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Smashed Potatoes and Celery Root with Chive Butter


Knobby celery root doesn’t look like a vegetable to cuddle up to, which is why most Americans don’t cook it. But scratch its skin for an earthy aroma that’s celery-like with a distinctive edge. When classically paired with neutral potatoes, it elevates both vegetables, so that together they become something more than either alone. Serves about 6

Tips: I used russet potatoes, but you any unpeeled potato with a soft skin. If you’re a vegan or down on butter, use olive oil instead.

Ingredients

1/3 cup butter
1/2 bunch of chives, chopped
Salt
3 pounds baking potatoes (about 6), such as russet, peeled and cut into 8ths
1 small celery root (about 1 pound), peeled well and cut into ½-inch pieces
About ½ cup milk, chicken broth, or vegetable broth, or more if needed
Freshly ground pepper

Procedure

1. Melt the butter and add most of the chives and generous pinch of salt. Reserve the extra chives and the butter over a very low heat.

2. Fill a large saucepan with about 1½ inches of water, inserting a steamer if you have one. Add potatoes and celery root. Bring the water to a boil. Cover tightly, turn down to a simmer, and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 25 minutes.

3. Drain the vegetables. In a large bowl, preferably warm, or right in the pot, use a potato masher to smash them, pouring off about 2 tablespoons of the butter, and stirring in the milk to reach the desired level of moisture. If you don’t have a masher, fear not — you can make do with a large spoon or standing mixer. Do not use a food processor, however; it will make the vegetables gummy. Season with generous amounts of salt and pepper to taste. Blend until well combined but a little lumpy. (Or if you’re a purist like my husband, blend until smooth.)

4. Mound the vegetables into the bowl or serving dish. Tilt the pan and drizzle with as much or little of the chive butter as you like. Sprinkle with reserved chives. Serve immediately.

Where do you find celery root?

Local grown celery root is often available directly from farmers at farm stands, Community Agriculture Farms (CSAs) and Farmers Markets. You can also sometimes spot it in co-ops and rarely in supermarkets, where you can ask for it. (Cumulatively, asking for local produce can change buying policy.) I bought mine at the Great Barrington Farmers Market near me in Massachusetts from Markcristo Farm. Only three more weeks to go until this and many other northern markets close for the season!

A few Celery root ideas

Thoroughly peel off every bit of the funky, knobby skin before preparing it.

For a bistro style accompaniment, make Celeriac Remoulade. Grate raw about 1 pound celery root and toss with remoulade mayonnaise, which is made with about 3/4 cup good mayonnaise mixed with these ingredients to taste: 1 or more tablespoons fresh lemon juice,1 tablespoon or more Dijon or grainy mustard, about 1 teaspoons white wine vinegar, salt and freshly ground pepper. (If you hate mayonnaise, use an vinaigrette.)

Roasted celery root. Peal, cube and toss in olive oil with other root vegetables,  using seasonings such as herbs, garlic or onion, if you like. Roast in a single layer in a 400 degree oven until done. Salt to taste. (Also great cooked under roasting chicken or meat.)

For soup, Simmer diced celery root, potatoes, garlic and a touch of parsnip if you like, in just enough broth to cover. When soft, blend it, adding broth and a touch of cream to reach the desired consistency. Season with salt and ppper to taste. If you like this extra smooth, press through a seive. Either way, serve hot.

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