Trying to create “healthy substitutes” of your favorite comfort foods can sometimes be a challenge. Is it even possible to replace one of your favorite dishes with a healthier version and have it taste just as delicious? What if you could ‘remix’ a favorite American meal into a gourmet French entrée? It's entirely possible!
Like many Midwestern families, I grew up on mashed potatoes with country fried chicken and gravy. I grew to love this combination so much that it became my favorite meal. Then I matured into a young adult and realized that I needed to start adding in some healthy steamed vegetables—usually some string beans or cabbage. After acquiring some culinary training, I soon discovered a world of untapped choices for recipes and ingredients and many of my traditional veggies started losing their appeal as my palate grew bored.
But then a pinnacle moment arrived when I was introduced to a most interesting, non-familiar, creepy-alien-looking vegetable known as Celery Root (or the celery root turnip). Discovering how to prepare this exciting vegetable will let you finally say ‘Au Revoir’ (goodbye) to Mashed Potatoes & Gravy!
Raw celery root has an odd rustic shape with sharp aromas and a thick skin. After a little practice—cutting the skin off becomes a piece of cake. But caution is recommended, as you will need a super-sharp knife.
What makes celery root so interesting is that it is one of those exotic vegetables that most people have no clue what to do with it, so supply and demand is rather low. But the healthy benefits of this rustic root are numerous. Unlike the leaves which are on top of the ground, this part of the vegetable stays underground and protected within the soil. Since it’s buried for the entirely of its growth; the nutrients really pile up: potassium, calcium, Vitamins B6, A, C and K, magnesium, phosphorus, as well as dietary fiber. What does this mean for you? It is excellent for building collagen in our skin and tissues, the fiber and vitamins are great for digestive health and excellent for maintaining strong bones, as well as reducing stress and anxiety.
More Health Benefits
Celery Root is low in saturated fat and cholesterol so it’s heart healthy and perfect for weight loss because the fiber acts as a natural appetite suppressant. But be decisive with planning portion servings when selecting one to cook. They may be small sized but one celery root is sufficient for 4 servings unless you want a lot of seconds or left-overs.
How to Cut It
Use a sharp knife (like one of the many we carry at The Chopping Block) with a very thin non-stick blade that allows you to cut through thicker skinned vegetables with more precision. You can also substitute a larger fish boning knife. Cut the “celery root” into small and medium sized chunks so that it cooks uniformly. This recipe serves 3-4 people.
Celery Root Puree
Serves 3-4 people
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 celery root, cut into medium dice
In a heavy sauté pan, add the sugar and celery root and add enough water to cover. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally for approximately 30 minutes.
You will notice a slight color change as pieces start breaking apart when the Celery Root is getting tender. Drain water and add to your food processor orVitamix blender.
A Healthy Version to an Old Favorite
If you desire a heavier “mashed potato” like texture and taste—you can add 1 cup of warm half and half or dairy alternative. Puree until it has a silky smooth texture. If you have a food processor that will work fine, however I pureed my Celery Root in the Vitamix and added in 1 cup of rice milk and a tablespoon of butter at medium speed. Most importantly, add some seasonings such as salt, pepper and chives to taste.
A Touch of French and Italian: “Chicken Marsala with Celery Root Purée”
I love preparing ethnic, international cuisines so I combined two regions—Celery Root Purée (French Cuisine) with Chicken Marsala (Italian Cuisine); to create an exciting replacement for the more traditional Country Fried Chicken & Gravy with Mashed Potatoes. My remixed entrée is way more healthy and flavorful, and smothered with a port sherry wine chicken broth.
Now that you know how to make a healthy vegetable puree, take your knowledge even further with our upcoming Gluten-Free Gourmet: French Feast cooking class. The menu is full of French favorites sans gluten.