If you're like most of us, when you push your cart through the produce section at your favorite supermarket, you rarely make a beeline for the celeriac section.
Indeed, unless you're an adventurous cook and shop at a very well-stocked grocery, there's a good chance that your market doesn't even carry celeriac. I won't ask whether you'd recognize a celeriac if you saw one, but I'll confess that it hasn't been all that many years since I had my own first encounter with this tasty root vegetable.
In the past, I've generally used celeriac (if at all) in simple preparations: Mix roughly equal amounts of celeriac and potato to make an interesting variation on mashed potatoes; or add celeriac for a more earthy and complex version of vichyssoise, the fancy-sounding but easy-to-fashion cold French potato soup.
Recently, challenged by a new and fun "ingredient of the month" activity in our interactive Food Lovers' Discussion Group, I reached into my mental hip pocket and pulled out a new idea: Celeriac pancakes!
Following the general principle of potato pancakes, I grated a couple of small celery root balls, added a little grated onion, turned the grated vegetables into a thick batter with an egg and a little heavy cream, seasoned with salt, pepper and, just because it felt right, tossed in a good ration of ground cumin seed. Formed into a half-dozen small balls and pressed down to thick pancake size, a few minutes in a little sizzling peanut oil in a hot skillet turned them into crisp-skinned, tender delights; and a bit of melted Cheddar on top of each put the icing, so to speak, on the cake.
Now, a moment of honesty: I thought they were fine, but my long-suffering bride wasn't quite as enthusiastic. She found the flavor of celeriac almost too concentrated for comfort. If you prefer a more subtle flavor, just substitute potato for about half of the celeriac in the recipe below.
To find the Food Lovers' forum discussion about celeriac, click to the original forum posting on the topic, "FLDG Ingredient of the Month: Celeriac!"
Celeriac was the featured ingredient for September, but you're still welcome to fashion something from it an post your results; these informal "food games" on our forum never expire. The ingredient for October, just announced this week, is butternut squash. For the announcement of this topic and follow-up discussion, click
INGREDIENTS: (Serves two)
2 small or 1 large celeriac (celery root)
1. Wash and scrub the celery root to remove any mud. Peel it, using a vegetable peeler or sharp knife. Grate it into shreds, using the large holes on a box grater or the food-processor equivalent, and put the result in a mixing bowl. Peel the onion and grate it into the same bowl.
2. Stir in the flour, the egg and the cream; add the cumin, salt and black pepper, and stir it all together into a thick batter. If it seems too dry to stick together, add a little more cream or water.
3. Form this thick batter into four to six balls the size of golf balls or a little larger.
4. Heat the peanut oil to sizzling in a large nonstick skillet. Put in the six balls of celeriac, flattening them into thick rounds. Let them cook on one side until they form a light brown crust, two or three minutes, then flip them to brown the other side. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, turning occasionally, until they are cooked through, perhaps 10 minutes in all.
5. While the pancakes are cooking, cut the cheese into as many thin slices as you have pancakes. When they're almost done, drape a slice of cheese over each pancake, cheeseburger-style, and continue cooking just until the cheese warms and melts a little. Serve immediately as a light vegetarian main course or a side dish.
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Last week's Wine Advisor Foodletter: Midwestern chili (Sept. 29, 2005)
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Thursday, Oct. 6, 2005
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