Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Chorizo Tacos with Radish Slaw

Listening: Miles Davis Quintet: "Live at the 1963 Monterey Jazz Festival"

Consider the radish.  I doubt that you have ever been asked that before and I can understand. It’s just a
radish, the stubby red root relegated to adding crunch and heat to a salad or a crudite plate. It’s usually playing a supporting role and not much more. Not too exciting. No one has ever said, "Hey, I've got this new recipe for radishes!"
We’re most familiar with the chubby, round red variety. But if you are a dedicated radish grower, and I assume there are plenty out there judging from all of the seed catalog offering, you might be familiar with other varieties such as round or icicle shaped white radishes, or the Japanese daikon, or black Spanish radishes (black on the outside, white on the inside), or Chinese varieties in green, rosy pink or those that have a purple center. There’s even a Munich beer radish.
Then there is the current favorite among chefs, the French breakfast radish, a milder, slender and elongated variety often found among the offerings at a farmer’s market. They’re treated like an exotic specimen, much like the French exchange student that steals your attention away from the high school girls you see every day who you suddenly find lack a certain je ne sais quoi, shall I say?  Plus you shouldn't eat a French breakfast radish in the way you would eat an ordinary radish. It should be served spread with butter and a sprinkling of sea salt. It’s French, after all.

Lately I have been seeing radishes creep into Mexican food, as a garnish of course but still, there they are. And it does make sense since radishes impart a spicy kick similar to the hot chiles in a salsa. (And now for the science!)  The “bite” comes when you chew and combine a chemical compound in radishes (glucosinolate) with an enzyme (myrosinase) and form a “new” compound, allyl isothiocyanate, which is mustard oil. (The mouth as chemical reactor!)
This is also the way that horseradish and wasabi get their pungency.
For this recipe I dispensed with the usual uninspiring shredded lettuce that often finds its way into tacos and replaced it with a cabbage slaw studded with radishes.
This is quick and easy. While this is written for serving two people, the recipe can be increased to feed whatever sized crowd you have on hand. While I added crumbled goat cheese and avocado, you can shape this to how you like your tacos. The slaw would be great with fish tacos.

Radish Slaw
Add the radishes to the slaw right before serving. If they sit in the dressing too long, they will lose their sharpness. You want the bite.
¼ head small green cabbage, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
1 cup thinly sliced radishes (halve the radishes first, then slice)
½ jalapeno, seeds removed and sliced
juice of one lime
1 teaspoon salt
½  teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1. Place the cabbage and jalapenos into a bowl. Add the lime juice, salt, ground black pepper, and sugar. Mix well to combine. Cover the bowl and set aside for at least 30 minutes. Right before you are ready to serve the slaw, mix in the radishes.

Chorizo Taco Filling
½ pound (or so)* chorizo sausage (raw, Mexican-style sausage)
½ cup  chopped onion
Olive oil, for cooking
1. Remove the chorizo sausage from the casings. Place a medium-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat. Swirl  two tablespoons of olive oil into the pan. Add the chorizo to the pan and break it up into pieces. When the chorizo appears to be cooked half way, add the onions, stir, and continue cooking until the chorizo is completely cooked. Taste the chorizo; if the chorizo isn’t as spicy as you like, add some dried chili flakes. Set aside and keep warm.
To assemble:
Corn tortillas
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
one ripe avocado, sliced
1. Warm the corn tortillas in a dry, hot sauté pan or wrapped in foil in a low oven.
Layer the warm chorizo mixture onto a tortilla. Add the crumbled goat cheese and an avocado slice or two. Top with the slaw. Repeat. And repeat again. You get the idea. Get out the napkins and open a cold one.

*I used three sausages, which was a little over 9 ounces. Sausage rarely comes in the exact mount you want.

Radish photos from W. Atlee Burpee & Co.

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