March 19, 2010 § 4 Comments
Joel and I decided to have a date night a couple of nights ago. Always a good idea in my book. We went to a spectacular little local restaurant that is usually quite packed because of general awesomeness. But, they had recently just expanded to include a little bar area, and we thought we just might be able to squeak in, it being a very week-night-ish night. Not only did we manage to squeak in, it turns out that every Tuesday night they have a 4-course prix fixe meal complete with wine pairings, which is a fabulous deal! We decided to ditch our original plan of sharing little bar appetizers and go ahead and indulge, not realizing that when they say each course is paired with a different wine, they really mean it. A big ole’ full glass of wine. Neither of us were quite prepared for that on a Tuesday. But you know what, when the universe hands you four glasses of really nice, small vineyard wines from the Rhône Valley, you do not say, “oh no, I shouldn’t. I couldn’t possibly. It’s a weeknight.” No! You stay strong and stay the course and bask in how beautifully the flinty, and cherry, and mossy notes pair with the food.
It was a grand evening. By the last course we were waxing quite philosophical and, I think, had come quite near to solving all the political problems of the country, past, present, and future. But, even the first course was stand out. Because, it gave me an idea of what to do with my last celery root!
I had one last celery root (aka celeriac, they’re the same thing) from my winter farm share, which I felt I had to use up before transitioning whole hog into spring vegetables. But, I just couldn’t think of something I wanted to make with it. Celery root is an odd vegetable. It tastes mildly like celery, it has the texture of a root vegetable, and it looks approximately like a bizarre undersea creature or alien life form. It’s general form makes it a little tricky to peel and clean because it has renegade tufts of hair coming out of all of it’s crevices (which sounds highly inappropriate and/or scandalous now that I write it!). I treat it as an adventure in knife skills!
It’s good in soup, or mashed – by itself or with potatoes – but I wanted to do something different, something fresher. A friend of mine from France taught me that you can actually eat celeriac raw; they make a salad by mixing grated celery root with grated carrot and tossing it with vinaigrette. Which would have been nice, except that I had just finally used up the last of my excessive haul of carrots (from December, yipes!) in a baking project, and I was absolutely not buying any more. But, I lingered with the idea of a salad of grated celery root. Maybe a slaw of some sort with something sweet tart to go with the tang of coleslaw dressing.
And then, there it was! In the first course of our fancy-pants dinner. A celeriac remoulade with green apple. My first thought was, “well I am never calling a slaw a slaw again. Henceforth they shall be known as remoulades.” (For as near as I could tell, the remoulade was basically a coleslaw style dressing, deliciously freshened with herbs and some pickle.) My second thought, “Yum. Yes. I could make this. I shall make this.” And so I did, the very next day.
In so doing, I discovered that celery root is much harder to grate and apple much easier to grate than I had expected. Totally doable, but it did make me wish for a food processor. I wanted to use lemon juice for my dressing but had none. So, I substituted some pickle juice (it’s mostly vinegar – it’s sour) and some balsamic vinegar, which tasted fine, but the balsamic did lend the whole thing a slightly less than stunningly attractive brownish hue. I’ll admit, in the end, that it wasn’t quite on par with what we’d had at our dinner (I swear that place has some sort of magic voodoo they use on their food to make it just that much better than what anyone else can seem to make). It wasn’t wine dinner, but it was very first picnic of the year. Maybe it really was slaw, not remoulade. At any rate, it was light, yummy, and fresh.
Celery Root and Apple Slaw (or Remoulade – your pick) (serves about 6 for a side or first course)
- 1 medium-large celery root
- 1 large green apple
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 2 Tbs. lemon juice
- 1-2 Tbs. mustard (preferably grainy mustard or Dijon)
- 2 Tbs. of pickle, minced
- 1 Tbs. capers, minced – if you happen to have them (I think they often go into remoulade, but I think just the pickle adds enough of that salty, briny flavor)
- About 1 tsp. each of chopped parsley and tarragon (you could substitute basil or fennel, or a little marjoram – herbs with a slightly licorice-y flavor)
- A small squeeze of honey or sprinkle of sugar
- A pinch of cayenne (ground red pepper) for garnish
- Peel the celery root (good luck!) and peel and core the apple. Coarsely grate the celery root and apple, or cut them into small matchstick sized pieces.
- Whisk together the rest of the ingredients except for the cayenne to make the dressing. Toss the celery root and apple with the dressing.
- Serve, sprinkled with a little bit of cayenne. (One thing to note is that you’ll want to make it not too long before serving it or it will start to turn brown. It still tastes good at this point, but it’s not so pretty. I guess it all depends on just how picky your audience decides to be.)