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Cereliac, or celery root, may look like a knobby tuber unworthy of the dinner plate, but it is actually an under-appreciated star in some culinary circles. Once its craggy skin is peeled away, what remains is a starchy tuber that provides a welcome alternative to the potato. To cook celeriac, one can travel a few routes, from boiling and mashing to blanching and slicing, for use in soups, salads or side dishes.
Though many Americans might be ignorant of celeriac's uses, European chefs cook celeriac for use in a range of dishes. It has been used as food and a folk remedy for various health problems since ancient Greece. Also known as turnip-rooted celery or knob celery, celeriac grows into a fat knob just under the surface of the soil. To prepare celeriac, it must be cleaned thoroughly and pared with a potato peeler to remove its rough skin, revealing the potato-like flesh below.
One of the more ubiquitous ways to cook celeriac is by cutting it into chunks and boiling it with other tubers like potatoes to make a mashed side dish. One recipe calls for equal parts potato and celeriac root, which are boiled in salted water until tender. The chunks are then mashed with some butter and cream until creamy.
Celeriac is a regular staple in several types of salads, including celerie remoulade in France. This entails peeling and then grating the tuber. The gratings are then blanched in citrus — another way to cook celeriac — then tossed with a remoulade dressing. Similar to tartar sauce, this dressing is an aioli made with mayonnaise, mustard, garlic, relish and any number of other ingredients like curry, anchovies and horseradish.
Less obvious ways exist to cook celeriac, though. One entails slicing the roots into thin strips, a technique known as julienne. These can then be dipped in batter and deep-fried as an alternative to ordinary French fries. Several types of tuber vegetables can be prepared in the same fashion.
Others prepare a complex soup with celeriac as the cornerstone. After cooking the root chunks through with flavorings like garlic and onion, stock is added to the mix, along with simple seasonings like thyme, salt and pepper. After a quick puree, a little lemon juice and milk are added before a final simmer to meld all the flavors into a creamy and savory vegetarian dish.
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