So it’s unattractive. Celeriac wins the prize for being the ugly duckling of the vegetable world. That said we know that beauty is only skin-deep, so let’s get down and take a look at the heart and soul of this very versatile yet largely underused vegetable.
Celeriac is a member of the celery family and is often called celery root, turnip root or knob celery. Only its root is used in cooking and when peeled, its cream-colored flesh resembles that of a turnip but tastes more like a cross of celery and parsley, a great combination of flavor. During this time of year celeriac is the perfect substitute for potatoes in a warm home-cooked meal, and can be prepared in similar ways. Grated raw, mashed, boiled and even French-fried, celery root is a winning accompaniment to a fresh green vegetable or salad and anything roasted or grilled.
Celeriac was originally grown in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean, where it enjoys most of its acclaim. It is extremely popular in France where it is used in the classic dish, celeriac remoulade, the matchsticks of celeriac in a mustard flavored mayonnaise and in Italy too, where it is often served with roasted meats and used in stuffings, soups and stews. For whatever reason it is not widely used in the United States. This is a real shame because it has only 60 calories per cup, contains no cholesterol or fat and is an excellent source of dietary fiber. Unlike other root vegetables which store a lot of starch, celery root is only about 5-6% starch by weight, making it a great option for those of us who are weight-watching. (By comparison potatoes are about 18% starch.)
I find a paring knife works much better than a vegetable peeler for peeling your celery root. You want to remove the thick skin and then put your peeled pieces into a bowl of acidulated water (water which has lemon juice added to it) immediately after cutting. This will prevent discoloration. If you are planning to fry or bake the celeriac later, blanching it first for five or ten minutes will help to soften both its texture and raw flavor a bit. I am quite sure that if you try this wonderful root you will be delighted to find that this ugly duckling of a vegetable turns into a culinary swan!