To connoisseurs of the elegant breakfast radish, the pale and lovely icicle variety, or their psychedelic watermelon kin, the black radish comes off as bulbous and clunky. But this particular specimen lasts longer than most; possesses dryer flesh and a spicier, more pungent bite; and is reputed, among holistic types, to cure what ails you in the digestive and respiratory departments. It tastes great raw, with a sprinkle of salt, or grated into soups. Chef Neil Ferguson, formerly of Allen & Delancey and now at Soho House, tempers the root’s characteristic bite in a rich, creamy gratin.
Neil Ferguson’s Black-Radish Gratin
1 lb. black radishes (available at Food Emporium, and Paffenroth Gardens stand at Union Square Greenmarket)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 oz. butter
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 350. (1) Peel radishes, and (2) slice them very thinly (1/16 of an inch if possible) on a mandolin. In a saucepan, combine the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then turn off heat and allow to infuse for about 10 minutes. (3) Strain cream into another saucepan, discarding solids. Add sliced radishes and simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove radish slices with a perforated spoon, and layer them in a small casserole. Cover with cream mixture and bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly, and serve with roast leg of lamb, pork, or veal chop.