Celeriac (seh-LER-ee-ak - I finally looked up the pronunciation!) or celery root is a knobby, brown skinned vegetable with cream colored flesh that has a taste similar to celery with a little more bite. It is actually the root of a type of celery grown specifically for its root, rather than the root of the type of celery we commonly eat. It's currently available at farm markets and is about the size of a baseball or softball. It's a lot less ugly once you peel it.
Not long ago I cut some up and roasted the pieces with carrots, onions and potatoes. Not a success. I was the only one who ate the celeriac bits and virtually every other piece (save for the three the others tasted) was left to sit forlornly in the pan. In this recipe, however, my family ate the celeriac happily, or at least without complaint. In a mash or puree with potatoes, the celeriac provides a welcome bite and a dash of extra flavor which comes in handy when you're limiting the fat in the recipe. I did this mash with chives, skim milk and just one tablespoon of butter for the whole bowl. To my taste, this is good stuff.
You can prepare this as a puree if you like, by running the potatoes and celeriac through a ricer, or you can simply mash the potatoes with a regular old potato masher. I usually opt for the latter as I like a thicker consistency to my mashed potatoes. This is a milder dish though, than a rustic smashed potato with olive oil, which I also love. This one looks a little more refined and would be great with the mustard crusted salmon I wrote about in my March 10, 2009 post. Though the dish does technically contain a vegetable along with the potatoes, I like to also serve a green vegetable alongside to provide some color contrast on the plate.
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
1 celeriac knob, preferable one closer to baseball sized than softball sized), peeled and cut into chunks smaller than the potatoes
1/2 - 1 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons chives, minced
1 tablespoon butter
salt and pepper to taste
1. Put the potato and celeriac into a large saucepan and cover with cool water by about 2 inches. Bring to a boil over high heat and then reduce the heat to medium - low and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Check a chunk of celeriac and a chunk of potato with a fork to see if soft.
2. Drain the vegetables in a colander and return them to the saucepan over medium heat. Stir the potato and celeriac around in the pot for a couple of minutes to dry them out. Turn the heat to low and either mash the potatoes in the pot or if you want a finer, more pureed consistency, put the vegetables through a ricer (and put the puree back in the pot). Add the skim milk, one half cup at a time, and the olive oil. Mix well. Add the second half cup of milk if it seems too dry. Add the chives and butter and mix again and then add salt and pepper, started with about a quarter teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper, adding more to taste.