Sunday, November 10, 2013

Countown to eating part a lot, part 2: Did you say radish? And Campari?

When I cam back from my time in Japan, I was more than happy to continue the Thanksgiving tradition at Chez Ska Librarian (still Retro in those days). But I had picked up a few tricks of the trade in Tokyo and wanted to fit those into the meal.

OK, so not really tricks. More like me doing my usual recipe tweaking much to the horror of my Japanese acquaintances. I always joked (joked, it's all in fun!) that the official motto of Japan should be "No substitutions on the menu." And that's basically a direct challenge for me!

One of the very ubiquitous (and one of the the few inexpensive) items one found at Japanese markets was the daikon radish:

You can buy one in Japan the size of an entire arm for about 2 bucks!
Daikons are usually used as a garnish or soup addition, just grated straight into the bowl. They taste...well, like radishes.

But I soon discovered another way to use this root. If you simmer or poach them in water or broth until soft, they become these sweet, soft, delicate pucks of tastiness. More mellow than a turnip. 

In Japan, it's a basic boil and then served with white miso. But after one or two tries like that, I began to wonder just how it would work with other flavors. I often poach chicken in vermouth, so why not these? They were deLISHous! So I added olives soaked in gin and made Martini Daikons. 

It was a fun idea, and I certainly have enough martini-loving pals, even if I don't drink them anymore. But I wanted to see if something else could be done with these big fellas. Something more festive that might work spice-wise for both Thanksgiving and Chanukah, yet also appeal to the non-meat eaters attending.

And I spied this in my kitchen:

Hmmm.....I know Campari is an acquired taste, but if your guests don't mind complex tartness, this is for you!

So I now present:

The Streamlined Ska Librarian's Campari Daikons

Wash, peel and slice the daikon into 1 inch discs. Score one side of them. 

In Japan, you're also supposed to bevel the edges. But shape however you like. Make them into Magen Davids. Or Turkeys!
Place daikon slices into large saucepan with enough liquid to cover. This one is:
1 part Campari
2 parts water
1 cinnamon stick

Bring to a simmer and cook until fork tender (about 25-30 minutes). Remove from liquid and let stand until room temperature. (You can also refrigerate them for a few days and bring back to room temp before serving).

And here we are:

Do these not look lovely? They're actually a little pinker than this photo. 

The sweetness of the cooked daikon with the spiciness of the Campari and cinnamon. Mmm...
These were eaten with some salty-savory snacks and the play of flavors was great.

Will this recipe make it to the Holiday(s) table? We'll see!

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