We have started experimenting with some of the classic French hors-d'oeuvre. We covered Tapenade last week as it is popular in summer, but celeri remoulade, champignons à la Grecque and grated carrot salad are ubiquitous, available mass-produced in every French supermarket, and most taste as boring and predictable as store-bought coleslaw.
Our starting point has been the notion that something becomes popular and enters the realm of 'classic' because it is or was good, likely very good. As time moves on and once industrial manufacturing gets involved, there may be little of the original 'classic' left.
H/T to Julia child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle for their contribution to this dish. This version has been adapted from theirs with a hint of Escoffier and an idea inspired by Anthony Bourdain.
Celeriac\celery root is related to celery but it's only the root, not the leaves, that is eaten. It keeps well and can be stored whole for a number of months.
Fresh from the garden there is no need to soak it, but in general celeriac benefits from blanching or better still soaking in an acid bath to reduce its bitter edge.
It is normally grated, but here is part of the 'classic' loss. It loses its bite and becomes mushy. It is better to cut it by hand into matchsticks (julienne). I haven't found a machine, other than a razor sharp mandolin, that can do this convincingly.
Don't use all walnut oil, it is too overpowering.
- 1 firm celeriac\celery root - 450g\1lb in weight (size of a large beetroot)
- Juice of half a lemon
- 60ml\2fl oz\4 tablespoons of Dijon mustard
- 30ml\1fl oz\2 tablespoons of boiling water
- 60ml\2fl oz\¼ cup cream
- 30ml\1fl oz\2 tablespoons walnut or salad oil
- 30ml\1fl oz\2 tablespoons salad oil
- 1 tablespoon of white wine or cider vinegar
- A small handful of fresh parsley
- Salt & Pepper
Tools of the Trade
- A hand whisk or electric mixer
Using a sharp knife, peel the root until you have removed the furrowed outer surface.
To make the acid bath place the lemon juice in a bowl big enough to hold the celeriac. Beat in one teaspoon of salt until it has disolved, then add two tablespoons of water.
Cut the root into thin slices, then stack a few of these on top of each other and cut through to create matchsticks or julienne strips (as recommended above).
To prevent discolouration add the strips, as soon as they are cut, to the acid bath. When complete toss the strips until all are coated, then leave to soak for up to one hour. Drain rinse in running water, then dry using a salad spinner and/or kitchen towel.
To make the dressing, warm a mixing bowl (big enough to hold the celeriac too), then dry it thoroughly. Add the mustard, a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper and gently whisk while adding the boiling water a couple of drops at a time.
Whisk in the cream a little at time, followed by the oil/s using the same method.
Lastly whisk in the vinegar a couple of drops at a time.
The resultant sauce should be glossy with a smooth nutty flavour. If it tastes too acidic beat in another 1-2 teaspoons of salad oil as the celeriac\celery root will also sharpen the flavour.
Fold the celeriac\celery root into the sauce and refrigerate for 2-4 hours. Serve with finely chopped parsey, as shown in the photo above, and fresh bread.
It is excellent served as an accompaniment to roast beef or veal.
If you use purely salad oil, it can be garnished with hazlenut or walnut pieces.