Cooking watery or fibrous root vegetables like celery roots, turnips, carrots, rutabagas, and beets with a little white rice ensures that they will be exceptionally creamy and have a very pure flavor. The apples enhance and sweeten the vegetables. This puree tastes as if it has a lot of cream or butter. The technique comes from chef Michel Guerard.
1 pound celery root, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
3 cups low-fat (2%) milk (2 cups will be left over for another use)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 tablespoons white rice
2 small McIntosh apples (about 8 ounces total), peeled, cored, and quartered, or 1 small pear, peeled, quartered, and cored
2 teaspoons unsalted butter
1. Place the celery root in a medium saucepan, add the milk, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, and a grinding or two of pepper, and bring to a boil over moderate heat. Stir in the rice, lower the heat, partially cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the apples and simmer for 10 minutes longer, or until the celery root is very tender. (The milk will curdle, but the curds will be incorporated when the celery root is pureed.) Drain the mixture in a colander set over a bowl; save the cooking liquid.
2. In a food processor, puree the celery root mixture for 1 to 2 minutes, until perfectly smooth, adding a tablespoon or two of cooking liquid if necessary. (Save the remaining flavorful liquid for soup; it can be frozen.) Process for several minutes more, scraping down the sides several times, until you have a fine puree. Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Add the butter and process to blend.
3. You can make the puree several hours ahead and reheat it (or keep it warm), stirring frequently, in a covered double boiler.
Adapted from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider (Artisan, 2001). Copyright 2001, Sally Schneider.
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