Celeriac: A Root to Root For
Celery root, or celeriac, looks like the evil troll cousin of the crisp, common green stalks of celery. It is monstrous, covered in scraggly roots, warts and lumps, but please do not judge it so superficially! I invite you to look beyond the pockmarked skin and bring this tender, creamy root into your kitchen.
Homer encountered celery root on his Odyssey, and it is a staple in the Puerto Rican diet, so though it may be new to your kitchen, this vegetable has been cooked and enjoyed for hundreds of years. If you are warming up to the idea of eating celery root, you can add a bit in with your mashed potatoes, substitute it for potatoes in a hash or soup, or slice some into thin batons and incorporate it into your next slaw. If you love celery already, then do not hesitate. The flavor is similar to that of celery, but slightly sweeter, and earthier. The root stores well for months if kept in a cool dry place, so is a wonderful item to incorporate into your pantry.
Here are some of my favorite celery root recipes that should help turn this ugly vegetable into a treasured ingredient.
Celery Root Gratin
Preheat Oven to 375
1 large celery root, peeled and sliced very thinly on a mandolin or with a sharp knife
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
½ cup grated gruyere or parmesan cheese
3 Tbsp chopped rosemary, sage and/or thyme
¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
Salt and pepper
In an oiled 9’’x11’ glass or ceramic baking dish, lay a layer of sliced celery root, making sure not to leave any gaps. Top evenly with a sprinkle of grated cheese, a dash of salt and pepper, a teaspoon or so of freshly chopped herbs and then top with another even layer of celery root. Continue like this, layer by layer, until you have used all of your celery root. Press down on the layers with your hands to compress them.
In a small saucepot over medium heat, warm your milk and broth, crushed garlic and nutmeg until it is simmering. Add a little salt, it should taste delicious. Pour the warm broth and cream over the gratin, making sure that all of the vegetables are fully submerged. Bake for 25 minutes, and check, making sure everything is still submerged in liquid. Return to the oven and continue to bake for another 30 minutes. If it is getting dark brown on top, cover lightly with tin foil. The gratin is done when the celery root is tender when punctured with a fork. Allow it to cool for at least 10 minutes before enjoying. This makes a perfect light lunch when accompanied with an herbaceous green salad or a nice side dish to a steak or pork chop. I love to warm up the leftover gratin in the morning and top it with a fried egg and some fresh greens.
Celeriac and Bacon Soup
1 large celery root, peeled and chopped into roughly 1” cubes
2 leeks, just the whites sliced into ½” half moons
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
¼ lb bacon, cut into ½” cubes
2 tsp chopped thyme
1 quart chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp ground coriander
A splash of lemon juice or champagne vinegar
Chives, parsley, fennel frond or celery leaf to garnish
In a large soup pot, saute all of the bacon until it is crispy. Remove the bacon from the pot with a slotted spoon and set it on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Add the leeks and shallots to the bacon fat and saute until tender, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and coriander and saute until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the celery root, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and enough broth to fully submerge the celery root. If you need more liquid you can add a splash of white wine or water. Cook until the celery root is completely tender and falls apart easily when pressed against the edge of the pot with a spoon.
Puree the soup with an immersion blender until it is completely smooth, you can add a little heavy cream if you like. Taste for seasoning. I usually add a little splash of champagne vinegar or a squeeze of lemon juice for acidity. When plating the soup, top with the crispy bacon, freshly chopped chives and a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche. Enjoy!
Celery Root Slaw
This slaw is perfect atop a pulled pork sandwich, or beside a pile of freshly fried chicken, a pork chop or a pan-seared piece of fish. I will make a big batch of this and bring it to a potluck or keep it in the fridge to snack on throughout the day.
1 Large celery root, peeled and julienned (or grated if you don’t have a good sharp knife)
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced into thin half moons
3 Tbsp dijon Mustard
½ cup mayonnaise or homemade aioli
1 Tbsp chopped capers
1 Tbsp champagne vinegar, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
Salt and Pepper To taste
Place the sliced onions in a bowl of ice water, this will remove the bite and make them crisper and sweeter. Toss the celery root with the vinegar or lemon juice and mustard, coating evenly. Add mayonnaise, capers, and strained red onions. Mix well and taste, adjusting salt and pepper to your liking. Allow to sit for at least 15 minutes before serving. Enjoy!