Cooking from the World Pantry: Warm Steak Salad with Horseradish Cream


Fresh Horseradish Root | Photograph by Maria Zizka
Fresh Horseradish Root | Photograph by Maria Zizka


If you are someone who loves wasabi, consider trying its close relative, horseradish root, which can be found in markets and grocery stores throughout the winter. Don't be put off by its homely appearance. Horseradish is a root after all, so you shouldn't be surprised to find it caked with dirt. In fact, the dirtier the better, for then you will know the root has recently been plucked from the cold ground.

Freshly grated horseradish root is leaps and bounds better than horseradish from a jar. Immediately after it has been grated, horseradish tastes most fiery and vibrant. As time passes, it eventually looses that zing.

Before cooking with fresh horseradish, you should take a few precautions. The roots vary widely in their pungency, and the freshest, gnarliest ones can irritate your nose and eyes. Best to open a kitchen window, if you can, or at least work in a well ventilated area. Once you're prepared, peel away the root's rough, dry skin. This is easily accomplished with a vegetable peeler, though a sharp paring knife works just as well. Next, grate the creamy white flesh finely on a rasp-style grater and place it into a small bowl. Alternatively, if you're cooking for a crowd, you can chop the root into 1-inch pieces and blend them in a food processor until finely ground.

Now you have a decision to make: How fiery do you want your horseradish to be? If you prefer your horseradish tame, immediately add a splash of vinegar, which will stop the enzymatic reaction that makes grated horseradish pungent. If you love a sharp bite, then you should wait a few minutes before adding vinegar. The longer you wait, the more pungent the horseradish will taste.

Grated horseradish, quashed with vinegar, will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks, but I think it tastes best fresh. I usually wrap the peeled end of the root in plastic, stick the whole thing in a paper bag, and stash it in the crisper drawer of the fridge.

The full, peppery flavor of horseradish compliments pickled or smoked fish dishes nicely, and it is essential for a proper Bloody Mary. During the holidays, I love to make horseradish cream and serve it alongside roast beef. Here's a quicker but no less special way to enjoy it.

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Warm Steak Salad with Horseradish Cream | Photograph by Maria Zizka
Warm Steak Salad with Horseradish Cream | Photograph by Maria Zizka


Warm Steak Salad with Horseradish Cream

Any leftovers make for a terrific sandwich.

Serves 3 - 4 for lunch

1 tri-tip roast (about 1 pound)
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ cup heavy cream
¼ cup freshly grated horseradish root
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon honey
2 - 3 ounces mixed greens

Place the steak on a plate and season it generously on both sides with salt and pepper. (I like to be especially generous with the pepper -- at least ½ teaspoon.) Let the meat rest at room temperature for about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make a quick vinegar dressing by whisking together the sherry vinegar, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper.

Next, make the horseradish cream: Beat the cream until it thickens a little and the beaters leave a disappearing trail behind. The cream shouldn't be all the way whipped but it should have some nice body. Stir in the horseradish, thyme, and honey, then taste and season with salt and black pepper.

Heat a large cast-iron or similar heavy skillet over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Swirl in the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, then set the steak into the skillet and cook, without moving it, for 4 minutes. Flip and cook the second side until the steak has reached your desired doneness. (For medium-rare, cook the second side for about 3 minutes.)

Transfer the steak to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut against the grain into thin slices. Stir the vinegar dressing to emulsify it, then toss the slices in it, coating them well. Arrange the greens on a plate, place the steak slices on top, and serve the horseradish cream on the side.

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