Bitter? Sweet!

Making more of maror

April 2024 Frankel  image

Horseradish plays the villain in the haggadah . It represents bitterness and slavery. Eating horseradish is suffering symbolically and for some, literally. But is horseradish the true "Bitter herb"? According to the Mishnah , horseradish is problematic as THE Bitter Herb… as horseradish doesn't grow particularly well in Israel.

Horseradish grows in colder climates; the largest concentration of horseradish grown in the world is in Collinsville, Illinois! 

It is member of the mustard family and is a perennial vegetable Chrain in Yiddish- or for Khren in Russian- is the spicy paste made from mashing horseradish with salt, sugar, and vinegar. Many beloved recipes for Chrain temper the root's fire with roasted beets. 

I love the flavor of horseradish, and the counterpoint it offers when paired with some foods. Horseradish is delicious with fish, and I frequently grate it over raw tuna. I also serve it as a crudo, and spoon it generously over salmon. As in the following recipe, the sweet, briny salmon comes to life with my citrus-tinged horseradish gremolata. 

Horseradish also pairs with beef, and was used in the Middle Ages as a condiment for meat. When horseradish is cooked, long and slow, the flavor becomes sweet and nutty, as in my Braised Short Ribs. 

This Passover, instead of rushing through the maror (the bitter herbs), I hope you incorporate some of the flavor and possibilities of horseradish. Chag Pesach Sameach

Horseradish and olive oil whipped potatoes

Potatoes get a bad rap. It's not the potato that is bad for you-it's what you do to the potato! These potatoes are creamy without the cream and rich without the butter, due to a good glug of high-quality extra virgin olive oil. And they are a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin C. 

My potatoes are enriched with egg yolks. This gives them structure, and allows you to pipe them onto a sheet pan for a quick browning session, to give them a crispy crust with a creamy, garlic-horseradish-zing center. Or you can simply mound them into a bowl, with a shower of fresh spring chives, for a delicious make-ahead side. 

Serves 5

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, skin on

6 cloves garlic

2 egg yolks

¼ cup best quality extra virgin olive oil

1 cup chicken stock (homemade is best)

2 heaping tablespoons prepared horseradish* (homemade or purchased)

Sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

Suggested garnishes: snipped chives or thinly sliced scallions

  • 1.Place potatoes and garlic in a large pan filled with cold water (this will help the skins from breaking and the potatoes from becoming soggy).
  • 2.Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook until there is no resistance when a paring knife is inserted (about 15 minutes). Drain and cool just long enough to handle comfortably.
  • 3.Peel potatoes, and place potatoes and garlic in a mixing bowl of a standing mixer. Add egg yolks, olive oil, and horseradish. Mix on low speed while adding stock in small amounts until potatoes are creamy and fluffy. You may not need all the stock. Adjust seasoning. Add chives or scallions.
  • 4.To brown potatoes, add potatoes to a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe potatoes on parchment lined sheet pan. Potatoes can be stored, uncovered, in the fridge for several hours.
  • 5.Preheat oven to 425°F. Cook potatoes until a crispy, golden-brown crust has formed.
  • 6.Transfer potatoes to individual serving plates or a platter. 

*Prepared horseradish

Purchased horseradish contains a lot of salt, sugar, and, sometimes, unhealthy oils. Homemade horseradish is quick and easy, and you control the ingredients. Save a chunk of horseradish for planting; homegrown horseradish will be ready for harvest just in time for Rosh Hashanah! 

1 8-10 inch horseradish root

Several tablespoons water

1 tablespoon white vinegar 

  • 1.Peel horseradish and cut into small chunks.
  • 2.Process in food processor until finely grated.
  • 3.Add 2-3 tablespoons of water until the mixture is a paste.
  • 4.Add vinegar. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to one month. 

In-your-face beet-pickled eggs

Your deviled eggs will be so jealous! A showstopper snack, salad, or first course, these eggs are gorgeous, zesty, and addicting. I like to add smoked salmon to garnish the eggs and serve as an appetizer or first course. 

12 hardboiled eggs, cooled and peeled

3 cups water

1 cup vinegar

2 beets, peeled and sliced thinly

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon sea salt

For the egg filling

½ cup mayonnaise (homemade is best)

3 tablespoons prepared horseradish

Zest of a lemon

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Suggested garnishes: thinly sliced pickled beets, pickled onion, fresh dill, snipped chives, scallions, chopped smoked salmon

  • 1.Heat water, vinegar, beets, onion sugar, and salt to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes (this gets the pickling color going). Cool completely.
  • 2.Place eggs in pickling liquid, making sure they are completely covered. Refrigerate overnight.
  • 3.Remove eggs (discard pickling liquid; reserve beets and onion), pat eggs dry, and slice in half.
  • 4.Gently scoop yolks and place in mixing bowl. Mash yolks with mayo, horseradish, salt, and pepper.
  • 5.Pipe or spoon into egg whites. Garnish.

*Hard-Boiled Eggs

I am assuming Grade A-Large eggs with these times, for the perfect hard-boiled egg. A perfect hard-boiled egg has a beautiful, creamy yolk withzero green ring (caused by overcooking, due to the iron in the yolk reacting with the sulfur in the white. Also, hydrogen sulfide forms the longer the egg cooks, creating an unpleasant, sulphury smell.) The yolk should not be dry, and the white should not be rubbery.

  • 1.Heat a large pot of water to a rolling boil. With a slotted spoon, gently place eggs in water. Set a timer!
  • 2.For a jammy yolk, cook eggs for 6 minutes. For a creamy, yellow yolk, cook eggs for 9 minutes.
  • 3.While eggs are cooking, set up an ice bath, by filling a bowl with lots of ice and cold water.
  • 4.Once the time goes off, remove eggs with slotted spoon and immediately plunge them into ice bath. Allow to cool completely before peeling.

Salmon en papillote with citrus-herbed horseradish gremolata

Being served salmon, or any fish, cooked in parchment is like receiving a gift. Each diner gets their own parcel filled with tender, savory fish scented with fresh herbs, citrus, and horseradish. The fish steams in the paper and is bathed in delicious flavor.

Once the fish is wrapped in its paper, the cook practically has the night off. You can wrap fish filets hours before serving, and then-after a quick trip in the oven-dinner is served.

This dish will be your bestie during Passover and all year round. Prepped in the morning and then stored in the fridge, it is easy-peasy!

You can wrap fish in banana leaves for an attractive alternative. 

Serves 5

Equipment: 5 sheets of parchment, about 12" X 12 inches, and 1 large baking sheet

For the Gremolata

½ cup prepared horseradish

1 orange, zested and juiced

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 carrot, grated finely on smallest hole of box grater

1 small red beet, peeled and grated on smallest hole of box grater

1 small knob of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

Several sprigs of fresh dill, minced finely

Several tablespoons of finely minced parsley

¼ cup best quality extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and pepper to taste

  • 1.Stir together horseradish, citrus zests and juices, carrot, beet, ginger, dill, parsley, and extra virgin olive oil.
  • 2.Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. 

Leftover gremolata can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for 5 days.

For the fish parcels

Extra virgin olive oil

5 5-ounce salmon filets (I only serve wild Alaskan Salmon)

Sea salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

1 lemon sliced thinly

Several scallions, minced

1/3 cup of dry white wine

  • 1.Place one sheet of parchment on a cutting board. Drizzle with EVOO (this will add flavor and keep the fish from sticking to the paper).
  • 2.Season one filet with salt and pepper on both sides and place on ½ of the paper.
  • 3.Generously dollop filet with gremolata, then top with lemon slices and scallions.
  • 4.With the stack of ingredients on the parchment, start making very tight, closely overlapping little folds at the top of the paper and work your way around, towards the bottom. Twist and fold the bottom end over. You should leave enough space around the food to allow the air to expand and circulate. If you get a tight seal, the package will swell up like a balloon when it cooks.
  • 5.Continue with remaining filets. Refrigerate parcels until about 15 minutes before serving.
  • 6.Preheat oven to 425°F. Cook parcels for about 15 minutes until puffed and sizzling.
  • 7.Divide parcels on individual serving plates and cut open, being careful of the steam that will be released. Serve fish on paper, with all those delicious cooking juices. 

Red wine and horseradish braised short ribs 

This meltingly tender showpiece entrée will be the talk of the holiday. The fragrant braising liquid is enhanced by deeply flavored wine. Port wine adds a fruity flavor and syrupy consistency, and the surprise addition of horseradish becomes nutty and sweet when cooked long and slow. Braised short ribs can be made two days before serving and reheated in a low oven.

Be sure to ask your butcher for English-cut short ribs. This cut will have a nice chunk of well-marbled meat that becomes very flavorful and luscious.

Serves 5

5 pounds English-cut beef short ribs 

Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Extra virgin olive oil

2 celery ribs cut into dice

2 large carrots cut into dice

2 large leeks, white part only, sliced

8 medium cloves garlic, smashed

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons prepared horseradish

1 (750 ml) bottle dry red wine

2 cups Port wine

1 quart chicken stock (homemade is best)

Bouquet garni of sprigs of fresh thyme, parsley stems, rosemary sprigs, tied with kitchen twine

2 bay leaves

  • 1.Season short ribs with salt and pepper.
  • 2.Heat a large sauté pan or Dutch oven, lightly coated with olive oil, over medium-high heat.
  • 3.Sear short ribs, a few at a time, on all sides, until well browned and caramelized. Set aside ribs.
  • 4.Add celery, carrots, and leeks to the pan, and cook until softened, gently scraping up bits of stuck-on short ribs.
  • 5.Add garlic, tomato paste, and horseradish, and stir to coat veggies with tomato paste.
  • 6.Add wine, Port wine, stock, bouquet garni, and bay leaves. Cover and place in pre-heated oven. Cook until short ribs are very tender.
  • 7.Remove short ribs and strain braising liquid, pressing on solids to get every drop of liquid.
  • 8.Skim off fat and reduce braising liquid to a glaze that coats the back of a spoon.

Serve short ribs with reduced glaze, and top with Horseradish Gremolata 

Bittersweet chocolate truffles with extra virgin olive oil

After enjoying a Passover feast, you can relax with chocolate truffles and muse over the delicious meal laden with maror . These truffles are a perfect ending to a great meal. Be sure to use a chocolate with at least 70% cacao content, or the truffles will not hold their shape. I also use delicious extra virgin olive oil from Spain. The oil smells like sunshine on a grassy meadow and complements well-made chocolate. 

1-pound best quality 70% or high cacao content bittersweet chocolate

1/3 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil

Pinch of sea salt

½ cup boiling water

2 egg yolks

½ cup best-quality Dutch-process cocoa powder 

  • 1.Melt chocolate with olive oil in a bowl over boiling water until completely melted. Do not allow the bowl to touch the water.
  • 2.Transfer chocolate and salt to the bowl of a food processor.
  • 3.Pour water over egg yolks. Strain egg yolks into food processor. Do not scrape any solids that may have formed.
  • 4.Pulse mixture for about 20 seconds, until a pudding texture has formed.
  • 5.Pour into lined pan and chill until solid.
  • 6.Scoop walnut-size amounts, and roll to form truffles.
  • 7.Dredge in cocoa powder.

Store truffles in refrigerator.

Laura Frankel is the Director of Culinary Services at Tamarisk for CJE SeniorLife, happily creating cozy, comfy dishes with modern and trendy vibes.   

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