There hasn't been much written about food around here lately because I've hit one of those lulls that come, whether we want them or not. There have been flops, so-so's, and emergency pizzas that support the local business man. Now the time has come to sit at baseball games paying attention mostly, I confess, when my son is in action. When I planned this week's cooking yesterday (a heavenly day, truly), there were only three days on which we would be home for a cooked dinner. This is real life.
Despite the lull, there have been two mysteries--one lingering, one solved.
First, how is that a promising recipe can be such a failure? How can I like every ingredient in a dish and yet dislike the result so much that I can't bear to eat it again, throwing away over a pound of chicken, ounces of cheese, and a heap of vegetables? I don't know, but it happens sometimes. Last week's bake of chicken breasts with lemon, feta, and zucchini was just such a disappointment.
Perhaps my first mistake was succumbing to the lure of cheap chicken after weeks of grocery sticker shock when I know by now that quantity over quality is a concept that doesn't usually work for me. Other than that error in judgment, I can't account for the phenomenon. I simply proffer the mysterious results. The feta's normally vibrant flavor seemed to have disappeared, the bitterness of the lemon pith out-thugged the fruit's usual zest, the zucchini was watery, and the texture of the ill-chosen chicken was oddly brittle. For whatever reason, this assemblage of favored friends didn't party well together at all that night. But one moves on.
The mystery solved was an easy delight. For some time I had wondered in a latent way what cooked radishes would be like. Years ago, I had run across the idea of sauteeing them, a radical enough idea. Then my online search turned up--of course, why didn't I think of that, almost any vegetable is better that way--roasted radishes. In an Asian style, with chicken alongside. Being dinner on a sheet pan, I was in.
The surprising result was that we instantly liked them. Considering that I had never consumed radishes in any other form than raw, I expected an adjustment, a bite or two of getting aquainted with the difference in texture and flavor. Instead, we absentmindedly dug in like we'd eaten roasted radishes all our lives and found that we felt right at home with them. It seemed quite natural, in fact. Nothing watery or unpalatable this time. And so rosy!
Oh, yes, and the chicken was good, too. But that wasn't news.
These two dishes are proof that we never really know much except through experience. A seeming sure thing can be a disappointment. A what-the-heck-just-try-it effort can be delicious. The only way to know is by doing. So, if you're contemplating something that sounds safe, and you've never tried cooked radishes before, consider it. You might hate them. Then again you may love them. There's only one way to find out.
If you get really wild, try roasting the greens as instructed (mine were, um, dead, or I would have) and learn even more.
Sesame Ginger Chicken with Roasted Radishes and Radish Greens
from An Hour In The Kitchen
4-6 pieces of chicken, skin on
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup sake, optional
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 bunches of radishes with greens
Oil for greasing the pan
Rinse chicken pieces and pat dry, if you feel you must.
Mix soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, honey, ginger, garlic, sake (if using), sesame seeds, lime juice, rice vinegar, and water. Set aside a 1/4 cup and pour the rest over the chicken pieces. Marinate for at least 20 minutes, longer if you have the time. I had only the twenty minutes before hunger would begin threatening critical mass, and it worked just fine.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Wash radishes and greens well. Remove greens and set aside. Cut radish globes into quarters and toss in the reserved 1/4 cup of marinade until coated.
Brush the bottom of a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet with oil. Arrange chicken pieces skin side up on pan. Pour marinade over chicken. Add radishes around the chicken.
Cook for 30 minutes at 400 degrees. Then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast for 15-20 minutes more or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 170 degrees. Remove chicken and radishes from the pan and keep warm, leaving the liquid in the pan. Toss the washed radish greens into the pan. Return the pan to the oven for 3-4 more minutes until the greens are wilted.
To serve, place the greens on a plate. Top with the chicken and radishes. Drizzle the pan juices over all.