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 mustard vinaigrette
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt plus 1 small pinch
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/4 pounds sausages, whatever kind you like
For the salad
1 medium celery root, trimmed and peeled (see What Else?)
5 cups arugula or other salad green, torn into bite- size pieces
1/4 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts
To make the mustard vinaigrette, with a mortar and pestle or using the fl at side of a knife, smash the garlic and tiny pinch of salt to make a paste. Whisk it in a small bowl with the mustard, vinegar, and remaining salt. Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the oil until fully incorporated. Season with pepper.
Preheat the broiler. Prick the sausages all over with a fork, then lay them on a baking sheet. Broil them about 3 inches from the heat until browned on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side (exactly how long will depend on your oven and the thickness of your sausage).
Fit a food processor with a large grating blade; grate the celery root. You can also use a box grater, though beware your knuckles. Transfer to a large bowl and add the salad greens and hazelnuts. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and toss well. Season with more salt, lemon juice, and/or olive oil if needed before serving.
This recipe calls for a medium celery root, which is about the same size as a large navel orange (4 or 5 inches in diameter). If you can only get one of the giant, grapefruit- size roots, use about three- quarters of it. Or use it all; just make a little extra vinaigrette to make sure it’s well seasoned.
Trimming the celery root is probably the hardest and most annoying thing about this recipe. You can use a sharp vegetable peeler, but a sharp paring knife is more efficient. Either way, be prepared to go deep. You will likely need to hack off about a quarter inch of the surface to get past the divots of dirt.
This goes really well with mashed Yukon Gold potatoes. To make them, try this: Boil the potatoes (unpeeled) in plenty of water until very soft. Drain, let cool, then slip off the skins. In the same pot you used to boil the potatoes, heat some milk or chicken stock seasoned with salt until simmering. Add the potatoes and a lump of butter (use as much as you can bear; my tolerance is high), and mash with a potato masher or fork over very low heat until as smooth as you like it. We like lumps. Sometimes I leave the skin on the potatoes. Serve at once.
From Cook This Now by Melissa Clark. Copyright © 2011, Melissa Clark, Inc. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.
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