If you were asked to name root vegetables, you probably would overlook celery root, even though it has “root” in its name.
Celery root is a large, gnarled globe—perhaps the least attractive item in the produce section.
But peel away the skin and you’ll discover creamy flesh like a parsnip’s, to which it is related. Its botanical family, Apiaceae—commonly known as the carrot or parsley family—includes numerous* well-known vegetables. While not a relative, it can be cooked in the same way as potatoes.
We grew up in an era and in a town with a wealth of old school French restaurants, presenting the cuisine of Escoffier and other seminal French chefs. Our favorite appetizer was céleri remoulade, a classic French first course.
To make it, the raw celery root knob is peeled and julienned (cut into matchsticks). It is then dressed with rémoulade sauce, a homemade mayonnaise flavored with Dijon mustard. It was served to us in a lettuce cup, sometimes atop greens. Think of a gourmet cousin of cole slaw. We couldn’t get enough of it.
Here’s a video recipe for céleri remoulade.
Called céleri in French and celeriac in English, the vegetable is also called celery root, knob celery and turnip-rooted celery. It can be eaten raw or cooked.
Apium graveolens var. Rapaceum has a crisp, apple-like texture with bright white flesh. The firm, juicy flesh has a mild herbaceous quality with celery-like undertones. Celery root can be a non-starch substitute for potatoes: mashed, French-fried and almost any other way.
Celery root is available year-round, with a peak season in late fall and winter. Nutritionally, it is an excellent source of dietary fiber and potassium, with significant amounts of vitamins B6 and C. It has just 66 calories per cup.
One of the oldest root vegetables in recorded history, it grew wild in the Mediterranean Basin and in Northern Europe, but was considered difficult to grow. Farmers worked to master it, and it became culinarily important during the Middle Ages.
Celeriac developed from the same wild plant as the familiar long-stalk green celery, but you’d never know from looking at them that they are kin. Over the millennia, different strains of the plants were developed for different reasons, some focusing on the root, others on the stems or leaves.
Thanks to Good Eggs, the finest grocery purveyor in San Francisco, for this recipe.