guest chef David Bulman in praise of horseradish

In keeping with my philosophy of bringing chefs closer to those that appreciate food, I would like to mention David Bulman. David’s fire for his love of cooking burns strong. He’s young but full of information and always eager to try new things and share them. David talks of these memories that formed him to be the food professional that he is today:

David Bulman
Chef David Bulman teaching a class at the Robinson Township Market District

I started cooking professionally at the age of 19. After the first week I knew I had found my profession of choice. Not long after that, I decided to attend le cordon bleu culinary program in Pittsburgh. I have a great love for fresh and sustainable produce and agriculture. I love all aspects of cooking including learning about food and food cultures.

The first recipe I can remember producing as a child is a horseradish sauce. Simple but versatile. Capable of making the most bland roast come to life. I learned to find the roots from my grandfather. At times it could be unbearably hard to learn anything from him, probably due to that pint of cheap vodka he usually kept stowed away in his cowboy boots, but I did manage to learn a thing or two from him before I became a food professional. We used to find the wild horseradish in ditches in the spring. Later on, I learned that due to the hardiness and general invasiveness of the root, it could grow in just about any conditions. We would only dig in months that had an “R” in the spelling (September, October, April, etc.). Now as I do some background research for this particular article I’m finding that ideal cultivation is actually done in late fall and early spring. This might make sense for most places, but I come from Western New York, 20 miles from Lake Erie. If you try to harvest horseradish there in December, January, or February you will probably find yourself in the same situation as the roots you seek–buried up to your crown in snow! If you were able to submerge your shovel into the dirt, though, you would theoretically be able to harvest some of this hardy perennial.

When harvesting for culinary purposes you generally want the smaller roots that tend to be crisper and more pungent. These grow off the main root which is generally woody and not suitable for eating. It does still have an excellent use though: it can be split in half and replanted. I would not recommend planting it in your garden then forgetting about it since it tends to spread like soft butter on hot bread. After harvesting the root several times with my grandfather and my family, I eventually planted the root in a very wet patch of ground behind my childhood home. The next spring I found that the root had flourished, and to my knowledge still grows there today.

The first time I made horseradish sauce myself I did it over the phone, with my grandpa walking me through the recipe each step of the way. It’s a very simple sauce. The sauce goes great with roast beef. It lends an excellent kick to pork. Paired with a little ketchup, it makes a great accompaniment for shrimp in the form of cocktail sauce. Goes well on a sandwich, too, like mustard (which is a horseradish cousin in the same family).

I like it best on a good old simple saltine cracker, which is how my family generally ate it as a snack at home. It’s also a well known fact if you need to clear you sinuses, a couple tablespoons of horseradish will clear up the problem in no time! If you tend to water up when cutting up fresh onions, be prepared to cry more than that time somebody kicked your dog.

If you have a few older second or third generation European relatives you can probably find a jar of the good stuff in their refrigerators. The root has deep origins in Eastern Europe, throughout most of Europe, actually, and is commonly used in America in place of another cousin root: wasabi.

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