There are some vegetables that make you wonder: Which of our venerable ancestors was ever hungry enough to try this weird-looking rock for the first time? That rings true for celeriac.
“It’s a gnarly-looking vegetable,” agrees John, of John D. Madura Farms (catch him every week at Union Square Greenmarket). “That said, it tastes great.”
Celeriac, the least promising-seeming root ever created, is, as the name suggests, the root ball of celery. If you’re lucky, you can buy it with fresh green stems still growing out of the top — those stems are lovely finely chopped in salads, or sautéed with some peas and mint.
The fresher the celeriac is, the easier it will be to peel. “What you’re looking for with celeriac is a bright, light color,” says John. “Keep an eye out for one that’s got a smooth surface, no brown pocks.” Make sure you get all the skin off with a peeler before you start to cook, then slice and eat — the whole thing is edible; no weird core to look out for.
Even so, if you’d rather leave the cooking to someone else, check out the slow-roasted celeriac salad with black truffle butter at Upland (345 Park Avenue South, 212-686-1006).
Some eating ideas:
1. Shredded celeriac salad is a French classic. Grate the peeled celeriac on the large holes of a box grater, then mix with a sharp creamy dressing of mayo, grain mustard, and lemon juice. Season well. Serve with roast pork or a thick slice of ham.
2. Do a Waldorf-esque spin on the salad, by adding diced celery, diced apple, and a handful of walnuts to the grated celeriac mixture.
3. Dice, boil until tender, then mash with cream and plenty of butter. Season well, especially with salt.
4. Add large chunks of celeriac in with stew for the last hour of cooking time.
5. Toss cubes of celeriac, squash, and apple with a little honey, balsamic, olive oil, and a few sprigs of thyme, then roast until tender. Top with dabs of goat cheese, and put back in the oven for a few minutes until warm and soft.
6. Grate equal amounts of potato and celeriac with half as much onion. Season well, then press into greased muffin cups and top with a knob of butter. Bake at 425°F for 30 to 40 minutes until golden and crisp.
7. Sauté grated celeriac with thick lardons of bacon and thinly sliced garlic. Finish with a handful of pine nuts and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with some simply grilled chicken.
8. Soup: Sauté an onion, a large diced celeriac, and 1 clove of garlic until lightly browned. Add 4 cups of chicken stock and simmer until the celeriac is tender. Season well. Add half a cup of cream, and blend (I use a stick blender) until smooth.