Celery root

Celery Root Puree

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Looks like mashed potatoes… but it’s not. Meet its seductive cousin, celery root puree.

This vegetable dish makes a great base layer for a one-dish main course, like short ribs or creamed chicken, or as a side passed around the table. How about a twist on the classic steakhouse dinner? Perfectly aged beef, celery root puree, and sauteed spinach (or steamed asparagus or broccoli, depending on season). Don’t mind me, I’m just drooling over here in the blogosphere.

Celery root offers a complex flavor – parts butter, sweet and green – and the creamy texture makes it a great foundation for a host of dishes.

Plus, when you buy it, you totally get to impress people at the grocery store. Unlike the hoity-toity shoppers filling their carts with kale, almond flour, and myriad products made from coconut at Whole Paycheck (let’s all roll our eyes in unison), you and your celery root will illicit genuine reactions of fascination and interest. What is that stuff? How do you use it? What does it taste like? Before you know it, you’re the go-to for obscure produce. And that’s pretty fun.

Celery Root Puree

From Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan
Serves 6

3 cups milk
3 cups water
1 TBS salt, plus more to taste
2 large celery roots (about 3 pounds total), peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
1 russet potato, peeled and cut into 2″ pieces
1 small yellow onion, peeled and quartered
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
Pepper to taste

Optional toppings: snipped fresh chives, pistachio oil, or browned butter

In a large pot, combine milk, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, watching pot carefully. Add vegetables. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are fork-tender, about 30 minutes. Drain, discard the liquid, and shake the colander well to remove as much liquid as possible.

In a food processor, working in batches if necessary, puree the vegetables until perfectly smooth. Add the butter and whir until completely incorporated. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Transfer the puree to a warm serving bowl. Top with chives, oil or browned butter, if desired. Serve immediately.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator up to 3 days or packed airtight and frozen for up to 2 months. To reheat, warm in the top of a double boiler or in a microwave.

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Chicken and Dumplings

I discovered celery root for the first time a year or two ago. Scary-looking thing, isn’t it?

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My first foray into celery root was a chicken soup with root vegetables, including celery root (or celeriac, as it’s sometimes called). I had walked past it so many times in the grocery store, without ever noticing it.

Big mistake. Once you peel it, it looks a lot like a potato, but it holds its shape when cooking. And it’s quite delicious — to me it’s like mixing celery, cauliflower, and butter into one.

Anyway, I had been jonesing for some kind of chicken stew or dumplings when the latest issue of Bon Appetit arrived. Last week, when the threat of the Snowquester — a supposedly massive snowstorm that preemptively shut down DC — this seemed like the perfect option.

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But, my week was just too busy to get to a regular grocery store (Trader Joe’s doesn’t sell celery root) before the non-storm. Instead, I saved it for the weekend.

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For the wine, choose something rich that can stand up to the chicken and vegetables. My personal preference is Chardonnay, aged in steel (rather than the traditional oak, which I don’t usually care for). But that’s just it — a personal preference. At the end of the day, when cooking with wine, choose one you like, and taste regularly while cooking.

Chicken and Dumplings

Adapted from Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart

Serves 6-8

Stew:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
8 medium carrots (about 1 pound), peeled, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 small celery root (about 12 ounces), peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped
1 leek, white and pale-green parts only, chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup dry white wine (such as Chardonnay)
1/2 cup water
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 sprigs thyme
1 sprig rosemary
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons (or more) Sherry or white vinegar

Dumplings:
3/4 cup flour
1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk

Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Cook 8-10 minutes; transfer to a plate.

Carefully drain all but 2 tablespoons fat from pot. Add carrots, celery root, onion, and leek; stir frequently until softened and beginning to brown, 8-10 minutes.

Add butter; stir until melted. Add flour and stir constantly until well blended, about 2 minutes. Add wine and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced by half, 5-8 minutes.

Add chicken, broth, thyme, rosemary, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer until chicken is fork-tender, about 35 minutes. Discard bay leaves and herb sprigs. Transfer chicken to a plate. Let cool slightly; shred meat.

Return shredded chicken to soup. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar. Season with salt, pepper, and more vinegar, if desired. Return to a simmer.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and 1/2 cup milk. It should be just a little thicker than pancake batter and should easily drop from the tip of a spoon. (Add additional 2 tablespoons milk if too thick.)

Drop batter in 8 spoonfuls over simmering stew, keeping them spaced apart. Cover and simmer until dumplings are firm, about 20 minutes. Serve in bowls.

Chicken Soup with Root Vegetables

It’s been nearly a year since I took possibly the biggest step of my life to date: on November 30, 2011, I become a homeowner. It’s only 600 square feet, but I love every inch of it.

Closing night in my new home

This isn’t just my first time as a homeowner: it’s also my first time living solo. The latter has been a bigger adjustment, but a valuable one for self-discovery and personal growth. Living alone has made me a little more organized and tidy (baby steps!), more social, and a better friend. I am less likely to take my down time for granted, and more likely to say yes to an invitation or extend one myself.

The first homecooked meal I ate in my new home was Chicken with Root Vegetable Soup. I hadn’t actually moved in yet, and the only furnishings that had made the trip so far were a card table and chairs, a lamp, and the living room rug, when I suddenly found myself hosting a Christmakah gift exchange with friends.

No matter! I had made this soup for the first time a few weeks before and loved it, and on this windy, chilly day, this sounded perfect. I made the soup ahead of time at my apartment and picked up good bread and cheese for grilled cheese sandwiches. I packed up the food, a favorite bottle of wine and a corkscrew, the Dutch oven, a grill pan, and enough dinnerware for the group. First dinner party in the new home = a smashing success.

The combination of bay leaves, allspice, and root vegetables gives this soup a very fragrant aroma and flavorful broth.

Root vegetables offer a unique, nutritious twist on traditional chicken soup.

This recipe marks my first foray into celery root. Look for a future post about this mysterious vegetable, but suffice to say, it tastes like celery’s milder, buttery cousin, and it’s definitely worth trying.

Note that this soup doesn’t hold well; the sweet potatoes in particular will disintegrate if left too long, or reheated slowly. If you need to make it advance, I suggest making the stock, roasting the vegetables in the oven, and combining the two along with the chicken when ready to serve.

Root vegetables — plentiful and nutritious in winter — include celery root, carrots, parsnips, and sweet potatoes.

This winter soup is best eaten immediately.

Chicken Soup with Root Vegetables

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes 6 servings

Stock:
1 roast chicken (approx 3 1/2 lbs)
1 large onion, halved
2 garlic cloves, peeled
3 carrots, cut into chunks
3 celery stalks, cut into chunks
2 Bay leaves
4 large fresh thyme sprigs
4 large fresh Italian parsley sprigs
8 whole allspice
3 or more quarts water (approx.)

Soup:
1 c chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus additional to taste
6 cups root vegetables, peeled and cut into 1/3 inch cubes as follows:
1 1/2 c carrots
2 c celery root
1 c parsnips
1 1/2 c sweet potatoes
Freshly ground black pepper

Cut meat off chicken and dice. Set aside. Place carcass and all stock ingredients in a stock pot or a Dutch oven with at least 5-quart capacity. The carcass and vegetables should be completely submerged in water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat. Simmer 1 1/4 hours. Strain broth; return to pot and boil until reduced to 7 cups. Make ahead: Stock can be made up to two days in advance, and stored covered in the refrigerator. Store meat separately in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Alternatively, the chicken can be roasted and prepped one day in advance; store the carcass in a large zip-locked plastic bag in the refrigerator.

Heat oil in another large pot over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion, sliced garlic, and 2 bay leaves; sauté 2 minutes. Add broth and all ingredients except sweet potatoes and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 7 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and continue simmering until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Add diced chicken; season with more salt and pepper. Heat through.