Just a swift kick in the pants to this community. I've been enjoying food and cooking all by my lonesome out here for a while. I have a wicked kitchen (for NYC) now, and have vastly improved my culinary skills over time. I'm ever better at just throwing things together from whatever looks fresh at the market.
My Greek market owner was thrilled when I picked up an armful of these ugly nubbly root things and plopped them on the counter. "I LOVE celery root!" he said. With my conviction deepened, I headed home to pop my celery root cherry. I'd read this recipe years ago and it intrigued me, but when I saw their gnarly little selves show up at my local shop, I knew the time had come. How it began.
Purée of Celery Root Soup
Inspired by The New York Times, December 20, 2006
Don’t let the tough looks of celery root fool you: it’s actually quite easy to work with. First, choose a root that’s roughly baseball-size and that feels firm and hard – never spongy – and heavy for its size. To prepare it, plunk it in the sink and attack it with your vegetable peeler. The smoother, non-rooty end is easy to peel with a few quick, decisive strokes, and then the root end can be trimmed with a sharp knife. You may lose more of the bulb than you might expect – these little buggers can be craggy, calling for some serious trimming. But once the celery root is ready, you’re most of the way there. Before you begin, a few other notes:
- This recipe makes a fairly small batch, so consider doubling it. You won’t be sorry.
- The first time I made this, I puréed it in a food processor, and it never really emulsified properly. I have since found that a blender works much, much better. The starchy quality of celery root seems to demand it. So if you’ve got a blender, use it. [But not an immersion blender – like the food processor, it’s better saved for softer, more yielding things.]
- Lastly, the delicate flavor of this soup begs for a clean, mild broth – and preferably one that’s homemade. If you’ve made some good chicken broth lately, by all means, use that. Or, if not, do as I did this past weekend and make a super-quick, super-easy vegetable version. It takes only an hour and change, and it requires almost no attention. Plus, its gentle onion and leek flavors are lovely in the soup.
2 ½ Tbs olive oil, divided
1 small leek, white part only, coarsely chopped
½ medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 lb. peeled, chopped celery root (from about 3 baseball-size bulbs)
3 cups mild chicken or vegetable broth, preferably homemade (see below)
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
4-5 Tbs skim milk
Chopped chervil, for serving (optional)
In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm 2 Tbs olive oil. Add the leek, onion, celery, and garlic, and sauté until softened but not browned, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add the celery root, broth, and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer until the celery root is very tender. It should break apart easily when poked with a fork; on my stove, this takes about 35-45 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat.
Using a blender and working in small batches – when working with hot liquids, never fill the blender more than 1/3 full! - purée the soup until very smooth. Add the remaining ½ Tbs oil and the milk, and stir to incorporate. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary. Reheat gently until just steaming.
Yield: 4 dainty servings