Braised and glazed. That was the theme of several of the vegetable dishes at our Thanksgiving feast. I recalled a wonderful radish braise from a few Christmases ago, when I still thought that cooking and serving goose to young children was a good idea. Ha. I had had a bunch of so-called Easter egg radishes from our CSA and braised them in butter, a small amount of sugar and chicken stock, reduced until the radishes were glazed. But today, with dietary preferences that eschew dairy and meat, it was time for Plan B. I substituted olive oil for butter, and boiled cider syrup for sugar and chicken stock.
Cooked this way, radishes retain their original range of colors though somewhat muted, and their characteristic bite gives way to a mild but distinctive flavor that slightly resembles young turnips. The boiled cider syrup was remarkable, making the final dish as delicious as it was picturesque. I made the syrup a week in advance but since it keeps so well, I could have made it earlier. Boiled cider syrup is just what it sounds like: cider cooked down to a syrupy consistency. It’s both sweet and tangy, and very useful for glazing roasted or braised vegetables. In addition to glazing cooked radishes, we poured it on roasted rutabagas and sweet potatoes at Thanksgiving. It also works as a glaze for poultry and pork.
When cooking with radishes, it is important to clean them well. I harvested these myself so I knew they were sandy. After topping and tailing them and scrubbing them with a vegetable brush, I soaked them in cold water for 10 minutes, swooshing them around and changing the water once. From what looked like perfectly clean radishes came an amazing amount of fine grit.
Braised Radishes with Boiled Cider Syrup
Top, tail and thoroughly clean 2 bunches of radishes. Place radishes in one layer in a pan with a tight fitting lid, and add water to a depth of about ¼ inch, a splash of olive oil (or use butter), and a big pinch of salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan and cook gently, stirring the radishes a few times until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes depending on the size and age of your radishes.
Uncover the pan, raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring, until the liquid evaporates and the radishes sizzle and brown a little in the residual olive oil. Add a tablespoon or so of boiled cider syrup (see below) and stir to coat, lower the heat and cook until the radishes are tender, about 3-4 minutes.
Boiled Cider Syrup
For ¾-1 cup syrup, start with 1 quart of apple cider, preferably locally produced. Pasteurized is fine but avoid cider that contains preservatives. Place the cider in a large saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook until it has reduced to ¾-1 cup, 3-4 hours. (Before you start, it’s helpful to measure out the final amount and place it into the pot, making note of the depth. This is easier than pouring out the contents to see f it’s sufficiently reduced.) Strain through a few layers of cheesecloth and store in capped jar in the refrigerator. It keeps for months.