Swept Off My Feet
November 2, 2008
Celeriac (or celery root, if that name is more to your liking) has been courting me for some time. At first, it threw come-hither looks my way from its perch in the produce section at Whole Foods, tucked among the rough-and-tumble root vegetables, many of which sport long, floppy, leafy mohawks and all of which are spotted with clumps of earth. It was round, but not perfectly so, with a mottled pale flesh brushed with light strokes of lime green. It was an unlikely suitor, but, still, I was intrigued.
Next, it caught my eye at the farmers’ market, where it sat in a heap next to bundles of the tiniest celery I’d ever seen. There were even a couple bulbous rounds of celeriac with the celery still attached, which led to quite an aha! moment (sort of like studying one of those illustrated diagrams of a cow, showing where each cut of meat comes from). You could say we made eyes at each other, that celeriac and me. But, something about it made me shy (how does one prepare it? what would it taste like?) and I ended up going home alone.
(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)
It was Kevin, of all people, who sealed the deal between celeriac and me. At dinner a couple weekends ago, he began his meal with a bowl filled with a creamy celery root and apple soup. He passed a spoonful across the table to me and, one slurp later, I was smitten. It was impossibly delicate and lush, given its rough-around-the-edges appearance in its raw state. It was also bright and grassy, flavors I scarcely expected in these chilly fall days. And it harmonized beautifully with the sweetly tart taste of stewed apples. I couldn’t wait to try recreating it at home.
So, I didn’t. I bought some celery root the very next day, and sliced off its rugged jacket to reveal it’s smooth white interior. I diced it up and cooked it, along with peeled apple chunks and diced onions, in a melted pat of butter until the pot’s once-opaque contents had faded into near-translucence. Then I tipped a splash of white wine and a container of chicken stock into the pot, brought the mix to a slow bubble and plunked a lid down on top of it all—but not before dropping in a few sprigs of thyme. This concoction simmered until the apples and celery root were fork-tender and then went into the blender, where I whizzed it into soup. I finished it off with a splash of buttermilk, which made the flavors perk up, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, which made the whole thing feel very luxe.
As you know, I’ll say so myself: It was a pretty good recreation. And I think it was also the beginning to a relationship that will keep me warm all winter long.
Celery Root-and-Apple Soup
Adapted from Bon Appetit
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled celery root (from one 1 1/4-pound celery root)
3 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled cored Granny Smith apples (from about 2 medium)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large)
1/4 cup white wine
4 cups low-salt chicken broth
4 sprigs of thyme
1/4 cup buttermilk
fine-grain sea salt and fresh-cracked black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup snipped chives, for garnish
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add celery root, apples, and onion. Cook until apples and some of celery root are translucent (do not brown), stirring often, about 15 minutes. Add wine, broth and thyme. Cover and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer covered until celery root and apples are soft, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly.
Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to pot and stir in the buttermilk. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Garnish with snipped chives and a drizzle of olive oil.