Published On: Sun, Feb 25th, 2024

How to cook celery root: Scrub, trim, slice and roast

How to cook celery root: Scrub, trim, slice and roast
How to cook celery root: Scrub, trim, slice and roast

Some vegetables seem to call out to me from their produce-aisle bins: “You know me and you love me,” the broccoli and the carrots and the peppers and the collards say, as the timed misters blanket their stacks in a fog. And it’s true: Kitchen experience lets you easily imagine the path from raw and whole to cut and cooked.

Then there’s celery root, a.k.a. celeriac. Gnarly and dirty, with bumps and tendrils, celery root appears to challenge your imagination. “What on earth will you do with me?”

Get the recipe: Celery Root Steaks Diane

The gateway dish usually takes one of three forms: mash, soup or salad. The mash brings out celery root’s nutty side, the soup spotlights its ability to take on a silky smooth texture when pureed, and the salad shows that almost anything can be tasty when raw if you cut it thinly enough — and dress it in rémoulade.

The truth is, celery root can do so much more, without nearly as much prep as you might have thought. It boasts flavors reminiscent of celery (of which it is a variety), parsnips and turnips, and it gets sweeter from a trip to the oven, so I like to cube it and roast it the same way I would potatoes, or, even better, cut it into slabs for roasting and serve them with an old-school steakhouse accompaniment: Diane sauce.

Celery root steals the spotlight in these 5 recipes

I get a kick out of combining these vintage, Vegas-style sauces — this one includes cognac and cream, and gets flambéed! — with vegetables rather than meat. Celery root stands up to the treatment well, with its earthiness playing off the same quality of the mushrooms in the sauce. But perhaps my favorite thing about this method is that it skips the part of the prep you’d think would be a must: peeling it.

I’ve gone on record with my tendency to resist peeling potatoes, carrots — even beets. But even I was surprised when I read treatments by Yotam Ottolenghi, Emeril Lagasse and others that called for you to trim but not peel the celery root before roasting it. In Ottolenghi’s case, the root gets roasted whole for a couple of hours, then you cut it into slabs, broil them and serve with a Cafe de Paris sauce. I wanted something quicker, so I took a cue from a recipe on Vice’s dear departed Munchies food site that has you pan-fry the slabs for less than 10 minutes, then transfer them to the oven for another 10 to finish roasting.

The Munchies folks peeled the celery root, and gave the “steaks” the au poivre treatment, which is delicious, but I was after something a little richer (and with less prep). Instead of hacking off that entire peel, I trimmed off the most spindly and hairy roots and scrubbed. In the oven, just like with whole beets, the peel softens enough to be easily eaten with a knife and fork. Then I built the Diane sauce, sautéing mushrooms and then enriching them with cream, Dijon mustard and cognac, the latter of which burns off in a dramatic flame when you light (carefully) with a (long) match.

The result was so good that I had more than dinner: I had another reason to be drawn to rather than resist celery root the next time I see it in the store. I can almost hear it calling now.

Get the recipe: Celery Root Steaks Diane

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