Food Sunday: Celeriac Soup

rollsI’m having a bit of a love affair with celeriac.  Celeriac is so ugly. It is warty and rough. It looks like a large turnip with a serious disease.

But it’s flavor is so delicate and refined, that it actually feels beautiful in my mouth. It feels earthy and designer and French.

It will never look as beautiful as it tastes, not whole at least, but there is something so sexy about all that loveliness under the cover of ugly.

There was a little French sandwich shop in Santa Fe that used to serve celeriac cut into julienne with some apple and dressing. It was so fancy. They called it celery root.

Celeriac, or celery root, is not, as some think, the root of your every day celery. It is its own vegetable, a root vegetable only, a cousin to our beloved celery. If you are very lucky, sometimes the celery- like tops will still be attached to the rough root.  Throw them in a stock for earth shattering flavor.

The white root can be eaten raw or sliced thin into a gratin, it can be cubed in a soup or roasted with other fall roots. Or it can, and it should, be blended with milk and cream and served for your supper.

Celeriac Soup

3/4 pounds of potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 medium celeriac roots (about 2 pounds), peeled with a knife and cut into chunks
3 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, washed, white parts cut into 1/2 inch slices
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
 1 cup milk
 1/3 cup heavy cream

Combine the celeriac, potatoes, chicken broth and bay leaf in a large kettle. Bring to a boil, then down to a simmer. Cook until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a sautee pan or skillet. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes until shiny. Add the celery and leek, and cook, stirring for another three minutes. Add the garlic and salt and cook for a minute more. Add the onion mixture (let’s call it the soffrito, because that’s what it is, and isn’t it nice to have a new cooking word?) to the soup pot. Cook for an additional 10 minutes at a low heat, covered. Remove the bay leaf.

Blend with an immersion blender or if you don’t have one, put the soup in batches into a blender or food processor.

At this point, if you have more soup than you want around for the next few days, freeze some of the puree. You can defrost it and add the milk on some lucky night when you can’t decide what to cook.

Add the milk and cream. Make sure that it is warmed through, and test for seasoning. Add more salt if needed, and lots of freshly ground pepper.

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