You can call it by its very literal name, celery root, or go for something that sounds a bit more rarefied, celeriac. Somehow I’ve gotten into the habit of the latter. (I’m so fancy, after all). But maybe it’s because this poor ugly vegetable deserves all the help it can get in the publicity department.
It’s fun to find it so fresh that its stalks are still attached, which are instantly recognizable as celery. But even if the root is not just pulled from the ground, it’s an excellent keeper, and easy to work with. The peel may be craggy, but is easily sliced off. The moonscaped exterior, knobby and deeply grooved with dirt-collecting crevices, falls away to reveal a creamy interior with pale yellow inflections. I’ve enjoyed it raw, dressed with a light mayonnaise vinaigrette in the classic celery root remoulade. Pureed into mashed potatoes, it adds a light, delicate note to the classic side dish. More often though, I use it as the base for a comforting cold weather soup.
I can throw together a basic root vegetable soup like this nearly with my eyes shut (except for the chopping part). Cube a selection of sturdy vegetables unearthed from the soil, saute briefly and simmer in a good flavorful broth, pureeing at the end and splashing with cream or milk. It’s a combination that’s hard to tire of. But even so, I was curious what an internet search might yield, and came upon this recipe created by Sackville which I used as a starting point.
I love the contrast of the creamy smooth texture of a pureed soup with the heat of a dried pepper or two. Stirring in chopped cilantro at the end provides a fresh flavor (and color) that is unexpected–but certainly welcome–in a fall or winter dish.
Celeriac Soup with Cilantro and Chile
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 dried chiles, some seeds removed (or not, if you are adventurous)
- 3 cloves minced garlic
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 1/2 lbs peeled and cubed celeriac
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/3 cup whole milk or half-and-half
- salt & freshly ground black pepper
In a large saucepan, sauté the onion, chile and garlic in the olive oil for 2-3 minutes over a medium high heat Add the celeriac, cumin and season with salt and pepper. Stir briefly to evenly coat the vegetables with the olive oil and spices.
Add the stock, bring to a boil, and then lower the heat and allow to gently simmer for about 15 minutes or however long is necessary for the celeriac to soften.
Remove the soup from the heat and fish out the chile. Use a blender, food processor or (my preference, if you have one) an immersion blender to puree the soup.
Stir in the milk and return to the heat briefly to warm through. (Note that a pureed soup bubbles like magma, and can splash out of the pot and burn you if you are not careful, though you don’t need to get it that hot to begin with). Taste and adjust for salt if needed.
Stir in the cilantro, reserving a bit for garnish, and serve.
Update: Want another take on a celeriac soup? Check out the Garum Factory’s recent post.