FOOD: Chef Tom visits the Winter Market

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This appears on page 13 of the February 10, 2011 print edition.

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To Market, To Market

by TOM YATES

This morning, Michael’s car was dead from the cold and mine still sported the stupid plastic dummy tire from a recent flat, so we decided to walk to the Lexington Winter Indoor Farmer’s Market for our Saturday shopping. It was an unexpected delightful adventure. We bundled up like giddy sledding bound children and headed out the door. It was 5 degrees above zero as we made our way to the market over slippery blindingly white snow. Granted, it wasn’t that far.  Most of the walk was indoors once we reached Rupp Arena, rode the escalator down, and crossed the pedway to Victorian Square. The Indoor Winter Market, located in the atrium of Victorian Square, is open every Saturday from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

The winter market was quiet and serene. There were no bright bulbous melons dripping sweet goodness. No bursting baskets of blackberries, raspberries, or blueberries. There were no tomatoes, jugglers, dancers, barking dogs, or musicians. It was quiet, with a few local farmers selling their goods, happy to see us, eager to talk, and enjoying themselves.  It made us happy and proud.  Kentucky Proud. Viburnum Valley Farm Confections from Scott County specializes in Chocolate Truffles and European Style Pastries.  This morning, they offered beautiful homemade and handcrafted chocolate truffles; Pure Chocolate, Mocha Chocolate, Chocolate Mint, and Chocolate Sea Salt. I bought one of each. I couldn’t resist. They were gorgeous.

Across the aisle was polished and unpolished specimens of Kentucky’s Official State Rock alongside fresh sourdough bread and cabbage. Weird. Although tempting, I skipped the state rock and picked up a huge green cabbage and a loaf of bread.

After weaving through cameras filming a nutrition documentry, I found Quarles Quality Beef and Jan’s Delights from Waddy, Kentucky. They had a lot going on. They offered Simmental/Angus crossbred beef that included cuts of beef briskets, beef chucks, ribeyes, T-bones, filets, and short ribs.  A simmering crockpot filled with shredded gravy-soaked chuck roast was tucked between breads, cakes, jams, jellies, salsas, chutneys, and relishes.  Michael bought blackberry cake with caramel icing and carrot cake with cream cheese icing.  I loaded up on beef chuck roast, green tomato chutney, and butternut squash.

I thought we were finished until Michael spotted Elmwood Stock Farm on another level of the atrium. Bingo. Just what I was hoping for when we set out this morning in the frozen snow. We picked up baby fingerling potatoes, baby purple potatoes, and baby onions.

I was most amazed by the winter black radishes. I filled a bag full with them. Apparently, when cooked, they taste like mild turnips.  I can’t wait to find out. Watermelon radishes were as equally intriguing, but too big. Really big. Watermelon big. Elmwood had a wide variety of organic free range chicken for sale; game hens, legs, thighs, half chickens, whole chickens, livers, breasts, wings, and stock packs.  We settled on a dozen chicken wings and a dozen pastured organic free range eggs.

We left the market with our booty and headed home. After crossing the pedway, we made a brief stop in the Kentucky Proud store for a quick browse and an Ale8. After gliding up the escalator, we were back outside for a short walk home.

The vendor said that the black radishes tasted like mild turnips, so that’s how I treated them. Although I usually boil and mash turnips, I decided to braise and saute the gigantic radishes.

It couldn’t have been easier. I simply scrubbed the skins of the radishes and sliced off the ends before cutting them into thin wedges. After melting unsalted butter in a hot skillet, I sauteed the radishes in sizzling butter with salt and pepper until they started to brown.

Once they took on a bit of color, I added a cup of water to the skillet, clamped on a lid, and let them braise until tender.  When I could pierce them easily with the tip of a knife, I removed the lid to evaporate the liquid and dropped 4 tablespoons of butter into skillet to create a nutty brown butter. I repeatedly turned the black radishes in the brown butter until they were crisp and evenly caramelized. To gild the lily, I deglazed the pan with pomegranate infused red wine vinegar and honey, creating a tart sweet glaze.

I served the brown butter glazed black radishes alongside short ribs, slow-braised in red wine, tomatoes, and beef stock. I nestled the ribs over buttered egg noodles, topping them with a zested lemon, orange, and fresh parsley gremolata.

They were fantastic! The radishes tasted like turnips, but were were pleasantly stronger with bold peppery overtones and yielding a firmer texture than delicate cooked turnips. While the brown butter napped them with sleepy nuttiness, the tangy sweet pomegranate-infused red wine vinegar reduction certainly enhanced their assertiveness, amping up the tang factor and balancing the deep earthiness of the short ribs. They were crazy good, completely exceeding my curiousity and anticipation.

I have a few left.
We’ll see what becomes of them.

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