consistency of mayonnaise. Squeeze in the juice from the  1/2 lemon (1 tablespoon), then add the Worcestershire sauce, the grated horseradish and the parsley. Pulse a few times, just until well incorporated. Transfer to a serving bowl, cover and refrigerate while you cook the fish.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a large, oven-proof saute pan or skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until it is quite hot. Meanwhile, use paper towels to pat the salmon fillets dry on all sides. Season them lightly with salt.

Use the Wondra flour to dust the fillets on all sides, shaking off any excess flour. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of canola oil to the pan or skillet and swirl to coat. Add the fillets, skin side down. After about 30 seconds, shake the pan or skillet to keep the fillets from sticking (or use a fish spatula to gently dislodge them if needed). Cook for about 3 minutes, then turn over the fillets.

Transfer the pan or skillet to the oven and cook for 6 to 8 minutes or until the fish is just cooked through but not yet flaky. Divide among individual plates.

Serve warm, passing the chilled aioli at the table. Serves 4.

Adapted from “In My Kitchen: 100 Recipes and Discoveries for Passionate Cooks,” by Ted Allen

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