Sunday, December 9, 2007

Celery Root - In Season, and in the Soup

Celery Root or Celeriac...
is a gnarly old thing easily passed up in the veggie display on account of its formidable ugliness and its often relatively steep sticker price. Definitely don't demur - take it home and you'll have enough to transform some of your everyday favorites into elegantly flavored new dishes.

Celery root is nutty and slightly sweet with a hint of celery flavor. The tough outer skin peels with a strong vegetable peeler to reveal a white turnip-like interior. Cooking time is similar to other root vegetables like turnip and sweet potato, though shorter than beets and white potatoes. The French love their celeriac au gratin, in addition to making a rich and creamy potato and celery soup. Northern Europeans make a delicious celery root salad by boiling and slicing the root, then dressing with onions, parsley and a sweet sour sauce.

For American palates, using less goes a long way. So, if you encounter celeriac in a recipe, try halving the amount until you know what you like!

And now that you've bought this thing, here are a few suggestions:

New Mashed Potatoes
Add a diced quarter of a celery root to your usual amount of potatoes. Potatoes take 20 minutes after water boils, so add the celery root 5 minutes into the cooking. Drain, steam, then mash using a hand mixer or ricer with 2 tbspns butter and up to a 1/4 cup milk or half n half until fluffy. Season with a few fresh gratings of nutmeg and server hot.
Wonderful with Swedish meatballs, roast chicken or duck, or perhaps roast beef.

Celery Surprise Roasted Root Vegetables
Half or quarter 4 small red potatoes with skins on, peel and cut a white turnip into 1/8 (slices look like half moons) and large dice half a celery root. Also slice a large carrot into 1 inch rings. Melt a tablespoon of butter with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss vegetables with 4 whole cloves of garlic, with skins on, with the oil/butter mixture, salt, and pepper. Put into a baking dish (higher than wide so flavors mix), and drizzle with juice of 1/2 a lemon. Bake 30 to 45 minutes, until vegetables are slightly crisp on the outside and tender.
Serve with roast chicken.

Soups with just a hint of nutty celeriac
Now you have a quarter of the root left. Just enough for either the Smoky Split Pea Soup posted earlier or, saving best for last, a delicious creamy Potato Veloute. Click on the link for this wonderful luncheon soup, best served only with a light salad of baby lettuces with a delicate lemony raspberry dressing and fresh pepper.

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