Crêpes, croissants, and Brie are classically French, but to me, the quintessential French snack is radishes with butter and salt.
This common appetizer exemplifies why French food has the reputation that it does. Before baking, layering or flambéing anything, French cuisine begins with quality ingredients, prepared minimally and appreciated for their unique flavor.
The combination of raw, peppery radish, still cool from the earth, creamy butter, and plenty of salt represents this ideology – a balance of three simple ingredients for the most delicious mouthful.
To fully appreciate this dish, seek out the best quality ingredients. We have some beautiful radishes coming from the garden right now, but you can of course get some from the market. Use plenty of flakey, coarse sea salt. Pick up a fresh baguette or hearty loaf of rye for piling up your ingredients. Lastly, and most importantly, use really good butter.
You can probably find fresh butter at your local farmer’s market, but I think it tastes best when made yourself. Start with good dairy, toss in a few fresh herbs, and season liberally with salt. Butter is one of those things, along with stock, pasta, and bread, that is well worth making from scratch. Unlike stock, pasta and bread, though, butter can me made in all of 5 minutes.
For this butter recipe, I’ve used a few fresh thyme leaves. I serve the butter with thinly sliced radishes and a hearty rye bread. A fresh baguette will also work well, and you can cut the radishes into matchsticks if you want each mouthful to have a little more bite.
Radishes & Homemade Butter on Bread
2 cups cream
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Radishes, sliced thinly on a mandolin, to serve
Fresh rye bread, to serve
Coarse sea salt, to serve
In a large mixing bowl with beaters or in a food processor, blend cream on high until butter and liquid separate, 7-10 minutes. Transfer butter solids to a paper towel or muslin-lined strainer and press out excess liquid.
In a small bowl using a spatula, fold thyme and salt into butter. Wrap butter in cling wrap and roll into a log. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To serve, spread butter over slices of bread, top with radishes, and sprinkle liberally with sea salt.