Celeriac, also called turnip-rooted celery, or knob celery, or celery root– is cultivated for its delicious, edible roots, hypocotyl, and shoots. While this delicious root vegetable has many cooks and urban gardeners disagreeing on what to call it– there is one thing everyone agrees on. Many say, celeriac is the ugliest root vegetable ever. I say, while it’s not only ugly, and confusing…you should still give it a chance. Everyone wants to know if celeriac are celery the same thing , and can they each be used interchangeably in cooking? Are they… Can they?
What Exactly is Celeriac? Is it Celery?
Well… technically no. Not only are celery and celeriac appearances incredibly different– celery and celery root are really only long-lost cousins. Simply related botanically. They both have the taste of celery, although many people find celeriac to be earthier and more intense. Both can be used either cooked or raw, but in either case, their texture is widely different, so they are not interchangeable in most recipes.
Celeriac is very dense, hairy, knobby, and strange to look at. The size of a grapefruit and contains a pale-yellow hue. Like most root vegetables, celeriac is perfect in soups and stews. Makes a perfectly cheesy gratin sharing the spotlight with a somewhat jealous potato.
Left raw, celeriac can be grated into a salad and is most famous for its appearance in the dish, céléri remoulade. A very classic cold salad made almost everywhere in France; containing shredded raw celeriac, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, salt , pepper and a dash of lemon juice. Some add capers, green apple or chopped dill pickles, called cornichons.
Celeriac is a humble root that doesn’t get enough attention. I am here to ask you to give this ugly root a chance because celeriac makes a beautiful, creamy, deliciously sweet… ugly soup!
Ugly Soup with Truffle Oil
2 Tablespoons good quality olive oil
4 Tablespoons of unsalted sweet cream butter
1 leek, cleaned thoroughly and chopped in 1/2 in slices up to the green leaves
2 celery ribs, rough chopped
3 large fresh shallots, peeled and diced
2 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 large celeriac roots, peeled and cut in medium dice ( will discolor quickly, place cut pieces in water while waiting to prepare soup)
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
1/2 bunch flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
4 quarts good quality chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup crème fraîche or sour cream or almond milk. Room temperature.
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
Truffle oil, for drizzling
Crispy cooked and crumbled bacon or small diced cooked pancetta for garnish ( optional )
In a large 8-10 quart stock pot on medium low heat, add the olive oil and butter. Heat until the butter is melted. Add the chopped leeks and celery. Stir occasionally for 3-4 minutes until the leeks begin to soften. Add the shallots and garlic and continue to cook for and additional 2 minutes.
Add the celeriac, potato, and a large pinch of the chopped parsley (reserving some for garnish). Add the stock to cover. Simmer for 20- 30 minutes until the vegetables are very tender and can be pierced through easily with a knife. Taste. Adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper.
Remove the pan from the heat and blend the soup with an immersion hand blender or in batches in your standing blender. Process until smooth. Return soup to the stockpot if using a standing blender. Add fresh thyme. Stir in the crème fraîche or almond milk and stir to combine flavors. Heat for an additional 1-2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning for the final time.
Serve in warmed soup bowls with a drizzle of truffle oil and additional chopped parsley.
Variation : Add crispy bacon or pancetta topping to garnish.