Saturday, March 5, 2011

Celeriac or Celery Root

Celeriac is also known as celery root. 
It is the Shrek of the produce section. It is a hideous looking knob covered with what looks like hair and it is easy to conjure up the image of a deformed monster face, witches head, warts and all, or pig's behind, while staring at it. 
I've noticed it before but have never been even remotely interested in figuring out what it is all about - until now, because, of course, it is one of the 1001 Foods You Must Taste Before You Die
It originated near the Mediterranean and is now grown mainly in France, Germany, Holland and Belgium. It is a type of celery, and descends from wild celery, but it is grown solely for its root, although the hollow upper stalk is cut into drinking straws and used in Bloody Marys and the leaves are sometimes used as seasoning. I cut off the upper stalk 
and then peeled off the outer layer 
with a potato peeler which took some effort as it is deeply furrowed in places. 
The inside is white with a firm texture much like turnip. The French cut it into long thin strips (julienne) and cook it with a little butter and sugar. It is often combined with potatoes as a mashed dish or used as a flavoring in soups or stews. 1001 indicates that it "is mostly underutilized in the United States and Great Britain" and points out that it tastes like "a cross between strong celery and parsley." I boiled the celeriac 
and then mashed it with a potato masher. 
I then added butter spray, salt and pepper. It mashes much easier than kohlrabi and it has a very pronounced celery taste, as well as a bit of potato taste. However, as a vegetable on its own, and cooked similarly, I preferred the more sweet taste of the kohlrabi, but  I can see that celeriac would be very nice mashed with potatoes, to give a different flavor and more texture, or nice in a soup.  

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