Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Super Easy Horseradish-Caper Sauce for Fish and Beef

This evening I had two student friends over to cook and eat with me. It's their last cooking evening of the summer, since they both recently graduated from Emory, are just finishing their summer jobs, and are moving to start their graduate student lives. One of them, Alex, will be in Athens for two years, so I'll see him frequently there, I expect.

We had oven-roasted tilapia (salmon was out of sight on price right now) and various fresh vegetables, a light hot-weather dinner. To go with the lemon and dill-seasoned fish, I made a simple sauce of the kind I enjoy with oven-roasted fish, but also with beef and even with hamburgers.

The sauce ingredients reflected other parts of the meal, or complemented them. It took about one minute to mix the sauce. I aged it 15 minutes while waiting to serve dinner.

Horse radish remains one of my favorite seasonings. It shows up in many of my recipes at our restaurant, from sauces to chicken salad to mashed potatoes to quiche. I've loved it since I was a kid, when in my hometown an old Bohemian man sold homemade horseradish in wooden buckets from a horse-drawn wagon. I remember him more than once parking out in front of our house and my mother going out to buy it, bringing out her own jar. (I'm not kidding -- that was in the 1940s.)

The old man would have called it "kren", I later learned, the Slavic -- and Austrian -- name. Germans call it meerrettich (sea radish), and the French call it "raifort."

The horseradish I prefer is the simple grated horseradish in vinegar with a little salt. The good, unadulterated ones tend to be from Jewish manufacturers and are kosher. Gold's is a particularly good brand. These prepared horseradishes are found refrigerated, especially in the kosher section, at supermarkets -- at least in Atlanta.

Capers, the pickled flower buds of a Mediterranean bush, are a more recent favorite for me. Recent is a relative term, given my "seniority." Lemon juice and cream are always beloved.

Here's the sauce. Just enough for a six-person meal of roasted fish, braised or grilled beef, hamburgers or meatloaf. Don't make more than is needed for the meal. It's so easy to compose, and it's best very fresh.

By the way, we enjoyed a cold, crisp Sauvignon Blanc from Northern California with the fish and its sauce.

Horseradish-Caper Sauce

4 tablespoons light or heavy cream
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons pickled capers, drained
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt, plus to taste

Combine ingredients in a small bowl. Let sit a few minutes. Taste, and add salt to taste.

Transfer to a small sauce dish to serve.

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