By Carie Birkmeier EBS STAFF
Celeriac, also known as celery root, is a knobby root vegetable that is related to, but not from the same plant as common celery. It has a rather ugly appearance, but beneath its lumpy exterior lies an incredibly delicious and versatile flesh.
If you can imagine a vegetable with the flavor of a stalk of celery, but a texture between that of a potato and a parsnip, that is what celery root is like. It can be eaten raw, sliced thinly, adding a unique and punchy flavor and texture to salads of greens or grains. It can also be prepared in the same way you would other root vegetables: roasted, mashed or puréed into a soup.
Its mellow, earthy flavor compliments other vegetables while providing a uniquely bold celery-like flavor. This starch can stand on its own, but also pairs well with other flavors while still maintaining its own distinct identity, adding a layer of complexity to any dish. It works well as a side dish to compliment hearty and rich cuts of beef. In an instance where you might default to using a potato, consider celery root (or a combination of the two) instead.
When shopping for celery root, you are likely to find them offered with and without the stalks intact. As is the case with any vegetable, those with greens still attached will likely be fresher. Look for more regularly shaped roots, although most will be knobby and unappealing. The rounder the root, the less waste when peeling. Store celery root in a cool, dry place. The roots will keep for 3-4 weeks.
The stalks of celery root can be used as an aromatic in sauces and stocks, but be aware that the flavor they impart will be much stronger than that of normal celery stalks. The leaves of the plant can be also be used as a garnish or in any way you might use another leafy herb.
The roots, or bulbs, can be prepared similarly to that of a potato. You can cook the celery root with the skin on, which will make its tough exterior easier to peel. Alternatively, you can use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin before cooking—its lumps and ridges can easily hold onto dirt so, in my opinion, it’s best to peel first.
Although celery root can be used in a variety of creative applications, my go-to is this classic comfort-food side dish. Experiment with the ratio of potato to celery root, depending on how much of celery root’s earthy and punchy flavor you want to shine through.
Celery root and potato mash
1 celery root, peeled and large-diced
3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and large-diced
1 stick butter
½ cup half and half (or milk)
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup parmesan or pecorino cheese, shredded
Cook the celery root and potato in a large pot of salted water until tender. Drain and return to pot.
Combine other ingredients with hot potatoes and celery root, and using a hand mixer or potato masher, whip or mash the mixture until the desired consistency is achieved.
For an especially smooth result, run the vegetables through a potato ricer before combining with other ingredients.