Celery root aka celeriac, that gnarly gritty bulbous vegetable. Celery root is rather intimidating to look at, but inside is an ivory root vegetable that’s a savory treat. As the name implies, celery root and celery are related. They are two different forms of celery. In the case of celery root, its variety has been developed for the edible root. The stalks and leaves are edible too, chock full of celery flavor, though typically the stalks are spindly, not substantial, the way a head of celery grows.
From March through November, I work as a volunteer at Lexington Community Farm on Thursday mornings. My tasks are varied, focused in the greenhouse during the winter months, moving to the fields as the season unfolds. Last week, I helped bag up vegetables for the farm’s post-season bulk fall vegetable sale. I was productive, bagging up 460 pounds of carrots (in 10 pound bags), 45 pounds of garlic (in 1 pound bags), and 55 pounds of celery root (in 5 pound bags) and a few more things that I can’t remember.
When I left, one of the farmers offered me a bucket of celery root that had been harvested the previous week so wasn’t up to snuff for selling in the stand. I’m not sure whether I knew this week’s recipe selection for Cook the Book Fridays at the time, but I happily accepted.
Celery root soup with horseradish cream and ham chips provides a perfect way to make a dent in my supply of celery root. The soup itself couldn’t be easier. Diced (and peeled!) celery root is added to sautéed leeks along with water, thyme sprigs, a bay leaf and salt and simmered until the celery root is tender. After removing the bay leaf and thyme stems, the mixture is pureed in the blender. Voilà!
The result is a smooth ivory bowl of soup, which on its own is somewhat bland. However, it serves as a willing palette for garnishes. And the garnishes supplied in this recipe are outstanding.
First, we have the ham chips which are a giant step up from bacon bits. I used thin slices of prosciutto, baked until leathery, about 10 minutes. They crisped up a bit more as they cooled. I coarsely chopped them.
Next, we have horseradish cream. I went with the crème fraîche option. The recipe instructs you to beat the crème fraiche with a whisk until it becomes stiff. Because the crème fraiche has a lot of body to begin with, I was highly skeptical that whisking it would do anything. In fact, after whisking for a few minutes, it didn’t noticeably thicken. I kept at it, and, all of a sudden had soft peaks, similar to whipped cream. Interesting. To finish it off, horseradish, salt and lemon juice are added for a piquant topping.
I really enjoyed this one. As I said, I found the “naked” soup boring, but with a dollop of horseradish cream and a sprinkle of ham chips, it is truly wonderful.
To work through the rest of my celery root, I plan to try David Lebovitz’s Céleri Rémoulade recipe and this celery root gratin. Any other suggestions from fellow celery root fans?
Lest I forget, the highlight of my week last week wasn’t packing vegetables (though Thursday morning at the farm is typically my favorite part of the week). The best part was a quick visit from my blogging friend Mary of Lights On Bright No Brakes. During her 30-hour stop in Boston, we cooked dinner together and spent the good part of a day perusing the galleries at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. We even snuck in coffee and pastries with our old pal Tricia (daughter of Ro from Chez Nana) from French Fridays who was also in town. Here’s Mary and me in the Takashi Murakami exhibit. We loved his vibrant colors and sense of fun.
As if on cue, now that it’s October, the leaves started changing color and falling off the trees. It’s soup season! I love soup, but don’t make more than cold gazpacho over the summer. I’m excited that it’s time to put it back in the repertoire.
This week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie is for a Celery-Celery Soup. This week we start the fifth and final year of cooking through Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table. We’re down to the last 30 or so recipes. I’ll admit that some of what’s left doesn’t excite me. That’s what I felt when I read through this recipe.
Celery and celery root (ugliest vegetable ever) cooked with onions and apples sounded simple but boring. Wasn’t it nice to be surprised at how well this worked for me off the page.
The soup itself tasted good. I liked the smooth and creamy (though cream-less) texture. It was sweet and not sweet at the same time. However, it was the extras that made this so wonderful. The first bonne idée was to sauté tiny apple cubes in butter and curry powder. This “garnish” hid in the bottom of the bowl, covered by the ivory-colored innocuous-looking soup.
The second bonne idée was to make croutons with the same treatment. These went on top, so weren’t a secret. I LOVED it. It might have been the curry powder that made the flavors pop for me. I would consider adding a touch of curry powder right into the soup if I was short on time and wanted to skip the croutons and/or curried apples, though it will probably change the soup’s color. (Note I used only 4 cups of chicken broth as I’ve learned otherwise Dorie’s soup are too thin for me.)
Howard was away so he didn’t try this yet. I’m not sure whether he will (apples in savory food, you know). I did give half the batch to my neighbor, would will probably enjoy it more than he would.
(P.S. Happy Anniversary to my Dorista friends! It’s been a great journey together so far, full of so many unexpected friendships. I look forward to finishing up the book together plus whatever’s next.)