"Dandelion & Quince"
Possibly the most unsung of all vegetables, celeriac’s gnarly, dirty facade tends to turn people off. This is a shame, considering everything underneath that brown, creviced skin is dense with satisfying texture and flavor. Celeriac—also called celery root—is a kind of celery (there are many wonderful varieties of this common biennial) prized for its enlarged root versus its stalks or leaves.
Although this root is firm, it can be sliced or shredded thin and eaten raw, preferably well dressed in a strong vinaigrette. It also yields a phenomenally silky soup and an addictive mash (add horseradish, please). However, in my mind, celeriac is its sweetest, most earthy self when caramelized in a pan or hot oven.
When cooked, celery root grounds our energy and warms our systems. Like celery, it supports the nervous system, stimulates the appetite, and aids in digestion.
You will spot celeriac intermittently throughout the fall and winter. Purchase small, heavy roots; the larger, lighter ones can be pithy inside. Store celeriac with the skin on, in the refrigerator, for up to one week after purchase. Peel and discard the skin (and any nooks holding dirt) before using it. If you find celeriac with the leaves still attached, use the slightly bitter greens in soups, stews, or stock.
There are several classic recipes for this root that are wonderful and warrant mention here:
- Celeriac remoulade—raw matchsticks of celeriac tossed with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, and black pepper
- Celeriac mash/purée—especially in tandem with short ribs and crunchy bitter greens
- Potato and celeriac gratin
- Celeriac soup—finished with crème fraîche, black pepper, and chervil or chives
NOTE: This basic savory galette can be adapted for a variety of roots and tubers; simply adjust the quantity of liquid and cooking time based on how fibrous the vegetable is.
- 1 large celeriac (1 pound)
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons roughly chopped thyme (or oregano), plus more leaves for serving
- 1/2 cup water
- Coarse sea salt
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Using a mandoline, slice the celeriac crosswise into 1/16 -inch rounds; place in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
Heat a 9-inch ovenproof frying pan (I use cast iron) over moderately high heat; add the olive oil and butter, and swirl both around the bottom and sides of the pan.
Pour the warm fat over the sliced celeriac; add a pinch of fine sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper; toss with about 2 tablespoons of the chopped thyme. Place the celeriac in the oiled pan, overlapping the slices to create a tight circular pattern; you will have 2 to 3 layers. Drizzle any remaining fat and herbs on top and add the ½ cup water. Bake until the celeriac can be pierced easily with the tip of a knife, about 45 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven and transfer to the stove. Sauté over high heat (leaving the celeriac slices undisturbed) until the bottom and edges are golden and crispy, about 8 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes before unmolding.
Use an offset spatula or paring knife to loosen the edges of the galette. Flip the pan onto a serving platter, board, or plate; tap the bottom. Lift the pan; rearrange any celeriac slices that may have fallen out. Sprinkle the galette with coarse sea salt and a bit more black pepper; top with a few leaves of fresh thyme, oregano, or marjoram.
From Dandelion & Quince by Michelle McKenzie © 2016 by Michelle McKenzie. Photographs © 2016 by Rick Poon. Reprinted by arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc. Boulder, CO. www.roostbooks.com