Radis au beurre

Radishes with butter and salt

This super fresh, super French starter is easy to prepare and makes a convivial beginning of a meal, either with drinks at cocktail hour or as a first course at the table. The key is finding radishes with the greens still attached. They conveniently serve as a handle.

French radishes are typically rosy red with a white tip and are elongated rather than round. They may be hard to find outside France. Not a problem. You can substitute round radishes, which are available in most places. For radishes with the greens still attached, go to a farmers market or a high-end food shop with a quality produce department, or order online.

Radis au beurre is traditionally served with unsalted butter and salt on the side. Dip into the butter, dip into the salt and enjoy. But — shh, don’t tell anyone — sometimes I skip the butter, particularly ahead of swimsuit season. Non-traditional, but virtually calorie free.

Which kind of salt to use? The salt in the photo is Maldon sea salt from Britain, brought to me by a friend a few years back. It is whiter than French sea salt and comes in flakes rather than chunks, which makes it convenient for serving with radishes. However, if you order radis au beurre in a bistro, they will mostly like serve table salt alongside. That’s fine too.

When serving radis au beurre as a first course, I generally set out a couple more hors d’oeuvres, for example sliced saucisson sec (dry-cured sausage), tarama, tapenade or eggs with homemade mayo. At cocktail hour, I might serve the radishes on a communal platter, with olives or pistachios alongside.

The radishes need to be thoroughly cleaned before serving, and the butter should be at room temperature for easy dipping.

One bunch of radishes will serve 4-6 people.

1 bunch radishes, leaves attached
unsalted butter at room temperature
sea salt or table salt

Cut away the string holding the bunch of radishes together. Fill a large recipient with cold water — a large pot or the bottom of a salad spinner, for example. Immerse the radishes, swirl to loosen any dirt, remove, pour out the water and repeat until there is no more dirt.

Drain the radishes. Trim away the little roots at the end. Pull away any yellow leaves.

Arrange the radishes prettily on individual plates or a platter. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Set the butter and a small cupful of salt alongside.

Serves four to six people.

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