Chrain, which rhymes with "The Rain in Spain," is a pungent horseradish condiment that can definitely bring tears to your eyes -- in a good way. The must-have accompaniment to gefilte fish, it's also an ideal counterpoint to rich, saucy meats like brisket. It's also fabulous in everything from deviled eggs to Bloody Marys.
Jarred horseradish is widely available in supermarkets and delis, but the homemade stuff is incomparably delicious. It's easy to make in a food processor, too. (For a more rustic texture, you can grate the horseradish by hand on a box grater, but be aware that some find the sinus-clearing fumes a bit overwhelming.)
On the Holiday Table
Chrain is a fixture of many Passover seders, where it's used as maror -- or the bitter herbs -- though it's neither bitter, nor an herb! In fact, according to the renowned food historian Gil Marks, using horseradish as maror is a relatively recent development; as strange as it may sound, it was originally used during Passover as an ingredient in some charoset recipes.
Kosher Status: Pareve, Passover
- 6 ounces beets (scrubbed and trimmed)
- 4 ounces horseradish root
- 3 to 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
- Optional: 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Place the beets in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover by 1 inch.
Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the beets are tender and easily pierced with a knife, about 30 to 40 minutes depending on size. Remove from the heat, drain, and set aside.
While the beets are boiling, prepare the horseradish: Peel the root, cut into chunks if large, and feed into a food processor fitted with a fine grating disc. (Alternatively, you can grate it on the small holes of a box grater.) Transfer to a bowl, and add the vinegar, sugar (if using), and salt. Mix well.
Slip the skins off of the beets. Using the same shredding disc (or box grater), finely grate the beets.
Add to the chrain, mix well, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Store in the refrigerator.
White Chrain: This is a classic chrain variation, and it's even quicker and easier to prepare than the red version. It also tends to pack more heat, thanks to the lack of sweet beets. Use the recipe listed above, and simply omit the beets.
Creamy Chrain: Adding a little mayonnaise or sour cream tempers chrain's sharpness, and gives it a smoother, sauce-like quality. Start by mixing in 2 tablespoons of mayo or sour cream per cup of red or white chrain, adding an additional tablespoon or two according to your preference. This variation is delicious with grilled fish, or (if made with pareve mayo) as a condiment for roast beef or turkey sandwiches.
Wasabi Chrain : Make a batch of creamy white chrain. Add 2 to 3 teaspoons wasabi powder and mix well. Add more wasabi to taste, if desired.