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Smoked Daikon

A reimagination of the time-honored New York spread as a collection of vegetable dishes.

For this dish, Daniel Humm reimagines the time-honored New York spread, smoked fish and accompaniments served with bagels, as a collection of vegetable dishes. Small plates of carrot pastrami, parsnip salad, pickled kohlrabi, and truffled radishes stand in for classic condiments. In place of lox or smoked sturgeon, there’s daikon radish with all the tight chew and brininess of something out of the Russ & Daughters’ case. To accomplish this, Humm poaches planks of radish in kombu and white soy combined with smoky Lapsang souchong tea. He then blends the kombu into a purée to coat the poached radish before smoking it. At the restaurant, they double down on the smoke, serving the radish under a cloud in a glass dome. Although the radishes resemble sturgeon fillets, Humm says, “This shouldn’t taste like fish. It should taste like radish. I just want it to look like fish—not exactly, but enough to make people think, Oh, wow.” To hammer home the connection, Humm serves the radish with thin, crisp toasts, cucumber “caviar,” and crème fraîche, which, like their deli equivalents, balance the smoky savoriness of the main event. —Genevieve Ko

Ingredients

Makes 10 servings
  • 2 sheets kombu
  • 1/3 C Lapsang souchong tea leaves
  • 3 1/2 T rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 C glucose syrup
  • 2/3 C white soy sauce
  • + kosher salt
  • 1 large daikon radish, trimmed and peeled
  • + very thin slices good bread, toasted
  • + crème fraîche
  • + peeled, seeded, minced cucumber

Special equipment

  • + smoker setup of your choice
  • + applewood chips

Preparation

  1. Rinse the kombu under cold running water, then soak it in cold water until pliable. Drain, then transfer to a large saucepan with the tea leaves, vinegar, glucose, white soy, and 8 1⁄2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer, remove from the heat, and let steep for 1 hour. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean large saucepan; reserve 1 sheet of kombu. Season the kombu brine to taste with salt.

  2. Cut the daikon into 4-by-6-by-1⁄2- inch planks. Run a vegetable peeler along the corners to round the edges so the planks resemble sturgeon fillets.

  3. Bring the kombu brine to a simmer and add the daikon. Adjust the heat to maintain a low simmer and poach the daikon until cooked through, about 45 minutes. Do not boil or reduce the liquid; it will get too salty.

  4. Meanwhile, place the reserved kombu sheet in a small saucepan and cover with cold clean water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the kombu is completely tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer the kombu to a blender and puree until very smooth. Pass through a fine tamis or food mill.

  5. Heat a smoker loaded with applewood chips to 325°F. Remove the daikon from the tea and pat dry. Brush with the kombu purée and place in a single layer in the smoker. Smoke for 45 minutes.

  6. To serve, cut the daikon into 1⁄4-inch-thick slices on a steep bias and serve with the toasts, crème fraîche, and cucumber. At Eleven Madison Park, they serve the daikon slices on a small wire rack on a pedestal inside a glass dome and fill the dome with smoke. You can serve them more simply, if you don’t happen to have a glass dome and smoking gun on hand.