When I first saw the recipe for Creamy Celery-root and Haricot Vert Salad in this month’s issue of Gourmet magazine I was reminded of how much I love celery root, particularly in this type of salad. Dressed in a tangy sauce known in French cookery as a remoulade, vegetables transform into something special. Sauce remoulade is a combination of mayonnaise, mustard, capers, chervil, tarragon, parsley, chives, gherkins and a touch of anchovy (optional). A thick creamy sauce, remoulade is traditionally served cold and appears not too different from a tartar sauce — but it’s much better due to all the fresh herbs. Louisianans have their own version of remoulade — “kicked up a notch,” of course, with cayenne pepper, and often served alongside shrimp. Celery root, or celeriac, in my opinion, is the perfect foil for remoulade. Crunchy and earthy, it balances the tangy creaminess of the sauce, combining to form a beloved culinary classic known as celeriac remoulade.
Fairly unknown, celery root is a brown, knobby vegetable that tastes like a cross between celery and parsley with nutty undertones. Although it has been around for centuries, celeriac has not really caught on in modern American cooking. It is in season from September through May and can be eaten either raw or cooked. I enjoy celery root equally in both preparations. It makes a great soup and can thoughtfully be added to braises and stews or pureed as a side vegetable, with or without potatoes.
Now, bear with me on what seems like a non sequitur, but I promise it’s not. This past weekend I was fortunate enough to take a trip up to Western Springs to dine at the critically acclaimed restaurant Vie, which, by the way, features goat cheese from Urbana’s Prairie Fruits Farm along with many other local products from Central and North Central Illinois. With the Gourmet recipe on my mind, I ordered the roasted winter root salad with a farm-fresh deviled egg as my first course. The salad combined celery root, along with sunchokes, salsify, radishes and parsnips, all dressed in a light dressing with copious amounts of fresh herbs. I had been remembering the salad with great fondness for several days following that meal, so I decided I had to recreate something like it at home. Armed with my knowledge of celeriac remoulade as a base, a variety of recipes from my cookbook collection and the bright flavors of this salad crisp in my mind, I made the rounds of various stores to collect my ingredients.
Unfortunately, I was unable to find any sunchokes or salsify, so I decided to substitute carrots and extra celeriac instead. Here’s what I came up with:
For the vegetables:
• 1 medium celeriac, trimmed and peeled with a knife
• 4 small carrots, peeled and washed
• 4 small parsnips, peeled and washed
• 2 radishes, any type, scrubbed clean
• Olive oil
• Salt and pepper
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Meanwhile, cut the celeriac in half and slice each half into ¼ inch thick slices. Cut those slices into 2 inch lengths. Cut the slices, stacked 2 or 3 together into ¼ inch pieces. Repeat with the carrots, and parsnips. It is important to cut all of the vegetables to roughly the same size. Par-boil the vegetables for 2 minutes. Drain well. Toss the vegetables on a sheet pan with a small amount of olive oil, a drizzle of honey, salt and pepper. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes, or until tender (but with integrity), slightly golden brown and sweet. Let cool to room temperature. Quarter the radishes and thinly slice.
For the remoulade:
• ¼ cup mayonnaise
• 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
• 1 tsp. minced capers
• 1 tsp. minced gherkins
• 2 tsp. finely chopped fresh herbs including one or all of the following: parsley, chives, tarragon and/or chervil
• 1 tsp. finely diced shallot or red onion
• A squeeze of lemon
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
Mix together above ingredients in a small bowl.
When the vegetables are cool to touch, gently toss them along with the radishes with just enough remoulade to lightly coat. Season to taste with plenty of salt and pepper.
This salad is great on its own as a first course with a few undressed salad greens or as an accompaniment to thinly sliced, cured meats such as prosciutto or salami. Use leftover remoulade on sandwiches (roast beef), with fishes or with other raw vegetables such as a traditional celery root remoulade.