There is a season: Versatile celery root could be slaw, could be gratin base

  • Don’t forget to broil for a minute or two to finish off this dish. MOLLY PARR

For the Gazette
Published: 2/4/2021 2:23:55 PM

It won’t win any beauty contests with its bulbous appearance, but celery root’s charms are found within. Served warm or cold, celery root (or celeriac) always has a place at my table.

If you’re unfamiliar with it, yes, this root vegetable is related to celery and tastes somewhat like it. It’s also incredibly versatile, which makes it a favorite of mine during the cooler months.

I wait all year long for the cold weather so I can make one of my favorite Yotam Ottolenghi dishes: a celery root and rutabaga slaw that’s finished with handfuls of fresh herbs, capers and dried cherries.

It’s wonderful. When I’m feeling a little fancy, I mash it like a potato with lots of butter. Then I top it with a piece of baked fish with a Ritz cracker crust. If you have a fall or winter birthday, chances are I’m serving it to you for birthday dinner.

Now that it’s January, I tend to eat it warm, like this celery root gratin that I made us last week. It’s full of heavy cream infused with garlic and thyme.There’s also a layer of cheese making it extra rich and delicious.

It takes some time to make, but most of it is hands-off while it bakes in a hot oven. And, like a lasagna fresh out of the oven, the gratin has to do some standing on its own before you dig in.

You don’t have to bother peeling anything. Just give the celery root a good scrub, like you would for a baked potato. Cut off the roots that will most likely be filled with dirt, and toss that into the compost.

I’ll be honest and admit that I actually enlisted my husband for help prepping it on my mandolin — I just couldn’t get a strong enough grip on it. C’est la vie. If you don’t have enough celery root, feel free to use a Russet potato or two to supplement. If you don’t have a gratin dish, use a quart-sized baking dish in its place.

Ingredients

2 lbs of celery root, cleaned and sliced one-quarter inch (5 mm) thin on a mandolin

1 cup grated cheese, preferably gruyere or fontina

1 and three-quarter cups heavy cream

2 clove garlic, unpeeled

3 sprigs fresh thyme

Butter for buttering the shallow one-quart gratin dish

Directions

Preheat oven to 400F.

Butter your baking dish.

Layer the celeriac slices in the gratin dish. Sprinkle the grated cheese on the top layer.

In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream, garlic cloves and thyme sprigs to a near boil. Reduce to simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat and strain over a measuring cup (one with a spout will make it easier to pour cream).

Pour infused cream over the dish. Cover with foil, and place in the hot oven for 55 minutes.

Remove foil cover and turn oven to broil for two minutes to brown the top. Pay close attention to make sure it doesn’t burn!

Remove the very hot dish from the oven and let rest for 20 minutes to allow the cream to finish being absorbed.

Molly Parr lives in Florence with her husband and two young daughters. She’s been writing her food blog, Cheap Beets, since 2010. Send questions or comments to molly.parr@gmail.com. 




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