Beauty isn’t everything and celery root is living proof. There is nothing about its knobby, gnarled, beige appearance that would entice you to put it in your shopping cart. You’ve probably passed by it a hundred times nestled between the turnips and rutabagas, not even realizing what an amazing root vegetable you’re passing over.
The flavor of celery root strongly resembles celery but there is also something potato-like about it both taste and texture. It is often eaten as a salad, grated then left raw or quickly blanched and mixed with mayonnaises, lemon and mustard. This time of year we prefer to cook celery root a little longer before serving. Peeled and cut into pieces, this vegetable can be braised, boiled, baked or sautéed. If you’re tired of using cauliflower as a mashed potato stand-in, give mashed celery root a try. Even better, gently simmer celery root then puree it into a silky, creamy soup.
Silky Celery Root Soup is an incredibly easy recipe that can be doctored up into something a little fancier when you’re in the mood. The basic soup is simply shallots (or leeks) and regular celery sautéed in butter then simmered in water with celery root for about 35 minutes. Puree the soup, then add whole cream (or coconut milk) to make the texture even silkier than it already is. Salt, pepper, add some chopped parsley, and you’re done.
Once you have this base, which is delicious as-is, the variations are endless. Add a little meat to the equation by frying bacon or pancetta in the pan with the shallot, or sprinkle crumbled bacon on top of the soup as a garnish when it’s done. Sauté mushrooms or spinach to add to the pot. Maybe grate a little Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese on top or melt butter until it’s browned and has a sweet, nutty aroma then drizzle it into your bowl.
You can also make the soup with stock instead of water, but water actually works quite well and lets the delicate flavor of the celery root shine through. It is this delicate flavor and the naturally creamy texture of pureed celery root that makes it so incredibly soothing and so perfect when the weather turns cold. Adding pureed celery root to other types of soup is a great way to make soup thick and creamy, without adding dairy or potato.
So next time you see this ugly but quite tasty vegetable at the store, go ahead and bring one home. It’s sometimes called celeriac, instead of celery root, and will most likely be displayed by the other root vegetables, not the celery. Celery root is a vegetable all it’s own; it’s not actually the root of regular celery. The best way to attack celery root is with a paring knife, first cutting off the gnarled roots then trimming off the skin. From there, who knows where this humble yet incredibly versatile root will lead you.
Makes approximately four servings.
- 1/4 – 1/2 stick butter
- 4 celery stalks, chopped
- 1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (or 1 leek, sliced)
- 2 – 2 1/2 pounds celery root, (about two large roots) peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
- 8 cups water
- 1/4 – 1/2 cup heavy cream or coconut milk
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
Over medium low heat, melt the butter in a deep pan. Add celery and shallot/leek and sauté until soft but not overly browned, about five minutes. Add celery root and sauté a few minutes more, then add 6 cups of water and turn up heat slightly. Bring to a boil then turn the heat lower and simmer with a lid on for 35-40 minutes until the celery root is easily pierced with a fork.
Working in small batches (to reduce the odds of splattering hot liquid on yourself and all over your kitchen) puree the soup in a blender until very smooth. If you prefer soup with more texture, only puree half of the celery root and leave the rest in chunks. Return the blended soup to the pot and slowly stir in cream or coconut milk. Use the remaining 2 cups of water to thin out the soup to your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley.
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