Cooking seasonally often calls for an added measure of resourcefulness. Wintertime, in particular, can test one’s culinary ingenuity. Asparagus, ramps, and greens are still months away, but experimenting with the unusual can reignite your creativity in the kitchen. New ingredients inspire and make the slog through winter a little more palatable. Roasted squash is great and all, but come February I’m ready something new and exciting.
This week I want focus on a unique root vegetable known as celeriac. I’m drawn to celeriac because it’s weird and embodies winter—it’s hard, snow white, and both beautiful and ugly at the same time. Anatomically speaking, celeriac is the knobby root of the celery plant and thus is often referred to as celery root. It’s trendy to trash celeriac’s gnarly appearance, but it’s a swollen organ that lives underground. What do you expect?
Native to the Mediterranean, celeriac is celebrated overseas. The root is puréed in the U.K. and enjoyed raw with mayonnaise in Paris (see Céleri Rémoulade). The flesh is dense, sweet, and tastes of nutty celery. In its raw state, celeriac’s flavors are mild and less assertive, while roasting brings the natural sugars and earthiness to the fore.
OK, it’s time to get cooking. Start by carefully removing the outer skin, strands and knobs. Trade your vegetable peeler for a bread knife to tame the unwieldy outer layer. A fresh root will emit an intense celery-stalk aroma as soon as you make the first incision. After the skin is sufficiently removed, you’re left with a smooth white sphere ready to be cubed, julienned, or shredded (celeriac latkes, anyone?).
This week’s recipe pairs celeriac with sweet potatoes in a vegetable mash. Roasting the veggies, instead of boiling, allows for more complex flavors to develop over time. Heavy cream works to build a luxurious texture, as mustard adds a bit of much-needed acidity. Enjoy under your favorite meat or mushrooms)
Roasted Celeriac and Sweet Potato Mash
1 large celeriac
2 medium-sized white sweet potatoes
1 medium-sized apple
2 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup heavy cream
1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 425 F.
Peel and cube your whole celeriac and sweet potatoes and add to a roasting pan. Toss the cubed celeriac and sweet potatoes in the melted butter. Add a pinch of salt and a few cracks of pepper. Roast for 45 minutes.
While the celeriac and potatoes are roasting, peel and cube your apple. After 45 minutes, remove the roasting pan from the oven and add in apples. Roast for another 20-30 minutes (or until celeriac is soft).
Add the contents of the roasting pan to a food processor (you can mash it by hand, but a food processor is recommended). Add in heavy cream, Dijon mustard, and an additional pinch of salt.