Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Recipe: Celery Root and Cauliflower Soup

A lot of people aren't familiar with celery root, also known celeriac. It is a type of celery that is grown for the root rather than the stalks, so it's not the same variety that gets stuffed with peanut butter or served alongside hot wings. The root has a mild celery flavor and a texture a bit like a soft potato, and it makes a delicious and velvety puree. I wanted turn it into a soup, but I  needed to balance the flavor with something else. My original idea was parsnips but the store didn't have any, so I switched to cauliflower. It turned out delicious.

1 large celery root
1 head of cauliflower
1 bay leaf
4 - 6C low sodium chicken stock
1C heavy cream
2oz (1/2 stick) butter
salt and white pepper to taste
white truffle oil for garnish (optional)

6 - 8 quart stock pot with lid
fine mesh strainer

Yield: 4 quarts

  • Start by scrubbing the celery root with a brush under cold running water. They are knobby roots and they take some effort to get clean.
  • Next peel the celery root. This is best done by using a sharp chef's knife to cut away the larger knobby parts and the peel, followed by trimming with a paring knife. Don't worry if you can't get rid of all the peel in all the nooks and crannies.
  • Cut the celery root in quarters, then cut each quarter into 1" - 2" thick slices. Move to the stock pot and add enough water to cover. Set the burner to medium heat, add the bay leaf, and cover.
  • Remove the core from the cauliflower and separate the florets. You don't have to take them too small, just don't leave it in fist-sized chunks. Put these in the stock pot with the celery root, and add more water to cover the cauliflower.
  • Let the vegetables come to a boil while covered. Remove the lid and let them simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. To test for doneness, use the tip of a paring knife to pierce the stem of a cauliflower floret. If it slides off without holding, it's done.
  • Drain the vegetables into a colander and discard the bay leaf.
  • Put half the vegetables in the blender and 1C chicken stock. Put on the lid, removing the stopper on top. Cover with a kitchen towel and blend the soup until smooth. Add more chicken stock until everything blends smoothly.
  • Place a fine mesh strainer over the stock pot and pour the puree into it. Use a whisk to stir the puree around and force it through the mesh. Any lumps or fibrous bits will stay in the strainer.
  • Repeat with the other half of the vegetables.
  • Place he stock pot of soup over medium heat and add the cream and butter. Stir occasionally until it starts to simmer.
  • Adjust for thickness, adding more chicken stock or water if it's too thick, or allow it to reduce if it's too thin. Adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper. If you haven't used white pepper before, be careful. It has a lingering heat and is stronger than black pepper.

I garnished the soup with a few drops of white truffle oil because it echoes the flavor and aroma, but that is purely optional.