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Cooking

Warm up to celery root

In praise of an underappreciated fall and winter vegetable.

Celery root soup recipe (Globe photo / Jim Scherer)
By Adam Ried
November 7, 2010

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The usual refrains for celery root, also called celeriac, are to either boil and mash it with potatoes or grate it raw and stir it into a tangy remoulade sauce. Those are excellent starts, but there are many other ways to enjoy the root’s gentle celery-like flavor. For example, you can team it with small red potatoes, whole shallots, and chicken thighs in a 30-minute, one-pot dinner. An herb-studded creamy dressing shows off the root’s herbal flavors. Or cook the ultimate soup for celery lovers with celery root, stalk, and seed.

Braised Chicken with Potatoes, Shallots, and Celery Root

Serves 4

3½ pounds bone-in chicken thighs, trimmed

Salt and pepper

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 pound 2- to 3-inch diameter red potatoes, halved

¾ pound shallots, peeled

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ teaspoon celery seed

1/3 cup vermouth

½ cup chicken broth

1 medium-large celery root (about 1½ pounds), cut into 1-by-2-inch wedges

1½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Sprinkle chicken liberally with salt and pepper. In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Place chicken pieces in pot skin side down (do not crowd – brown in batches, if necessary) and cook, without moving, until the skin is crisp and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces and cook, again without moving, until second side is golden brown, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to a plate. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin.

Return the pan to the burner, adjust the heat to medium, add the potatoes cut side down, and cook, without moving, until the cut sides are browned, about 5 minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, and celery seed, and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 40 seconds. Add the vermouth and bring to a strong simmer, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to dissolve the brown bits. Add the broth, celery root, and chicken with accumulated juices, cover, adjust heat to medium-high, return to a simmer, and cook, adjusting heat if necessary to maintain simmer, until the chicken is cooked through, about 16 minutes.

Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover loosely to keep warm. Adjust heat to medium-high and boil the liquid until reduced by about half, about 2 minutes. Adjust the heat to low, add the lemon juice and butter, and stir constantly to incorporate it into the sauce. Stir in most of the parsley. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste, spoon the sauce over the chicken and vegetables, sprinkle with the remaining parsley, and serve at once.

Steamed Celery Root with Creamy Herb Dressing

Serves 4

1 wedge of lemon

2 medium celery roots (about 2 pounds total)

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 shallot, minced

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

2 tablespoons snipped chives

2 tablespoons chopped celery leaves, optional

1½tablespoons chopped tarragon

3 tablespoons creme fraiche or Greek-style yogurt

Salt and pepper

Fill a medium bowl with water, squeeze the lemon wedge into it and add the spent wedge. Trim the celery roots, quarter them, and slice each quarter into 3/8-inch-thick slices, adding them to the lemon water as you work.

Fill a large saucepan with about 2 inches of water, set a steamer basket in the pot, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the celery roots and steam until just tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar, shallot, most of the parsley, chives, celery leaves, if using, tarragon, creme fraiche or yogurt, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste until smooth, and set aside. Add the celery roots and toss to coat. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary, sprinkle with remaining parsley, and serve.

Triple Celery Soup

Makes about 2½ quarts

This soup is quite thick; if you prefer it thinner, just stir in more broth or water while reheating the soup.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

9 ribs celery, finely chopped

1 large leek (about 10 ounces), white and light-green parts chopped

1 teaspoon celery seed

1 teaspoon minced thyme

1 large bay leaf

Salt and pepper

2 medium celery roots (about 2 pounds total), chopped

1 quart vegetable or low-sodium chicken broth

3 tablespoons snipped chives or chopped parsley or celery leaves, for garnish

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the butter and heat until the foaming subsides. Stir in two-thirds of the chopped celery, the leek, celery seed, thyme, bay leaf, and ¾ teaspoon salt, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks and celery have released their juices, about 10 minutes. Add the celery roots, broth, and 2 cups of water, increase the heat to medium-high, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until celery roots are very tender, about 20 minutes. Discard the bay leaf.

In a blender (or using an immersion blender), puree the mixture (working in batches, if necessary) until smooth. Return the pureed mixture to the pot, add the remaining chopped celery, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until celery is tender and soup is heated through, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary, and serve at once, sprinkling each portion with some of the herbs.

Send comments or suggestions to Adam Ried at cooking@globe.com.

  • November 7, 2010 cover
  • The Food Issue

KITCHEN AIDE
How to clean celery root

Squat, bulbous, beige celery root is related to green celery, but not the same plant. Freshest in the fall and winter, roots should seem heavy for their size and have taut skin.

To clean celery root, use a sharp, sturdy knife. Start by cutting off the stalk and bottom ends. Put the cut bottom down on the work surface and, working your way around, take off the outer layers with a series of cuts that follow the root’s contour. Rinse the skinned root, then slice or chop as desired. The flesh will discolor when exposed to air, so put pieces of celery root in lemon water as soon as they’ve been cut.