Celery root, also known as celeriac and knob celery, is a lumpy sphere with gnarly tendrils. While reminiscent of the grotesques in a Hieronymous Bosch painting, it cleans up into a delicious vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked. (The way I photographed this one, quite by accident, makes it particularly anthropomorphic if you squint your eyes. A mutant from a sci-fi flick?) This was the last of several celery roots that I received from or CSA farm and it kept remarkably well.
At this time of year, when the snow is still piled high, fresh salads help cleanse the palate and get us ready for spring. I’ve been experimenting with salads made from root vegetables, which are prevalent throughout Europe. One of my favorites is the French classic “céleri-rave rémoulade,” celery root in a mustard sauce. Julienned into matchsticks, the root, which is non-starchy and somewhat tough, is softened in lemon juice and salt, then tossed with an emulsified dressing of mustard, olive oil and white wine vinegar.
For the dressing, I use the ingredients from Julia Child’s recipe in from the first volume of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, but I make it in the food processor the same way that I make mayonnaise, also learned from a technique of hers, developed later. When my husband first saw the dressing, he immediately identified it as mayonnaise but it contains no eggs. It’s just an emulsion and pretty stiff. There is another rémoulade, a mayonnaise sauce with pickles, capers and other ingredients, like tartar sauce. That may be why some recipes actually use mayonnaise. I make a full batch (which produces enough volume to make the food processor work) as it keeps well and is versatile.
First I made a classic version of celery rémoulade, and on a later day, I made a three-celery salad. A friend of mine took a dish that he called “salad of three celeries” to a picnic a few years ago, and it’s been on my mind to make it myself. It includes celery root, the stalks and leaves of Pascal celery, the kind found in grocery stores, and celery seed. Crisp but sturdy, it’s a great antidote to the winter weather and a refreshing tonic that looks forward to the coming of spring
Celery Root Rémoulade
1 celery root, peeled and cut into julienne matchsticks
1-2 tsp salt
1-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Sprinkle the prepared celery root with salt and lemon juice (amount varies per the size of the root) and set aside to soften for about 30 minutes. Rinse, drain and dry. Toss with the dressing and let it cure for several hours or overnight.
¼ cup Dijon-style prepared mustard
3 tbsp boiling water
1/3-1/2 cup olive oil (a light variety that won’t overpower the lemon)
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
Place the mustard and hot water in the bowl of a food processor and process until combined. With the motor running, gradually add the olive oil in drops and then the vinegar, also in drops. The mixture should be thick, like mayonnaise.
Salad of Three Celeries
Combine celery root rémoulade with thinly sliced celery from the stalks. Add slivered leaves (use the inner leaves from a stalk of Pascal celery) and toss. Sprinkle with celery seed and serve the salad fairly soon after assembling it. The proportions of the ingredients can vary significantly, to taste.