One of the treasures last week in my CSA box from Featherstone Farms was celeriac (also called celery root, or céléri rave in French). It's a round root vegetable, about the size of a softball, maybe a little bigger.
The surface is brown, warty and tough, rugged with rooty knobs. For some reason, it inspires people to think of trolls! The Dutch use it in their hearty soup stammpot, while the French make céléri rémoulade with a dressing that combines mayonnaise and mustard, and maybe capers or cornichons, depending on your taste.
You can boil it whole in the skin, which takes about 45 minutes, but I'm much too impatient for that, so I like to peel it and boil the pieces. Instead of trying to peel it with a paring knife, it's best to remove the tough peel like a pineapple, by slicing from the top down along the sides. Take your sharpest chef's knife, or even better, a long serrated bread knife (I use my Ginzu knife that I bought at the State Fair from that one guy whose sales patter is a tour-de-force of performance art).
Slice off the top and bottom ends so you can sit it flat and it won't slip. Then, slice from the top down along the side to remove the tough outer layer, revealing the pale fragrant flesh underneath. I love the smell!
The texture is not quite like that of a potato or a jicama, and not quite the same as a turnip's. The odor is between that of fresh celery stalks and celery seed. If you use a knife that is not stainless steel, it will discolor faster and maybe take on a metallic taste, so avoid that. If you're not going to cook it right away, or if you are using matchstick sized pieces raw in a salad, in the French style, put the pieces in a bowl of water with a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to keep them from discoloring.
I just chopped it into chunks and put it in a pot of boiling water immediately. It takes about 8-10 minutes to cook through, or, you can wait until the water comes back to a boil, put a lid on the pot and turn off the heat, and let it sit until cooked through while you do something else.
The cooked pieces can be eaten plain, speared out of the pot, but it's commonly dressed with mustardy vinaigrette, mashed with potatoes or carrots, or used just about any way you'd use a potato. Save the broth for vegetable stock or use in a soup for a subtle flavor.
This NPR story by Jack Staub (from the series Kitchen Window) is a loving ode to celeriac, and has a recipe for celeriac french fries! But these recipes look more my style (I'm deathly afraid of frying things in oil), especially the hearty soups. Celeriac also pairs well with green apples or pears. I think I'll use it with some of the fresh tarragon Loren gave me.