Cup O' Amazing
Here’s the long and short of it. The other day I was at the grocery store, picking up this and that, and (quite honestly) I had no idea what I was going to make for recipes this week. No blessed clue whatsoever. I knew that I had been going a little sweet heavy, so I wanted to do something savory. I also figured that I should get back to the seasonal theme that I so enjoy, which took those pretty looking (and very reasonably priced) Chilean blueberries out of the running for this week’s posts.
Perhaps it was a moment of weakness, or just not thinking, but I picked up this hefty knob of vegetable, looked at it, and said to myself “This is it!” before thoroughly contemplating what I may have been embarking upon. No, fair reader, it was not kohlrabi. (That lesson need never be repeated or spoken of again.) It was an entirely new ballpark on this vegetable. Something new, something that would test my patience and sanity entirely. Something that would make me look at my motives on cooking. You see, I had picked up the most neutral vegetable in the whole goddamn store. It was…
I have about thismany ideas on what to use celery root for but I decided to stay with it initially out of my enthusiasm for a challenge. Soon, ever so soon, it would prove to be so much more. But today, today the unobtrusive knotted bulb looked at me from the basket, silently asking if I would give it a chance. In my heart of cooking hearts, I wanted to give that celery root a chance, even with my nagging doubts, I really did. I went through my mental lexicon of cooking techniques as I stared blankly at the root in my basket, sitting quietly next to the peanut butter and coffee. I couldn’t force it into David Leibovitz’ Remoulade. It just didn’t say baked gratin or pancakes or anything new. Nothing inspiring. Celery root just was what it was, I could take it or leave it.
Panic set in. Could I do this? I feared I would be stuck doing the same things with my celery root, the same way and getting the same results that leave me mildly unhappy most of the time (as far as celery root is concerned). But I am never one to back away from a challenge. Never. It was on.
No. Instead, I took my celery root home. I was in it to win it.
We danced around each other, the celery root and I, for days. I pondered. I embraced it. I rejected it. I raged the rage if the truly conflicted. In my head, I wondered how celery root could sit there so sweetly looking at me, asking to be something and yet I was so angry and befuddled that I couldn’t figure it out. And that pissed me off even more! Next, waves of guilt and remorse for my misguided anger came in like high tide. Really, this celery root had done nothing wrong- except perhaps for being in my line of sight that day at the store. We talked, nothing resolved. We could not see eye to eye, the celery root and myself. It was an excruciating stalemate. Exhausted, I went to bed that night with a heavy heart.
The next morning, I purely gave up trying. I couldn’t continue to force myself to do something different with the celery root when it was simply perfect as it was. I just had to accept celery root on its own terms. It wouldn’t be center stage of a dish, but it could be an integral part of it. No sooner had I resigned, given up my will to change this vegetable, a little New England fairy whispered in my ear…
“Chowdah… Make some friggin’ wicked chowdah….”
And there it was. It honestly is one of the best things that I’ve ever made, even if it threw me across the mandolin.
White Bean and Celery Root Chowder
-1 pound celery root, medium dice
-1 large onion, fine dice
-2 cloves garlic, sliced thin
-4 cups white beans, cooked
-3 cups vegetable stock
-1/2 cup cream
-I bunch parsley, picked and minced fine
-Zest of 2 lemons, grated
-1/4 cup sunflower seeds, unsalted
1. Put a large, heavy bottomed saucepot on the stove. Heat a generous amount of oil in it over medium heat.
2. Add the onion and garlic. Sweat both until soft.
3. Add in the celery root. Allow the celery root to brown, stirring occasionally.
4. Meanwhile, while the vegetables are browning, combine the parsley, lemon and sunflower seeds together. Set aside.
5. When the vegetables have picked up some color, add in the stock and beans. Check the broth and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring everything up to a simmer.
6. Let the soup simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the celery root is soft. Turn off the heat.
7. Puree 3 cups of the beans and broth until smooth. (The total amount of soup in the pot will be much more than 3 cups, by the way.)
8. Reincorporate the puree back into the soup and also add in the cream at this point. Stir everything.
9. Serve warm, garnished with a heavy pinch of the gremolata.