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Fresh Horseradish -- THAT bitter?!?

One of my farmers market pickups this past weekend was a chunk of fresh horseradish. I'd never cooked with it before, and was anxious to give it a try. I used an exceedingly simple Jean-Georges recipe that I thought would be a great basic intro, and got some terrible results. It was HORRIBLY bitter. I realize fresh horseradish is bitter by nature, and I'm aok with other bitter foods, but this was really quite extreme, certainly not pleasant, and bordering on inedible. Given that all of the Jean-Georges recipes I've tried over the years have been great, I have a hard time believing this was the intended result. So my question is, was this a problem with preparation, or did I get a lousy piece of horseradish (if there even is such a thing)?

As instructed by the recipe, I peeled the horseradish and sliced it thinly. I put it in a saucepan with water to cover, brought the water to a boil, and then simmered it for about an hour until the horseradish was tender. I drained and pureed it with a little bit of the simmering liquid and some creme fraiche, then used that mix to coat salmon fillets before roasting them.

Any ideas? My only thought was that at one point the simmering liquid had cooked about halfway down and I had to replenish it and bring it back to heat... but it seems unlikely that was the issue.

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  1. I have never cooked horseradish - I didn't even know anyone did. The only thing I've done with it is to grate it finely and mix with vinegar, salt and sugar to make a wonderfully sinus-clearing condiment. But cook it? I can't imagine. What an odd recipe.

    Oh, and yes, it really is that bitter. If it's any good, that is.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Nyleve

      I grate it very fine with cider vinegar. It is supposed to be sinus-clearing strong and hot , so you just need a little bit with beef.

    2. After all it is a common bitter herb for passover -

      3 Replies
      1. re: weinstein5

        I thougt it's purpose was to bring tears to the eyes. :)

        1. re: scubadoo97

          And me, I thought it was to take the top of your head off. mmmmm!

        2. re: weinstein5

          Some friends invited us to their seder a couple of times. I always wondered why they referred to horseradish as the bitter herb in the scripture, because I had never found it to be bitter. I guess the original poster has shown me the light.

        3. grate it fine, mix it with beet juice and have it with gefilte fish!!

          1. oh you can also put it in mashed potatoes.

            I have also seen horseradish and panko crusted fish in restaurants.

            1. While I appreciate the suggestions for recipes, what I'm really trying to determine is if anybody can identify some mistake I might have made in preparing it, or if there's enough variation in horseradish that it's possible to get an unusually bitter root. I assure you, I'm quite comfortable with bitter foods, but this was seriously unpalatable.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Dmnkly

                I must admit I am completely ignorant on this subject. I do think that there's a good bit of vinegar in "prepared" horseradish, and that would greatly offset the bitterness of the root.

                1. re: Dmnkly

                  I can assure you that the horseradish root itself can vary so dramatically from one root to another that you'd hardly even know it's the same thing. Sometimes it's killer, other times it's just nothing. I always have fresh horseradish for Passover seder - and I always hope it's murder. This year it was, but other years not so much. It could have to do with the root itself, or the freshness of it - could very well be the way it was stored before you got it. Like another poster said, the flavour is very volatile.