November 8, 2007

What is Celeriac? Also, a Great Recipe From my Chef Pierre

Watch my show today to see some more pictures from Japan! (I just got back last night, what a long flight!). I did want to share with you this amazing recipe for Cream of Celeriac Soup with Arugula Flan.
My chef Pierre Schaedelin made this for me before I left for Japan, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since!

Celeriac, more commonly referred to as celery root, is a variety of celery that’s grown especially for its crisp, white-fleshed, knobby root, rather than for its stalks and leaves.  Many people view its crude, rough exterior with suspicion and may never give it a try, which makes celeriac a truly underrated vegetable.  However, once the peel is removed, you’ll find flesh that’s nutty, sweet, and full of a delicate celery flavor.  And like other winter-root vegetables, celeriac is hearty and versatile, and can be prepared in so many different ways.  It can be boiled, braised, steamed, roasted, or eaten raw.  Potatoes take on a new character when boiled and mashed with celeriac.  It’s delicious simmered in soups and stews, or baked in gratins.  And it’s wonderful roasted with meats, or shredded for salads and slaws.

This is a picture from my very own garden!


When shopping for celeriac, lift it and feel its weight.  It should be firm and heavy;  never soft, shriveled, or bruised.  If it feels light, chances are good that the flesh will be spongy and flavorless.  To prepare celeriac, start by scrubbing the root and trimming the top and bottom.  Peeling the rough, thick skin will be easier if you use a paring knife instead of a vegetable peeler.  Then proceed with your recipe.

Pierre Schaedelin’s Cream of Celeriac Soup with Arugula Flan
Serves 12

For the soup:

1        stick unsalted butter
3        medium onions, chopped
3        cloves garlic, chopped
10      medium celeriac roots, peeled and cut into 2-inch dice
2        quarts whole milk
2        quarts water
1        tablespoon coarse salt

In a large pot, melt the butter and sauté the onion and garlic until translucent.  Add the celeriac and continue to sauté for about 5 minutes more.  Add the milk, water, and salt.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until celeriac is tender, about 1 hour.  Turn off heat and allow to cool down before pureeing.  Working in batches, puree the mixture until smooth.

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For the flan:

12     small ramekins, about 1/3 cup capacity each
        melted butter for brushing

4       bunches arugula, washed and trimmed of tough stems
         coarse salt
1 1/2    cups milk
1 1/2    cups heavy cream
4        whole eggs
6        egg yolks
1        bunch parsley, washed and trimmed of tough stems
1        clove garlic, chopped

Brush the insides of the ramekins with melted butter, place them in the refrigerator for several minutes, then brush them a second time with the butter.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add 2 tablespoons of salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil.  Add the arugula and blanch for 2 minutes.  Drain and immediately plunge the arugula into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.  Drain well and squeeze in a clean kitchen towel to remove the excess water.  Place the arugula in a blender along with the remaining ingredients, plus 1 1/4 teaspoon salt, and puree for about 2 minutes until mixture is quite smooth.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared ramekins and place them in a shallow pan.  Add enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins.  Carefully transfer to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, just until set.  Do not brown.  To unmold, invert the ramekins, giving a gentle tap.  Use a spatula to place a flan in the center of each soup bowl.  Ladle warm celeriac soup around the flan, keeping the green top exposed.  Sprinkle surface with croutons and serve.

For the croutons:

12  slices thin sliced white sandwich bread
      extra virgin olive oil

Remove crusts from the bread and cut each slice into small cubes, about 1/4-inch square.  In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  Working in batches, add 1/2 cup of bread cubes to the skillet, tossing gently.  Lightly brown the cubes, being careful not to burn, then, with a spoon, remove them from the skillet.  Continue with the remaining bread, adding more olive oil as needed.

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Doesn't that look nice!