Sunday, March 18, 2018

Recipe of the Month: Celery Root and Potato Puree

Our Recipe of the Month for March involves a vegetable we've never tried before: celery root, otherwise known as celeriac. Despite the name, celery root isn't simply the root part of a normal celery plant; it's a related plant grown mainly for its edible roots. These roots smell and taste quite similar to stalk celery, but like most root vegetables, celeriac keeps much better in cold storage than green celery. It's also rich in vitamins B6, C, and K, as well as phosphorus, and it has a not unreasonable amount of fiber and protein.

Despite these benefits, however, Brian and I never had a really good reason to try it until we picked up the most recent issue of Stop & Shop's Savory magazine. In a section on recipes for Passover, there was one for Garlicky Celery Root and Potato Puree, touted as a "creamy side dish [that] goes well with any meal." This versatile dish looked like it might make a good addition to our veggie repertoire, so we decided to stop by the Whole Earth Center and pick up the necessary ingredients. In addition to the celeriac, we'd need some gold potatoes, which are a better variety for boiling than the white or russet potatoes we usually buy.

These ingredients proved to be quite a bit pricier than we'd expected. Even though we were only making a half recipe, we still needed a pound of celery root, which was priced at $2.99 a pound. (We actually bought slightly less than a pound because it was sold in fist-sized knobs, and two of these knobs weighed in at 0.84 pounds. At that price, we didn't think it was worth buying a third one.) We also needed a pound of the Yukon Gold potatoes, which were much pricier than our usual variety at $1.69 a pound. Perhaps we could have paid less per pound by buying a larger bag somewhere else, but we would still have paid more in total, and we would have had to figure out what to do with all those extra potatoes. So the ingredients we bought specifically for this recipe came to $4.20, not counting the olive oil and garlic we already had at home. At that price, this was going to have to be one hell of a side dish to justify the cost.

Making the puree wasn't difficult. Instead of boiling the celery root and potatoes on the stove as the recipe specified, Brian cooked them together in the pressure cooker on his usual potato setting, which worked just fine. Then he browned the garlic in the skillet (using just a bit more than the recipe called for, as is his wont), added the cooked veggies, and mashed it all up together. The resulting mixture had a distinctly different texture from regular mashed potatoes, noticeably thinner and less starchy, but still reasonable to serve in the same position on the plate. Since the dish was new to us, we decided to serve it up as part of a simple meal of baked whiting (seasoned with lemon pepper) and green beans, and let the new recipe be the star of the meal.

The mashed mixture of potatoes and celeriac was definitely more interesting than regular mashed potatoes, though the celery flavor wasn't nearly as strong as we'd expected based on the smell of the celery roots. Perhaps cooking it mellowed the flavor, or perhaps the taste just isn't very strong to begin with, but it was merely a faint hint of celery's usual sharpness in the background, playing off the creamy mildness of the gold potatoes and the mellow flavor of the cooked garlic. It was tasty enough to bring us both back for seconds, but, to be honest, not so amazingly tasty that we thought we'd be eager to make it again. It's not that much work to make, but it's still more work than a plain baked potato, which is almost as good and a hell of a lot cheaper. Maybe not quite as healthy, but there are other veggies you can add to the meal that would be just as healthy without the added expense.

So I'd have to say this Garlicky Celery Root and Potato Puree is interesting mainly as a curiosity. It was definitely worth trying once, but it's not something I feel any need to include in our collection of staple dishes. Maybe if we could find both celery root and gold potatoes a lot cheaper, this lighter and lower-carb variant on mashed potatoes would be worth making more often, but at the prices we pay around here, it's not a good investment.
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