Post-Hemming-And-Hawing: Burdock

I expired my hems and haws for burdock.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Tenth meeting of Cooking Club. The original three members; Laura, Ryan and Hilary (myself). Here’s burdock on the menu:

Quick-Pickled Cucumbers
Kinpira Burdock
Wheatberries with Lemon and Scallions
Homemade Seitan
Roasted Beets with Onions
Miso-Tahini Sauce

It was a feast! We drank Vinho Verde (the Portuguese “Green Wine”) and, after dinner, green tea.

Fright Root

You never know how to cook a vegetable until you’ve done it, so here’s some inspiration to try burdock.

“This long, thin brown root vegetable has a firm texture and gives very strong energy. Although eaten year-round, burdock is especially warming in winter. In Japan, we grew burdock in our garden at home. It was cultivated in raised hill beds…in order to make harvesting easier. In many regions, burdock also grows wild and is more strengthening than the domesticated variety. …[I]n New England we’ve foraged for wild burdock many times…” –Aveline Kushi

“…In cooking, the fleshy roots are prepared like salsify or asparagus.” –Larousse Gastronomique

That “domesticated variety” is easy to find in Asian markets. Course and hairy, like a coconut pulled to the length of your arm; it’s intimidating, but inexpensive. The clerk broke mine in half to fit it on the scale, then I closed it in the vegetable drawer for three weeks while I got the nerve to cook it.

Now that I’ve cooked it, I know how.

To Prepare Burdock

1. Use a vegetable peeler or small paring knife to remove the dark brown skin. It’s cruddy and shreds as you go. The pale inner root will darken as quickly as it is exposed to air, but that’s OK. When you cook it, it turns mushroom-brown.

2. Cut the peeled burdock into julienne or matchstick pieces, or any other small and thinnish style. Slice surely. Burdock is questionably fibrous raw, but once cooked, the root reveals its smooth and toothsome nature. Immerse the slices in a bowl of fresh water. The water, also, will darken. I rinsed my burdock in several changes before cooking it.

Kinpira

This Japanese and Macrobiotic cooking style is especially good for burdock, or burdock-and-carrots, but also can be used to cook turnips, beets, parsnips or any other root vegetables you might have around.

1. Heat a wide, heavy pan over high heat and add a little oil. I used toasted sesame oil for the burdock kinpira. Add the sliced root vegetables and cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes to color.

2. Add water to half cover the vegetables, and a splash of soy sauce. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, or until the roots are soft and have absorbed all of the water.

Traditional kinpira also includes sake, mirin or dashi as part of the cooking liquid. This water version is plenty delightful, but if you have those ingredients you can try adding some.

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