2017-01-19 / From The Garden

Celeriac, a Simple but Noble Vegetable

By Cynthia Gibson

Celeriac, or celery root, is an ugly vegetable. Disregard its looks, however, and you will be pleasantly surprised. This big old knobby root, as large as a turnip, is in the supermarkets now. Once you get past its looking like a deflated beach ball, you will be delighted by its celery-like fragrance; thus, the name celeriac.

Celery root has long been a staple in England, but took its time finding its way into American supermarkets. Now since the onslaught of heirloom and exotic fruits and vegetables, the American palate is willing to try something new. This is one vegetable that will hopefully be a keeper for your recipe file.

Celeriac comes to us from Germany, via France. It arrived in the mid 1800s and is grown from seed. It never became a market vegetable, as it was so easy to grow at home. It is still grown from seed, which you can find in almost any seed catalog. However, before you grow them I suggest you buy one at the supermarket and do a taste test, as they make a great, slaw, soup, boiled vegetable and addition to a salad.

Having been rediscovered, I hope you will try it out. It makes a delicious cream soup and puree; the taste is like celery but more delicate.

When making celeriac coleslaw, simply use your favorite recipe (either sweet and sour, or with mayonnaise) and replace cabbage with thinly sliced celery root.

For a simple puree, boil peeled and chopped celeriac until you can break it with a fork, toss it in the food processor with a half stick of butter and a half cup of cream. Add more cream if you like your puree thin. Salt and pepper to taste and it is ready to serve.

To make a cream soup, simply prepare the puree above and add two cups of chicken stock.

Celeriac and Potato Gratin

Serves 4-6
2 lbs. baking potatoes peeled
1 large celery root
4 medium sized tomatoes, seeded
and diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cups grated Comte (the best) or
Emmental cheese
7 oz. Crème Fraiche or sour cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 3500

Butter a casserole dish for baking.

Boil potatoes and slice thin. Peel celery root, cut in half, slice thinly and boil until almost translucent. Set aside.

In a small frying pan saute the olive oil, tomatoes, and minced garlic for about 10 minutes but be careful to not allow the garlic to turn brown. That will make it bitter. Remove from heat and let cool.

Transfer the tomatoes and garlic to a small bowl and mix with the crème fraiche. Salt and pepper to taste.

When the sliced potatoes and celeriac are cool to the touch, place one layer of potatoes into the casserole, followed by a layer of sliced celeriac. Place spoonfuls of the tomato mixture on top of the boiled vegetables, using all of it. Place another layer of potatoes and a last layer of celeriac. Sprinkle the two cups Comte cheese on top and bake for 35 minutes or until you can see the casserole bubbling and the cheese turning golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Cynthia Gibson is a gardener, food writer and painter. She gardens and tends her miniature orchard in Newport.

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