When you think of the holidays, 'horseradish' probably doesn't leap instantly into your cranium. But just for a moment look at all the holiday foods we eat—dips, hors d'oeurve, mashed potatoes, roasts, Hanukkah-Christmas-and-Kwanzaa feasts—all competing for our culinary attention. This is a time to celebrate, and we leap at the opportunity to treat our palates to exciting flavors, intensely tantalizing and invigorating. When we entertain in the holidays, we strive to present our food as gifts, to impress our guests and make them remember the party. There is no such better way to do so than with horseradish.
If you have ever grated raw horseradish, you know its fumes can strip the paint off a car, straighten your hair and fell small animals. Of course we are exaggerating here, but not by much. This ugly root packs a whollop, and that is precisely what we are looking for in the holidays: a condiment whose piquancy wakes up the flavors of all the other foods—as with rare roast beef, served with horseradish-laced sour cream, a typical holiday horseradish tradition.
In this article, Judy McCann opens our eyes to this powerful but homely root. She should know. An Illinois-resident, Judy lives in Collinsville, Horseradish Capitol of the World, and is Chairperson for the International Horseradish Festival. Her recipes have earned her the title of "The Root Queen," having won three awards: First Place in 1994 for her Apple-Horseradish Jelly—"not meant for breakfast" she notes—and for her Pork with Caramelized Onions and Horseradish Potatoes in 1993. In 1992, her Cole Slaw with Horseradish earned her a Second Place Award. All year long, Judy grates and grinds, mixes and tests, cries and sniffles (from the fumes) as she constantly develops new recipes for horseradish.
"They will not let me into the contest this year since I am Chairperson—my fourth year as such," remarks Judy. "But I am going to get them in 1998 with my Apple Pie with Horseradish, I just have to work on it some more. And I am giving up my crown, but I will never give up my title as the "Root Queen!"
So celebrate the season with the tangy bite of horseradish. Follow the Root Queen's recipes for dips, side-dishes, biscuits, salads, and even a piquant Christmas cocktail. A little bit of horseradish goes a long way and yet its effect can be almost subtle, because of the way it blends with other flavors. Your guests will note how wonderful everything tastes, how much brighter and zestier, but may have no idea why. Take the bows, accept their compliments and just serve them more. After all, there's no rule that says you have to tell them—keep the horseradish as your secret ingredient and let the festivities roll on.
Happy Horseradish Holidays to All!
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