A finicky guy's exploits in finding gustatory (and other) satisfaction in his kitchen, his neighborhood, and beyond.

Friday, February 4, 2011

My afternoon conquest over fresh horseradish

I'll admit, my strength is not in keeping things simple.  I set out on Wednesday to see if I could come up with a supper for after my last student of the day that would take 15 minutes of prep time, tops.  I knew I had some quick-cooking kale in the fridge.  But on the way to the kale, I got distracted by a horseradish root....

Note the glove, recommended on every horseradish website I encountered.  Too bad they don't make latex gloves for noses.  Do NOT stick your face in the blender to smell your results, btw.
Because I'm now completely infatuated with the idea of incorporating horseradish into my dinner plans, the 15-minute challenge was out the window.  After reading preparation instructions on a half-dozen websites, I felt as though I could just go to my kitchen and wing it, so I did.  Here's the story of how I made prepared horseradish and built a not-so-quick-and-easy meal around it.  (Actually, if I'd already prepared the horseradish beforehand, or just bought a jar of horseradish like a normal person, the rest of the procedure would've gone quite fast.  But then what would I have blogged about?)

By the way, you should very definitely heed the warnings on the websites — this stuff is POTENT.  I wore the recommended gloves when handling my root — oh, grow up already — but the fumes nearly did me in.  As I rushed to open the kitchen window as wide as it would go, I wished for the gas mask I'd been issued on my first day of active duty in the Army, which I fortunately never needed in a life-threatening chemical warfare attack, but which did make peeling onions a lot more pleasant.  (Your tax dollars at work.)

Here's the horseradish-processing procedure you should try to get out of the way on some day prior to the day you want your quick-and-easy meal.  I'm going to describe the steps in the picture captions.

First, I peeled my horseradish root.   (This step began to release the pungent fumes of the vegetable.  Don't breathe in too deeply while working!)

I chopped the peeled root into small chunks.

I put the chunks into a blender — I don't have a food processor, which would've worked better — with a little vinegar.  I used apple cider vinegar, which gave my horseradish a gold-ish glow, putting in a splash at a time until the consistency was similar to that of commercial horseradish.  As it neared finishing, I added about a half teaspoon of salt as well.

The finished product poured out into a bowl.  I needed only about a tablespoon of this for my dinner plans, so the rest went into two small jars and into the fridge.

I'm not over-dramatizing here.  Much.  My eyes were really tearing by this point and I could barely see to operate the camera.  (BTW, did you know that it is now mandatory by law for gay men to sport beards?  Just take a walk around Chelsea if you don't believe me.  You can see my early attempts at beard-age in this photo.  I usually give up because of the scratchy discomfort just as the beard is starting to look like something.  We'll see if the new facial hair laws are enough incentive for me to keep going this time.)

If you already have prepared horseradish, you can join in here, as I describe the quick dinner I threw together using my homemade stuff.  This was one of those experimental meals that I brought to the table muttering caveats and apologies, but which turned out to be quite delightful.  I would make it again, even if Martha Stewart were coming over for luncheon.  (You'd think she'd jump at the chance, given that her TV show is filmed in a studio only 2 blocks away and that one member of her staff is taking voice lessons from me.  But so far, no Martha.)

All right, get ready to make pasta with turkey breast and kale, dressed with horseradish sauce!  It's so easy, the title is practically the recipe.  I prepared all the ingredients beforehand, assembling them at suppertime and serving the dish at room temperature.  I'll bet it would also be good hot or cold as a sort of pasta salad.

First, I sliced some turkey breast I'd baked previously to eat at breakfasts.  If you were going to serve this as a cold salad, you might wish to dice or shred the turkey instead.

Then I washed, chopped, and steamed two big bunches of kale, 1 green and one purple, after cutting of the stems and throwing them into my stockpile.  I used about half of the total kale for this meal and put the rest in the fridge for some other day.

I cooked a package of pasta, again using about half for this meal.  The many available shapes that pasta comes in fascinate me — it's amazing how the same ingredients taste and feel so different in the mouth when they're formed into different shapes.  In this case, after a long deliberation, I decided that casarecce was the perfect pasta for my dish.  (Actually, I chose it because I had a box of it in my pantry.)  Casarecce — meaning "homemade" in Italiano — are very narrow, twisted and rolled tubes, which one website claimed are perfect for meat sauces.  Well, they were just superb for my dish as well.

I think "casarecce" actually means "dog-mesmerizer"
When the pasta was cooked, I cooled it down by rinsing with water in the colander, and then put in in a big bowl with the chopped greens, a drizzle of EV olive oil, and a little salt to await suppertime assembly.

Now I made my sauce.  To about a tablespoon of my homemade horseradish, I added a couple teaspoons of ground mustard seeds.

I used a half-n-half combo of yellow and brown mustard seeds because they are pretty together.

Mustard seeds — brown and yellow — before grinding in the mortar

Then I added to the bowl one coarsely grated apple and a couple tablespoons of whole-milk yogurt.  (I'd have probably chosen creme fraiche or sour cream had any been available, but the yogurt sauce came out delicious, and slightly lower in fat, if you're into tabulating such things.)  I forgot to take a picture of the stirred-up sauce, but, yes, I did stir it all together well and put it into the fridge for an hour to allow the flavors to mingle.  Then I set it on the counter so that it would reach room temperature by serving time.  (If Martha is reading, I hope she will not be offended by the phrase "serving time."  Oh poop, now she'll never come for luncheon.)

My sauce before mixing

After my last student had left, I assembled the dish by putting a big pile of pasta/greens mixture in each shallow bowl, artfully arranging (i.e. putting) several slices of turkey breast on top of this, and then garnishing with a dollop of sauce.  Once we realized that the sauce was actually really yummy, we retrieved the bowl from the kitchen and re-dolloped.  In the future, I would maybe just go ahead and mix the sauce into the pasta, but it did look nice as a dollop.  I'll have to ask Martha what she thinks, once she forgives me.

The finished dish
You might expect me to have chosen a white wine to accompany this dish, and something sweet like a Gewürztraminer would have indeed been lovely, but I went with a St. Emilion red that was light enough not to overpower the delicate turkey and was quite happy with my choice.

Your comment assignment for today is to describe how a meal that should have been simple became complicated.

Here's to a wonderful weekend for everyone — cheers!


  1. Michael, you're taking me back to my childhood. Mom canned everything, and I still can "some", but I absolutely hated preparing horseradish(and cabbage, and tomatoes, and just about everything else). Mom set up the summer kitchen in May and we didn't close it up till just after Thanksgiving. A summer kitchen is usually set behind the main house and is open windowed to allow air to circulate. It kept the main house cooler in the summer. You could smell the horseradish all the way to the barn! Which ever kid got too close could get roped into helping to mash or peel or boil it down. The upside was that grandpa always made sure we had ice cream those evenings. Homemade ice cream almost made up for the gag effect of the horseradish.

  2. The homemade ice cream does sound like it would do the trick. Of course, that's going to add even MORE time onto my quick-and-easy meal plan!

    Thanks for that fun reminiscence.

  3. RECIPE UPDATE: Peter and I had the leftovers from the pasta dish on Thursday. He heated his up; I had mine cold, straight from the fridge. We each liked our version even better than the room temp version from the previous evening. So there you have it: eat this stuff at any temperature.

  4. Good heavens you grated it INDOORS??? Oh my.... My grandfather always did it outside, even in the dead of winter. The best horseradish I've had (and I've had them all being Polish om my mother's side) is Kelchner's from Dublin PA. It will take the top of your head off:


  5. I love fresh horseradish! When I grate it in large quantities like (which isn't too often), I wear a scuba mask. Sounds strange, but it works! I learned it from my scuba instructor.

  6. I've never had any experience with fresh horseradish. What ever possessed you? And you lived to tell about it! It will be perfect when you do the corned beef and cabbage in March.

  7. What possessed me? I recently committed to buying at least one food item every week that is outside of my normal habit. Last week, I bought a horseradish root, thinking that I could maybe cook it like any other root vegetable. When I couldn't find a single recipe for this on google, I realized that maybe you can't use this vegetable except as a condiment, so that's what I did.

    If anyone out there has ever done anything with a horseradish root other than making prepared horseradish, let me know. Otherwise, I may have to engage in dangerous culinary experimentation — horseradish chips, horseradish home fries, horseradish salad. . . .

  8. Horseradish home fries? Hahahaha! Although regular home fries dipped in horseradish sauce sounds yummy. I love horseradish, but I never realized how lethal preparing from root could be. Loved this post, and your wit. I was giggling the whole time.

  9. As long as you don't giggle while doing the topstitching on my shirt! I'm glad you share my sense of humor, Debbie.