My friend Celery Root and I have several things in common. First off, we both have formal names (Celeriac, MaryEllen) in addition to our everyday names. Also, we both use those formal names on anything government- or bank-related so that when we pick up the phone to “Hello, may I please speak to Celeriac?” our automatic response is “Not in right now, would you like to leave a message?”
A more binding link between Celery Root and me is this: we are both misfits. Having spent most of my childhood as an outsider (too blond, too chubby, and way too rambunctious for a little girl), I spent years exploring ways to be considered more “normal.” Similarly, Celery Root is forever on its own in the lonely hearts section of the grocery store, hanging out sullenly with the fresh turmeric and the parsnips while 10,000 bags of baby carrots yuk it up in their very own produce display.
But don’t cry for us, Argentina. Just like Patrick Dempsey in “Can’t Buy Me Love,” we have figured out three surefire steps to popular acceptance.
- Ingratiate yourself with the cool kids. In my case, it was helping Sarah Schmidt with her math homework and fawning over Hayley Winters’ outfits from Esprit. Celery Root has it a little easier since it pairs so naturally with Yukon Gold Potatoes. More on that in the creamy gratin recipe that follows.
- Claim to be really popular in a foreign country. In Celery Root’s case this is not an overstatement (Celeri-Rave, as it’s known in France, is basically the vegetable equivalent to Bill Murray: universally adored despite a gnarled appearance.) In mine it was an outright lie, but these are the things misfits do to fit in.
- Enjoy your newfound popularity – we knew they’d love you all along. Take a page from Patrick Dempsey’s, book, however: don’t offend the folks who elevated you to popularity in the first place. If you do, expect to be alone on your riding lawnmower before you can say, “$1,000 telescope.”
You can try your hand at befriending Celery Root in the following classes this fall: Celebrating Julia Child, and French Bistro. Just make sure your don’t ask after Celeriac, or you’ll have to leave a message.
Celery Root and Yukon Gold Gratin
1 Tbsp butter
1 shallot, sliced thinly
2 oz goat cheese, at room temperature
2 cups heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb celery root, peeled and sliced thinly
1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
1 oz Parmigiano, grated
- Preheat an oven to 375°F.
- Place butter and shallots in a sauté pan and cook until shallots are soft and translucent. While shallots are cooking, place goat cheese in a mixing bowl. Add shallots, while warm, to goat cheese – the heat from the sautéed shallots will help melt the cheese into the cream. Add the cream to the goat cheese and shallots and whisk until mix is smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
- Layer half of celery root and potatoes into a deep 9”pie pan or similar baking dish. Pour half of goat cheese mix over this layer, then smooth as necessary with a spatula. Repeat with remaining celery root, potatoes, and goat cheese mix. Top with grated parmigiano.
- Bake gratin, uncovered, for 35-45 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and top is nicely browned. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.
For more tips on working with celery root, check out The Chopping Block's Owner/Chef Shelley Young's video: