I have a question about those gnarly-looking things in the produce section called “celery root”. Is it just the root of a celery plant? What in the world do people do with them? Do they taste better than they look?
Sincerely, Circumspect in Chimacum
Yes, Celery Root (also know as Celeriac) is the ugly duckling of the produce section. It is bulbous, knobby, and course brown on the exterior. However, if you try cooking Celery Root or marinating it, you will discover it to be uniquely pleasant and delicate. Make sure you peel off that troll-like exterior first. Then you can do all sorts of things.
Anca of pastry fame likes to make a fresh salad with other raw crunchy vegetables. She suggested pairing Celery Root with things like fennel, carrots, cabbage, and apples. My grandma likes to mash it into her potatoes in the latter part of winter, when she is sick and tired of regular mashed potatoes. In France, the country which produces and consumes the most Celery Root, you will find a salad called Celerie-Rave Remoulade. Usually served as an appetizer, it involves a delicious mustard sauce. Celery Root is also eaten quite a lot in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands. My favorite use for the vegetable is in Erwtensoep, a bright green soup from the Netherlands. You can eat Celery Root plainly boiled with butter, salt and pepper, or you can roast it with other root vegetables. If you choose to eat it raw, you may want to let it marinate in lemon or vinegar to take away a slight bitterness.
Besides being tasty, Celery Root is sometimes recommended as a substitute for potatoes to people who are watching their weight. It can be substituted in most potatoe recipes, its advantage being that unlike potatoe, it is extremely low in starch and high in dietary fiber. At only 30 calories per half cup, the high dietary fiber and wanter content of Celery Root contribute to good digestion and can also suppress hunger pains.
Contrary to my previous assumptions, Celery Root is NOT just the root of any celery plant. It is a special variety of celery which was bred to have a globular root just below the surface of the soil. It does have a crown of pretty green stalks, but they are not as fat and juice as the celery we commonly eat. They do make a superb garnish for Bloody Marys.
Hope you give Celeriac a try – it’s totally gnarly! eh heh heh heh
P.S. Here are a couple of recipes…..
ERWTENSOEP (Green Pea Soup from the Netherlands) – A lovely shade of green with a mysterious leek and celery root flavor. Serves 8-10
In a heavy 6-8 quart casserole, combine the peas, ham hocks, and water. Bring to boil over high heat, skimming off the scum that rises. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pan, and simmer 3 hours. Then add the celery root, celery leaves, potatoes and leeks. Simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. While the soup simmers, remove the ham hock and let cool enough to handle. Shred the meat off the bone. Add the sliced sausage along with the ham hock meat and a few grindings of black pepper. Stirring constantly, bring the soup to a simmer over moderate heat and cook until the sausage is heated through. Serve, and garnish with summer savory if you like it.
CELERI-RAVI REMOULADE (Celery Root in Mustard Sauce from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking)
Peel the celery root and cut it into julienne matchsticks. Toss in a bowl with the salt and lemon juice, and let steep for 30 minutes. Rinse the pieces in cold water, drain, and dry them in a towel.
Warm a 2 quart mixing bowl in hot water. Dry it. Add the mustard and beat in the boiling water by droplets with a wire whip. Then beat in the oil by droplets to make a thick creamy sauce. Beat in the vinegar by drops, and season to taste.
Fold the celery root into the sauce, and allow it to marinate for 2-3 hours or overnight. Decorate with herbs before serving.