Braised radishes are a relatively unknown novelty, or shall we say art form, that rely on a French cooking technique, chicken stock, and butter to turn the everyday into the elegant.
Heck yeah you can braise radishes. In fact, we’d go so far as to say braised radishes are tantamount to an art form. When subjected to gentle heat, radishes’ vibrant fire engine red fades to the palest shade of pink and their peppery rawness gives way to an almost sweet nuttiness. Trust the French to make something even lovelier than in its natural state with a simple, spare touch—and the technique couldn’t be easier or less expensive. It’s an easy and elegant side dish that, as the author notes, makes a stylish accompaniment to roast chicken, fish, or pork.–Renee Schettler Rossi
*What Are Breakfast Radishes?
This braised radishes recipe calls for breakfast radishes, which are a white-tipped variety of radish that tends to be milder than its rotund red counterpart. The elongated shape of the breakfast radish lends a subtle elegance to the table—and for that reason they are quite often preferred for entertaining.
- Using a sharp paring knife, trim the tips and tops from the radishes. Rinse the radishes thoroughly in cold water, rubbing the radishes with your fingers to remove any dirt. (If using round red radishes in place of slender breakfast radishes, cut them in half or, if large, in quarters.) Place the radishes in a sauté pan that’s large enough to comfortably hold the radishes in a single layer.
- Pour the chicken stock over the radishes and add the butter. Don’t worry if the liquid doesn’t completely cover the radishes. Sprinkle with a small pinch of salt and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil and then immediately reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Continue to cook, tossing the radishes occasionally so they cook evenly and to coat them with the cooking liquid, until they’re almost tender, anywhere from 8 to 13 minutes, depending on the size of the radishes and the flame under the pan.
- When the radishes are almost tender, turn up the heat slightly to reduce the liquid until there is just enough to coat the radishes in a pale, glossy glaze. Gently turn the radishes and their cooking liquid into a small dish. (If your radishes are perfectly tender and you have quite a lot of cooking liquid, use a slotted spoon to place the radishes in a small serving dish and then continue to simmer the cooking liquid until it’s the desired sauce-like consistency and then pour it over the radishes.)
- Add another sprinkle of salt and a generous grind of pepper. Serve warm.
Even Simpler Braised Radishes VariationIf you’re out of chicken stock and butter and are too time-pressed to run to the store or if you simply prefer a slightly less rich or vegan or dairy-free rendition of this braised radishes recipe, you can use cold water as a stand-in for the chicken stock and mild olive oil for the butter and still end up with a spectacularly pleasing side dish.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
Oh, how French I felt making this braised radishes recipe! The French cook radishes so well—in fact, most people don’t even think about cooking radishes. I agree that raw radishes are utterly delightful with their peppery bite and crisp texture, but when cooked, they are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. This was a cool take on the traditional small plate of raw radishes dipped in butter and served with salt—except cooked!
I tried finding breakfast radishes but had to settle for regular red radishes. The radishes were close to tender after about 8 minutes, and I cooked the radishes at a higher heat for about 2 minutes more before serving them family-style in a nice bowl. Such a quick and impressive side dish! I used 2 bunches with 10 to 12 small radishes per bunch. I also used homemade chicken stock and finished off the cooked radishes with a lovely black Hawaiian lava salt that I recently got as a gift. The contrast of the black salt on the pale pink radishes was very pretty.
A different approach to radishes. Braise the radishes for a few minutes so they turn a soft pink, and the texture changes to really silken. I used breakfast radishes, just 1 bunch with 8 radishes, and homemade roast chicken stock. The timing was about right. I braised them for 10 minutes and then boiled the liquid down for another 2 minutes. I really liked this dish—the silkiness of the radishes, the pale color, and the very concentrated chicken stock as a coating. My wife said she prefers radishes raw and crisp.
These are a nice accompaniment to roasted chicken. Just be sure to sprinkle them with a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Or two. Will make them again.
These braised radishes are so delicious that I’m buying radishes every chance I get! I didn’t love radishes until quite late in my cooking life, but there’s nothing like the conviction of a convert. The whole concept of “breakfast radishes” and cooking them came as a real surprise since as a kid, I was afraid of the spicy heat of a raw radish. This is all tamed by cooking. The delicate flavor imparted by the poaching is the most wonderful bonus.
These can be served as a course all on their own. I made this recipe twice, each time in half batches for 2 greedy people. The first time, I had perfect young (smallish) breakfast radishes, and 1 bunch fit perfectly in a 7-inch cast iron saucepan in a single layer. For a full recipe, a larger pan would be better. After poaching the radishes in a rich homemade vegetable stock, the flavor was so much more sophisticated than the effort required. All I could find for another try were mixed bunches of breakfast and Easter egg (purple, red, pink, and white) radishes.
If you can only find those, that’s okay, although I gave them an extra minute or two because some of the larger diameter radishes seemed still firm at 8 minutes. For this batch, I used chicken stock. It was lush and delicious, but I didn’t add any salt until serving, with just a tiny sprinkle of Maldon salt along with the pepper. If you have either chicken or vegetable broth, you cannot go wrong.
And even the mixed radishes were beautiful—I can see this dish as part of a spring brunch. As part of a complete meal, the full recipe will serve 4 to 6. The finished rosy hue is really beautiful as well as scrummy and has become a favorite dish. A bit of really nice crusty sourdough bread is handy for dabbing up any reduced glaze left on the plate.
There are certain moments in one’s life that stand out, usually in retrospect, as having changed everything. One of these moments, for me, was when I was introduced to cooked radishes. Ever since then, I’ve been making what is essentially a poor man’s version of this braised radishes recipe. I simply splash a little cold water and a generous drizzle of a fruity olive oil into a skillet of radishes—as few or as many as the situation merits—and braise away until the radishes are almost tender but not mushy, then I shower the radishes with coarse sea salt or copious amounts of black pepper. Unbelievably satisfying.
I just returned from France where the markets were brimming with beautiful breakfast radishes. I made these lovely braised radishes twice. Once to be served as a side to a dinner of pan-fried skate and asparagus. The second as a simple tapas with Champagne. The recipe is easy to execute with few ingredients and can be simmering away while the rest of dinner is prepared.
Don’t throw those radish tops away as they are perfect when added to a simple tossed salad of fresh greens.
Originally published May 23, 2020