I've been meaning to pick up some celeriac for awhile now, just because it may be the ugliest vegetable in the grocery store. People are always passing it by, poor thing. On the outside it's a tangled mess of dirty, fuzzy roots and knobs, but once peeled it has the faint aroma of celery, a pale color, and a smooth texture. While I always thought it was simply the root of a celery plant it's actually a related, but separate, species. Above ground it grows a few stalks and leaves, but the majority of the growth happens underground in the root. When shopping look for smaller ones, which are tender and have more flavor.
This preparation, which I found on the River Cottage website, is a very classic French approach to the vegetable, pureed in a soup. Along with some classic aromatics like onion, garlic, and leek, the root is sautéed with a potato and then simmered in stock. It's finished with a bit of cream. The result has the richness of a puréed potato soup with very little of that starchy, gummy texture. The subtle taste reminiscent of celery gives it a light freshness. The recipe offers many diverging paths for garnishing the soup—confit of chilies, pesto of parsley and hemp seeds—but we went with the simple crispy bacon and a drizzle of more cream. It was a nice smoky foil to the elegant flavor.
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1-2 celeriac (about 2 pounds), peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 large leek, sliced (about 3/4 pound)
- 1 smallish potato, diced (about 1/4 pound)
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 7 tablespoons (3.5 ounces) heavy cream
- Salt and pepper
- 3 slices good thick bacon, cut into 1/2 inch strips
In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the celeriac, potato, garlic, and onion, and a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook the vegetables gentle until they soften, about 10 minutes.
Add the stock, bring to a boil, then simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes until the celeriac is completely tender.
Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a skillet until just crispy, then drain on paper towels. (Or try some of these other garnishing options.)
Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth (or use an immersion blender). Return to medium heat, and season to taste. Whisk in the cream and serve immediately, topped with the bacon.