I learn a lot of lessons in the garden. Last year I planted a baby celery and waited all summer for the root to develop. Along the way, I snapped off stalks for salads and peanut butter picnic snacks, but held out hope for the Big Prize. I wanted to make celery root remoulade.
July and August came and went, and when I finally pulled the remaining stalks from the dirt: no root. Come to find out, “celery root” doesn’t have much in common with celery after all. Originally cultivated from wild celery (apparently, celery root is one of the oldest root vegetables!), it’s known as “turnip-rooted celery” in some circles and culinarily acts like its root vegetable friends: parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas (“turnip-rooted cabbage”). I’m going to start calling it celeriac like the French.
Celery root/celeriac tastes a little like celery, but predominantly earthy, woodsy, you could say nutty. It acts like a potato, but isn’t starchy. Delicious cooked or raw. Make soup, celery root mashed potatoes or David Lebovitz’s remoulade. Next time you see them at the grocery, buy a couple–they last a long time when refrigerated.
I adapted this recipe from a soup I learned from Alex Lee, when he was chef at Daniel NYC.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, peeled and thinly sliced (pole-to-pole)
- 1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced, white and light-green parts only, rinsed well and dried
- 1 celery root (a pound or so--after trimming you want about 3/4 lb.), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
- 2 tart apples (McIntosh or Granny Smith best), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- salt and pepper
- a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 or 2 bags of roasted chestnuts (5 - 10 ounces total; Blanchard & Blanchard brand is good)
- 8 cups chicken broth made with 2 tablespoons Better Than Bouillon concentrate and water
- 1/2 cup cream (optional)
- In soup pot or dutch-oven, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, leek, celery root, and apples and cook until onions and leeks are soft but not colored, about 10 minutes.
- Add the chestnuts and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, until chestnuts can be mashed with a fork.
- Remove soup from heat and let cool. Transfer to blender to purée or use an immersion blender to create a smooth consistency. Return soup to pot and add the cream, if using. Warm through without boiling (or you may curdle the cream, which is not pretty). You want the soup piping hot when you serve it.