During my junior year abroad in Paris, in between gobbling warm croissants, raw milk cheeses, and countless macaroons, I ate an awful lot of celery root rémoulade.
The mild, soft celery root, shaved into ribbons and cloaked in creamy mustard- spiked mayonnaise, appeared on every vegetable crudité platter I munched when I wanted a light lunch. I ate it slathered on pieces of cracklecrusted baguette, a small glass of rosé wine on the side. Abstemious it wasn’t, but it was rich in vegetable matter, which, given the butter-chocolate- and- pâté reality of most of my diet, counted as moderation. And the colorful mélange of marinated beets, grated carrots, lettuce, corn, and pale celery root was just as beautiful to contemplate as to eat.
I never bothered making celery root rémoulade when I was in Paris because it was ubiquitous and cheap. Everyone, from the corner café to the fanciest traiteur, carried it. But once I got back to New York, if I wanted any more of that silky, savory salad, I’d have to tackle the homely root and whip some up myself.
And that’s the thing about celery root rémoulade. It starts with celery roots, which, with their hairy skins and muddy crevices, are never going to be the most inviting vegetable in the bin. But once those roots are peeled and grated, a quick toss with lemony, mustard- imbued mayonnaise will make the most of their inner beauty.
These days, my celery root salad of choice is a lighter take on a rémoulade. Instead of mayonnaise, I use a zippy mustard vinaigrette, and serve the salad on a bed of tangy arugula topped with hazelnuts for crunch. It’s marvelous as a first course on its own. Or to make it mealworthy, grill up your favorite sausages— lamb sausages are particularly good— and serve them alongside the salad, letting the mustard from the vinaigrette sauce the sausages and the sausage grease flavor the salad. And even though I’m no longer in Paris, a macaroon for dessert would not seem at all out of place.
For the salad
From Cook This Now by Melissa Clark. Copyright © 2011, Melissa Clark, Inc. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.
Adam Rapoport, editor in chief of Bon Appetit magazine and the website www.bonappetit.com, knows his way around a grill. He has edited an entire book on the subject: The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide from Bon Appetit.