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Salsify and Radishes Braised in White Wine

Sharon Hage, York Street, Dallas

By December 2002Comments

1 1/2 pounds salsify, available at some Central Markets and H-E-B stores
1 bunch French Breakfast radishes or White Icicle radishes, available at Fiesta and Central Markets
6 or 7 tablespoons lemon juice (3 or 4 lemons)
2 tablespoons flour
2 medium cloves garlic
2 shallots
extra-virgin olive oil, for sautéing vegetables
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 to 1 cup hot chicken stock
sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, torn

Note: Salsify (sahl-si-fee) is a long, skinny, light brown root vegetable. French Breakfast radishes are longish and red-skinned; White Icicle radishes are longish and white-skinned. If you want something a little more traditional for Christmas dinner, you can substitute 2 pounds of parsnips or carrots for the salsify; omit the radishes and tarragon.

This recipe has several steps, but the basic game plan is to parboil the vegetables, sauté them with shallots and garlic, then finish them with wine and chicken stock.

First, prepare salsify by peeling and cutting in half-inch pieces on the diagonal. The vegetable discolors rapidly, so immediately put pieces in a bowl of cold water with about 2 tablespoons lemon juice. For the same reason, salsify should be cooked à blanc, that is, in water with a bit of lemon juice and flour. Make a thin paste with the flour and about a tablespoon water. Add this flour paste and 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice to a quart of cold water. Parboil sliced salsify in lemon-flour water until al dente. Plunge into ice water (with a little lemon juice added) to stop cooking. Set aside. (An alternative method is to parboil the salsify whole à blanc, peel it with a paring knife, and cut it into pieces.)

Then prepare radishes by cutting off most of the stems (leave on a bit for color) and quartering the vegetables lengthwise; do not peel. Parboil in water until al dente and set aside.

(If you are using parsnips, slice them 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick—they look better if not sliced on the diagonal—and follow directions above for cooking à blanc. If using carrots, slice them straight or diagonally, as you wish. They do not need to be cooked à blanc.)

Peel and thinly slice garlic and shallots. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté just until soft, 1 to 2 minutes (do not let them brown, as this will change the flavor).

Add radish quarters to skillet and sauté briefly until they begin to soften (do not brown). Then add parboiled salsify and sauté briefly. (If you are using parsnips or carrots, you can add a tablespoon of fresh lemon thyme, winter savory, or sage at this stage.) Pour in white wine and reduce over medium-high heat until almost dry. Add hot chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste and simmer, covered, until salsify and radishes are tender and stock is reduced to one quarter its original volume. Just before serving, toss in cold butter, tarragon leaves, and lemon juice to taste.

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