Give snack time the Paris treatment.
One of the most simple and unexpectedly lovely treats I ever discovered in visiting Paris was “radis beurre.” Radishes and butter: a simple snack of spring French radishes, accompanied by good butter salted with flaky fleur de sel.
An even better discovery came later, at a tiny but accomplished restaurant in Paris. There, the Michelin-starred chef combined the salt and butter with buckwheat groats. The nutty crunch combined with the soft, salty butter made an incredible combination I have been trying to replicate since. This spring, I finally got it right.
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What are buckwheat groats? What are French radishes?
What the heck are buckwheat groats? Buckwheat groats are the hulled seeds of buckwheat. Buckwheat is gluten free, despite the “wheat” in the name. Groats have a mildly nutty, grassy flavor with a satisfying crunch.
I had always been turned off by radishes. I thought radishes were those fat little round things that were either very bland, or full of a sharp, horseradish-y notes. But French radishes are different. French radishes are small and oblong, tapered at the bottoms. The flavor of the French radishes tastes mild and clean but slightly peppery. They are available in spring.
A few notes on French Radishes With Buckwheat Butter.
Toast the buckwheat groats. It only takes a couple of minutes in a dry pan, but this is the only way to really extract the nutty, grassy flavor and crunch that makes the butter so delicious.
Use a good quality, unsalted butter — preferably the European style, which has a higher butterfat content and tastes more satisfying. Plugra is the most widely-available supermarket brand. If you do not have fleur de sel or flaky Maldon salt, you can substitute kosher salt. But use a little less and then taste it, since kosher salt has a denser volume and a saltier flavor.
French Radishes With Buckwheat Butter
- 1 bunch French radishes, cleaned and stems trimmed (optional; you may like the look of the greens if they are very fresh)
- 4 tablespoons best-quality unsalted butter, preferably European style, very soft
- 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as fleur de sel or Maldon salt
- 2 tablespoons buckwheat groats
- In a small, dry saucepan, toast the buckwheat groats for two to three minutes on medium-high, stirring often, until fragrant and toasted. Let cool to room temperature.
- In a small mixing bowl, mix together the salt, 1 1/2 tablespoons of the cooled, toasted groats, and the butter. Stir thoroughly to combine.
- Serve, using the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of groats to garnish the butter, or put them in a small pile next to the butter for rolling the buttered radishes in for extra crunch.