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Ugly Ducklings

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Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

Just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you cannot judge a vegetable’s flavor by its appearance.

The next several posts are dedicated to the UGLY DUCKLINGS of the vegetable world. These “horrid herbal” ingredients present kitchen conundrums. They are weird looking, awkwardly shaped and strange but really tasty.  Frequently overlooked at the grocery store and market, some bizarre ingredients are a cook’s best friend, as these ingredients are often sturdy, good multipurpose components and have amazing flavor.

One of my favorite vegetables is Celeriac, also known as Celery Root and Turnip-Rooted Celery. Celeriac is a type of root vegetable that produces a large, knobby and “rooty” tuber that is delicious and versatile.

Celeriac tastes like what celery wishes it tasted like! Once the odd looking skin is peeled away, the potato-like white interior is amazing eaten raw in salads, sauces, and as a garnish for soups, or it’s amazing roasted and cooked into soups, purees or as a side dish. The flavor is crisp and intensely celery-like.

A staple in French kitchens, celeriac stores well and is in season in the fall and winter. The next time you are in the market and walk right past the troll-like celeriac, pick up a bulb and try some of these recipes. You will be glad you did not judge the vegetable by its appearance.

Celery Root Remoulade

I serve this as a salad or side dish. It is delicious and delightfully different than the usual salad of leaves of some sort. I also add extra mayonnaise and serve this as a sauce for my favorite fish and chips or as a spread on a sandwich instead of plain mayo.

1 ¼ cups mayonnaise, homemade or store-bought

2 ½ tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 ¼ pounds celery root

¼ cup chopped gherkins or sweet pickles

2 teaspoons capers

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

  1. Mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, 1 teaspoon of salt, lemon juice, and a few grinds of black pepper.
  2. Peel the celery root and grate it coarsely.
  3. Mix the dressing with the celery root and remaining ingredients and taste, adding additional salt, pepper, mustard, and lemon juice, to taste.

 

Celery Root and Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

Plain spuds are no match for these kicked up potatoes.  This is a great side dish for your Thanksgiving turkey, my favorite Horseradish Crusted Rib Roast or anytime you want a sophisticated side.

Serves 6+

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 pounds Russet or other starch potato, peeled and cut into dice

1 pound peeled celery root

2 cups chicken stock – homemade or purchased

4 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tablespoons of prepared creamy horseradish

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, potatoes and celery root. Sweat for 10 minutes until the garlic is very soft and fragrant and the celery root and potatoes are beginning to soften. 
  2. Add the chicken stock and cover the pan. Cook for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes and celery are fork tender and falling apart. The chicken stock should be mostly absorbed, if it is not, continue cooking until the pan is mostly dry.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat, add the horseradish, and mash the potatoes with a potato masher or immersion blender. Salt and pepper to taste.
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