I don’t see a lot of Instagram traffic for celeriac (unlike cauliflower, which continues to soak up the bright light). And I don’t hear a lot of friends sharing recipes for it, nor do I see it especially frequently in Corridor restaurants.
And that’s a shame because this gnarly vegetable really is quite nice.
Also known as celery root, celeriac is not the same plant that produces those long green stalks of celery we all know and love. Both plants share the same ancestor, a plant that grew wild in the Mediterranean. Celeriac bears a distinct celery flavor but it’s like a tune played on a different octave.
It’s more commonly cultivated and eaten in continental Europe. My first introduction to celeriac was in Paris, where celeri remoulade features prominently on cafe and bistro menus. Shredded with a simple dressing of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard, the dish won me over. After that first taste, I came home and no longer ignored the knobby creature.
When purchasing a celery root, I look for one that feels heavy for its size. Especially large roots may have a spongy center. They do look knobby and imposing on the outside but the skin isn’t too difficult to peel (easier than a winter squash). I use a large heavy chef’s knife to peel and slice.
One thing I like about celeriac is that it keeps well in the refrigerator, so I don’t have to prepare it the minute I bring it home from the store. If made into celeri remoulade, the salad will remain edible for several days. It doesn’t wilt or weep like lettuce and tomato salads, nor does it take up a lot of room. It’s compatible with all sort of main courses, especially roasted chicken or steak, but is equally nice on a bed of greens with other salad components.
As much as I like it grated as a salad, I also love celery root as a soup. Cooking tames the celery flavor, which becomes more of an undertone. There are many recipes for celery root soup, some using potatoes or other root vegetables, but I like a simple version of just celery root and leeks cooked in a chicken or vegetable broth, then pureed. Cream can be added for richness, though it’s not necessary.
As a salad or in a soup, celeriac seems just right for these waning winter days. I hope you give it a try.
Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer or side dish.
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This easy salad is served at many a bistro in France. With a bowl of this in the refrigerator, I get a peaceful, easy feeling about lunch the next day. I’ll serve it over a bed of greens and maybe toss in some boiled eggs or chickpeas for protein. Or I’ll have it alongside last night’s leftover chicken dinner.
Start with smaller amounts of mayonnaise and mustard, then add more until the celery root is fully dressed. Note about the name: The dressing for this salad is a distant cousin to remoulade sauce, popular in New Orleans and France, which is mayonnaise-based but uses anchovies, chopped pickles, capers and other herbs.
1 celery root (about 1 to 1 1/2 pound)
3 to 4 tablespoons mayonnaise (not salad dressing)
1 to 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Peel and grate the celery root into medium-sized strands using your food processor or favorite grating utensil. Don’t make them too fine or too coarse.
Put the grated celery root in a bowl. Begin stirring in mayonnaise and mustard, adjusting amounts and ratios until celery root is evenly coated with dressing but not wet. Add salt and pepper to taste, then lemon juice to taste. Give it all a stir, then refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
(Cream of) Celery Root Soup
Serves 4 to 6.
This simple pureed soup tastes rich and creamy on its own, making it perfect for anyone on a plant-based diet. A little cream does add richness, and if you drizzle it on just before serving, it makes otherwise dull-colored soup look a bit prettier.
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 celery root (about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds) peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, thoroughly cleaned, then quartered and very thinly sliced
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock (homemade if possible)
1/2 cup white wine, such as Chardonnay
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons parsley, finely minced
1/3 cup heavy cream, half and half or non-dairy creamer (optional)
Melt the olive oil or butter over medium-high heat in a heavy pan or Dutch oven. Add the celery root, 1/2 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Cook until golden brown, but not burned, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add sliced leeks and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook another 10 minutes. Add the wine and stir up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add water and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium low. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.
Cool soup until it’s a safe temperature to puree. Remove to a blender or use an immersion blender in the pan. Puree until soup has a smooth consistency. At this point you can whisk in the cream, half and half or non-dairy creamer or you can wait and drizzle on each serving. Take a final taste, adding additional salt and pepper if desired. Reheat the soup, then ladle into bowls, garnishing with parsley or cream as desired.