Friday, October 20, 2017

Raifort – Horseradish. Horseradish on French Menus.

Behind the French Menu
Bryan G. Newman
Horseradish roots on sale in the market.

Horseradish roots can reach up to 60cm (2’) long and that is a lot of horseradish.

Raifort, Cran, Grand Raifort, Raifort Sauvage – Horseradish.  Fresh horseradish is the root of the plant and is practically orderless, but once cut, like an onion, it can bring tears to your eyes. The taste of horseradish, like its distant relative wasabi, is difficult to describe. It is hot and spicy but nothing like pepper or chili, it affects your tongue and your sinuses; when you taste it is clearly horseradish, not any other spice.

Sauce Raifort
Sauce Raifort is the most popular French horseradish sauce. This sauce is made with cream or crème fraiche along with breadcrumbs and finely ground horseradish. The minute fresh horseradish is cut it begins to lose its bite. To preserve that bite vinegar is added and that explains its inclusion in most horseradish sauces. Other additions include mustard and sugar.  To make sure that the sauce is not too spicy only about 20% of the volume is horseradish.  
The horseradish flower.
Horseradish sauces came to the rest of France from the cuisine of the Alsace. Alsace is in the region of the Grande Est in France's north-east. Now horseradish is part of French recipes from the north to the south.
Horseradish on French menus:
Bavette d'Aloyau aux Échalotes Sauce Albert - An onglet, a flank steak or skirt steak, fried, prepared with shallots and served with the horseradish-based Sauce Albert.
Côtes De Bœuf au Raifort en Croûte de Noix aux Agrumes A bone-in rib-eye steak with horseradish, roasted “en croute,”  in a covering of walnut and served with citrus fruits.
Cote de Bœuf
Bone-in rib-eye.

Filet de Bœuf Poêlé, Jus de Bœuf Corsé au Raifort, Galette de Pomme de Terre - A cut from the beef tenderloin, the beef fillet, fried, and served with the natural cooking juices flavored with horseradish and accompanied by a potato pancake.

Nem de Tourteau aux Algues Wakamé, Croustillant au Raifort et Agrumes A crispy spring roll of crab meat with wakame seaweed prepared with horseradish and citrus fruits. (Torteau is the edible brown crab and the most popular fresh crab in France. Wakame is the seaweed most associated with miso soup, but it has been part of French seafood recipes for hundreds of years. Now it is farmed for local consumption and export).

Pavé de Sandre Rôti sur sa Peau, Lentilles Du Puy, Sauce au Raifort A thick cut of Zander, pike-perch, roasted in its skin and served with France’s highly rated AOP green lentils from Puy and accompanied by a Sauce Raifort.
Truite de Mer Marinée à l'Aneth et à l'Huile de Noisettes, Mousse au Raifort et Blinis -  Sea trout marinated in dill and hazelnut oil served with a horseradish moose and blinis.
Sea trout and oyster tartar.
Prepared with lemon, horseradish, and chives

Horseradish grows wild all over Europe and has inviting white flowers. The plant may reach one meter (3’) high but the root is the only part used. Wild horseradish flowers may be picked, but few can identify them and so they miss out on the free spice that is their root. In Europe, wild horseradish flowers between May and September.   The horseradish on French menus come from farmed plants. The origins of the English name horseradish are lost in culinary history, but assuredly, this is not a plant appreciated by horses.
Sauce Raifort, Queen Victoria and Napoleon III.
Sauce Albert is a horseradish-based sauce created by Francois Tanty the Chef of Napoleon III. The occasion was the visit to France in 1853 by Prince Albert the husband of Queen Victoria.  It was the first, peaceful visit to France by a member of the British Royal Family in 500 years. Then came a full state visit by Queen Victoria in 1855.  That successful visit was followed by hordes of British tourists, who carried back their impressions of the cuisine of France and especially the City of Nice on the Mediterranean. (From 1855 began the lifelong friendship of Napoleon III, the Empress Eugénie, and the British royal family. Napoleon III, who amongst other things was responsible for the invention of margarine, is buried in Farnborough, England and his crypt was paid for by Queen Victoria).
For a change
Roast lamb with Yorkshire Pudding and horseradish sauce.
In the USA horseradish is commonly used as the spicy ingredient in Bloody Mary cocktails and in fish and shellfish cocktail sauces. France imported the idea of seafood cocktails from the USA and the UK. However, France uses the tastier and milder Sauce Rose for seafood cocktails which is made without horseradish. 

(In my opinion, the French made the correct decision. In the USA, I have ordered or been offered a variety of seafood cocktails with outstanding shrimps and superbly fresh oysters, and, more. But to prevent my taste buds being anesthetized I have put the horseradish sauce to the side and ordered lemon juice and black pepper for the oysters and thousand island dressing with extra Tabasco for the shrimps. Only then can I taste and enjoy the stars of the show).
US Jumbo shrimp cocktail.

Horseradish is part of recipes from France to Scandinavia and on to Eastern Europe. It is the important part of the traditional British Sunday roast beef.  In parts of Northern Italy, at least from Verona to Padua, they still use the Austrian name kren (pronounced chren) and there they will serve you a white horseradish sauce as an optional sauce for your pasta.  The North of Italy had historically been occupied many times by the Austrians.

Horseradish was on the menu in Egypt, Greece and, Rome. Still today fresh horseradish is part of the traditional Jewish Passover ceremony. Horseradishes' sharp taste is used to remind the participants at the ceremony of the bitterness of slavery in Egypt. 
(Catalan - rave picant), (Dutch- mierikswortel, mierik),(German - meerrettich, kren), (Italian – rafano, cren), (Spanish - rábano picante),
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Bryan G. Newman
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