The Vegetable Butcher Banishes Your Fear of Celery Root

published Jun 19, 2015
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(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

Celery root — also known as celeriac — is a hairy, knobby, all-around-gnarly-looking type of celery, one that is specifically cultivated for its root. (It’s not the root of the celery that we commonly eat.)

Despite the root’s awkward, tough exterior, there are rewards to be discovered on the inside. Just get right to it — don’t give it time to intimidate you. The faster you work to remove the unsightly bits, the sooner you’ll discover the earthy, sweet, and herbaceous white meat on the inside.

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)

How to Peel and Prep Celery Root

1. Chop off the bottom of the root, at the points where its hairy appendages meet the root.

2. Cut the top off, about a 1/2 inch below the stem end.

3. Use a sharp chef’s knife to peel the celery root, sliding your knife just between the skin and the flesh, working from top to bottom, and working your way around the root. Use a vegetable peeler to peel any fibrous, underlying flesh.

→ Celery Root Tip: Celery root will begin to brown as soon as you peel it. Rub the whole root with a lemon and store cut vegetable in acidulated water.

No-Fuss Recipes for Celery Root

There are many easy preparations that don’t require a second thought. (There’s not as much work as these scary specimens can make you think.)

  • You can simmer celery root in an aromatic stock until it is completely tender, then mash it and purée it with butter. (Simmer the celery root with onions or leeks, and a potato, then thin it out with more stock to make a soup.)
  • Shave celery root on a mandoline and toss it, simply, with a beautiful olive oil and lemon juice, and finish it with shavings of Parmesan cheese. Take it further with some chopped, roasted hazelnuts.
  • Make the ultimate of the easy, fear-no-more recipes — my apple and celery root slaw. You can use a food processor with a shredding attachment to break down the celery, shred it on a box grater, or cut it into matchsticks (and fine-tune your knife skills at the same time). This slaw is so easy and elegant, you would never it guess it came from such a clunky root.

Simple Celery Root and Apple Slaw with Dijon-Yogurt Dressing

Cut 1 large celery root, peeled and trimmed, into matchsticks (or grate it on the side of a box grater or with a shredding attachment in a food processor). Toss the celery root with 1 crisp apple (or pear), cut into the same-sized matchsticks or grated, and 2 tablespoons creamy Dijon mustard vinaigrette. (For the vinaigrette: Whisk together 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, and 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt, until combined.)

Add 1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts or walnuts, and 1 tablespoon minced parsley or tarragon or 1 cup watercress sprigs. Toss to coat and add more dressing as needed. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Freestyling with Celery Root

Don’t be afraid to do your own thing with celery root. It pairs well with other earthy roots, and many other ingredients. Try it with apples, beets, butter, blue cheese, carrots, chervil, chives, cream, Gruyere, hazelnuts (and hazelnut oil), horseradish, lemon, mushrooms, mustard, Parmesan, pears, potatoes, rosemary, sweet potatoes, tarragon, thyme, white wine vinegar, walnuts (and walnut oil), and watercress.

(Image credit: Rachel Joy Barehl)