Monday, July 19, 2010

0 Recipe #143: Celeriac Remoulade (Céleri Rémoulade / Rémoulade de Céleri-rave)

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When I lived in France, I had the most marvelous marinated salad, which was composed mostly of celeriac, or celery root as it is sometimes known. It'd usually be served cold (or at room temperature) as a frequent accompaniment to a main course, & often seemed to be everywhere I looked. :)

I didn't think to ask what it was called at the time, and it wasn't until much later that I found out what it was called - celeriac rémoulade -- la rémoulade de céleri-rave or le céleri rémoulade in French. As it turns out, it's considered a French classic, & was first popularized in Provence in the early 1930's. It's kind of like the French version of coleslaw, except it's usually savory instead of sweet. ;)

There are many variations of celeriac remoulade: Depending on regional customs & personal taste, it can also be made with apples &/or even nuts. Celeriac remoulade is traditionally paired with shredded carrots marinated in a light vinaigrette. In the French collective consciousness, this is what is expressly envisioned when one thinks of crudités.

Needless to say, I am a huge fan of this dish. And the really cool thing is that the below recipe tastes exactly as I remember it. Eating it transports me right back to France. :)

For those of you who are unfamiliar with celeriac, here's a photo of what it looks like in its whole form and some information about it:

Eat the Seasons (History, Scientific Info, & Tips)
Simply in Season (Fruit & Vegetable Guide)
All About Celery Root (Celeriac) (Buying/Storing/Using)
The Best Choices For Low-Carb Vegetables
Number of Calories in Celeriac

As you can see in the above photo, celeriac, like many other root vegetables, has a gnarled, bumpy texture. While its exterior might not be a pretty sight to look at, like many things, its true beauty lies on the inside. :)

Celeriac Remoulade

Crunchy, light, & refreshing, this is the perfect side dish for summer!

1 egg yolk
3/4 tsp. kosher salt (or finely milled sea salt)
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard (or coarse, whole grain mustard)
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar
1/2 c. canola (or vegetable) oil
1/2 c. nonfat plain Greek yoghurt
1/2 tsp. fresh tarragon leaves, finely minced
1/2 tsp. fresh chervil leaves, finely minced
3 c. celeriac (about 1 medium-sized bulb)

Directions: Using a whisk, beat egg, salt, pepper, & mustard in a deep, medium-sized mixing bowl until well combined. Add vinegar & 1 Tbsp. lemon juice & briskly whisk together, slowly incorporating oil until the mixture emulsifies and begins to thicken. Refrigerate for 2 hours to allow mixture to thicken even more. Remove from fridge & add Greek yoghurt & remaining 2 Tbsp. lemon juice. Whisk again, rapidly, until well combined. Add fresh tarragon & chervil & gently mix together. Place mixture back into the fridge while you prepare the celeriac.

Peel & julienne celeriac into 1/8" x 2" matchsticks/strips (by hand or using a food processor). Quickly remove sauce from the fridge. Immediately transfer celeriac to the mixing bowl where the remoulade/sauce is contained, & thoroughly toss to coat all of the celeriac (to prevent discoloration). Cover with saran wrap & refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. (The longer you marinate it, the better it will taste!) Serve cold or at room temperature. Will keep up to 2-3 days in the fridge.

Yield: Serves 4-6.

Variations: Other possible additions include 1 tsp. fresh, finely minced Italian flat leaf parsley, 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, &/or 1/2 Tbsp. fresh, chopped chives. Go easy with the fresh spices, especially the parsley & thyme -- they pack quite a powerful punch. Add a little bit & then taste test first before adding more. You can always add more later. :)

Also, for a bit more zing, you could try 1/2 Tbsp. capers &/or 1 Tbsp. chopped cornichons (i.e., mini, sour pickled gherkins) or sour dill pickle. (These are actually very traditional additions.)

For some creative & non-traditional ingredient ideas, try 2 Tbsp. shredded red bell pepper, 2 Tbsp. shredded carrots, &/or 1-2 Tbsp. chopped Kalamata olives.

Or, for a little bit more interest, try substituting 1 c. Granny Smith apple for 1 c. celeriac in the above recipe. Julienne into 1/8" x 2" matchsticks, & marinate it along with the celeriac. I've made it this way before, & it's rather tasty! Celeriac tends to be a tad bit bitter sometimes, so the addition of apple really helps to mellow out the flavor of this dish. The apple's flavor is actually very mild & subtle when combined with the other ingredients, so it doesn't really taste that sweet or tart at all. It adds just a hint of flavor. Both the apple & the celeriac have a crunchy texture, so they are the perfect complement for one another.

Some people also like to add garlic, but I'd strongly advise against it. I do enjoy bold flavors, but sorry to say it, the garlic just tastes wrong in this dish. First, I find it to be overpowering even in the smallest amounts. The first time I made it, I tested it with only a tiny bit of garlic & it was still way too strong, so believe me when I say that a little bit goes a LONG way! Second, there's enough flavor in the other ingredients to carry the dish by itself. Also, it's not a flavor that's really supposed to be added. Most authentic celeriac remoulade recipes are made sans ail (without garlic). A much better addition would be chives. They are far milder & complement the other flavors in this dish without overpowering them.

Chef's Notes: In my experience, celeriac is often hard to find at conventional grocery stores here in the U.S. However, I did find it at Whole Foods, so you can either try there or look for it in European specialty markets. My mom recently told me that they also carry it at Wegman's, so that'd be another good place to look. Come to think of it, Trader Joe's might possibly carry it too.

Since celeriac discolors a bit once sliced open, it's advisable to make the sauce first for the best results. Also, don't be concerned about using a raw egg; the acidic components in the sauce (i.e., lemon juice, vinegar, etc.) "cold cook" all of the ingredients and tenderize the grated celery root to give it a nice texture.

Some people like to shred the celeriac with a food processor fitted with a metal blade that does coarse (i.e., wider) cuts. Of course, this will save a lot of time. You could also use a mandolin, although I tend to stay away from them for safety reasons. :) Personally, I prefer julienning it by hand as the food processor blades I own tend to make rather small shreds, which is not really the way this salad should be made. Think I need to get another blade for my food processor. ;)

Also, be sure to use canola (or vegetable) oil, and NOT olive oil in this recipe. Olive oil, particularly extra virgin olive oil, is a bit too sharp & overpowering for this dish. The general concept here is to allow the celeriac, mustard, & lemon juice flavors to take center stage, with the other flavors acting as background notes.

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