I love to keep a bowl of celery sticks in the fridge; they make a great healthy snack and pair well with everything from ranch dip to peanut butter and raisins. My sons will always reach for a ready-made snack, even if it is as healthy as celery.
But occasionally I don't get around to slicing it, and it creeps to the bottom of the vegetable drawer, lost under a pile of greens and other produce. By the time we find it, the celery is limp and unappealing. Since I hate wasting food, I came up with a solution.
No need to feel guilty over rubbery celery. In fact, you're halfway to the most tender, creamy version of this vegetable yet. With a stint cooking over low heat and the gentle encouragement of wine, celery happily unleashes its sweeter side, transforming into an elegant side dish you can pull off whether the celery is at its crunchiest peak or its rubbery worst. The kicker here? The more rubbery it is, the less time it takes to cook.
The vinaigrette this dish is served with is inspired by one I loved from a now-closed restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina: La Fourchette. Chef and owner Perig Goulet made a heavenly beet and leek dish drizzled with his own vinaigrette, one with a much stronger Dijon flavor than most. Mine doesn't hold a candle to his — well, maybe a candle with a low flame — but I do go heavy on the Dijon, which in turn gives this sauce a thicker quality. I've been loving Trader Joe's Dijon mustard recently because it's nice and strong. The sweet white wine in the braise is a nice complement to the spiciness of the mustard.
This dish reminds me a little bit of my mom's pot roast. She cooked it surrounded by onions, carrots, and celery, and the tender, translucent vegetables were my favorite part. This celery is just right when I want a warm vegetable dish for lunch or a simple side for dinner.
Skillet-Braised Celery with Dijon Sauce
celery ribs, trimmed to about 6 inches (about 1 head of celery)
small shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
chicken stock to cover the bottom of the pan
Splash of sweet white wine like Riesling or vermouth
2 heaping tablespoons
Dijon mustard or grainy Dijon mustard
balsamic or red wine vinegar
extra-virgin olive oil
In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the celery and cook 1 to 2 minutes, turning once. Add minced shallot, stock, and a splash of white wine or vermouth.
Cover the pan and gently simmer on low for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until celery is translucent and fork-tender.
While the celery cooks, make the vinaigrette (which is thicker than a traditional one, and more like a sauce). Whisk together Dijon mustard, vinegar, and lemon juice.
Remove celery from pan and transfer to plates. Strain the braising liquid. Add the shallots to the dressing. Stir in 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Drizzle celery with sauce and serve.
There will be leftover sauce — add more oil and vinegar to lighten it up enough to dress salad, or save for later.
After you strain out the shallots, save your braising liquid and use it as a base for soup the next day.