The first time I saw burdock I was amazed. The entire roots were intact, most of them at least four feet long. I didn’t really develop an appreciation for them until I dug one myself though. Not only is the taproot difficult to unearth, it’s also supported by little ancillary roots that come off of the side, so getting them to come out is no small feat. If you don’t want to go dig up a burdock, you can easily use gobo, which is available in Asian grocery stores. Salsify and scorzanera work great like this too, but you will probably have to grow them yourself or know an intrepid farmer.
This recipe is probably the one that I am most pleased with as far as burdock goes. It has danced around on the menu becoming every thing from a relish on fish, to a garnish for charcuterie, to a soup topping. A couple weeks ago, a lady in China sent me a recipe for pork rib/burdock soup which I’ll have to make. The relish is great all by itself though, and is a way to showcase these funky roots. In addition, since the wine preserves it, it keeps for a super long time in the fridge, like a pickle.
I came up with the method after pondering burdock’s flavor. When cooked, the flesh of the root is not unlike the meaty bottom of an artichoke. Needless to say, if you like artichokes, you are going to love this recipe. Essentially this is a modified version of vegetables “a la Greque”, meaning cooked in the Greek style. Vegetables are cooked in wine, and oil, the acidity of the wine functions as a preservative by lowering the p.h., as well as adding a really bright acidic flavor, making it a perfect compliment to fish or chicken. You can do all kinds of stuff with this relish though, the cooking method is just a way to preserve it for future use. It is not pickled, so it doesn’t have a sharp, acidic flavor, which makes it very versatile. Here are a couple ways you could use it:
- Hot or cold, the relish can be used as a garnish for fish, chicken or pork
- Warm the relish and toss with some greens for a quick salad
- Instead of dicing the relish, mince it and mix into mayonnaise for a special dressing or dip
- You could easily reduce the relish with some meat or vegetable stock, whisk in a tbsp or two of butter, and create a sauce
- The relish is a great accompaniment to a plate of cured meat and cheese
- Warm the relish with some tomatoes and toss with a pasta shape like penne, rigatoni, or farfalle
Burdock, scorzanera, salsify and burdock shoots can all be used interchangeably here.
Yield: about 1.5 cups, which is enough to garnish 4 plates/entrees generously
Prep time: 10 minutes to clean and scrub roots
Cook time: 30 minutes
- 8oz burdock/gobo, salsify, or scorzanera root, scrubbed of their skin and diced 1/4 inch (you can just cut it into half moons or something if you want, but I prefer pretty 1/4 inch squares, a.k.a brunoise)
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 fresh bay leaf (you can substitute dried)
- 1 by 1 inch slice of lemon zest
- 1 tbsp shallot, diced 1/4 inch
- 1 tbsp flavorful oil, like extra virgin olive oil or sunflower
- 1 Tsp garlic, de-germed and minced
- Juice of one lemon, for the acidulated water to prevent the burdock’s browning
- 1 Tbsp fresh sliced chives, parsley, tarragon or chervil
- Season the diced shallot and minced garlic with the sugar and a pinch of salt in a small bowl, allow this to sit while you cook the burdock (this removes their raw, hot flavor, and is called macerating)
- Scrub the burdock with a scouring pad occasionally dampening it with some cold water. Immediately place the peeled burdock into water seasoned with lemon juice to taste which stops any oxidization and browning of the roots. If you would like to see a video of this process, I made one here.
- When the roots are scrubbed of their skin, dice them into 1/4 inch squares, then place them in a pan with the water, wine, salt, bay leaf and lemon. Bring this mixture to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer and cook, covered, for 30 minutes, or until the burdock is tender and soft, but not mushy. It should have the texture of an artichoke, soft and yielding, yet still al dente. If there is still some liquid left in the pan when the burdock is soft, that’s ok, just add it to the relish when it’s complete.
- Cool the burdock, remove the bay leaf and lemon zest, and then combine with the macerated shallot, garlic, and oil.
- Allow the relish to marry, covered in a container in the fridge for a day or two, it will get better as time goes on.
- Before serving add the chives or other herbs.