Many years ago I worked in a restaurant called “Piret’s” which was a great place to eat. The owners were really ahead of their time as they had not only a restaurant, but a charcuterie, patisserie, a cooking school and a shop selling kitchenwares. It was a fascinating place to work and even a better place to eat! Over the four years that I was employed there I was lucky enough to work in every area of the business which means I had access to a lot of great food. The restaurant itself featured a lot of French bistro food, in addition to what I would call California cuisine. It was here that I had my first experience with celery root.
Celery root, also known as celeriac, is a root vegetable and has a faint taste and aroma of celery. It is grown for its root, rather than its stem. It’s very “knobby”, quite ugly with lots of little roots protruding from it, and you need to use a knife to peel it. A classic French dish using it is “celery root remoulade” where it is shredded and combined with a mayonnaise dressing. This is how I first sampled celery root and to be honest until a few years ago, this is the only way I’d ever eaten it. Then I came upon a recipe for a potato gratin that also included carrots and celery root and it sounded so good that I had to give it a try. When the weather begins to turn a little cooler my thoughts turn to foods that are a little more substantial than the usual warm weather fare. I’m in luck, as it actually rained a bit here today and so tonight we’ll be having this root vegetable gratin.
Root Vegetable Gratin
1/2 tablespoon butter, melted
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced, about 5 cups
8 ounces carrots, peeled and thinly sliced, about 1-1/2 cups
1-1/4 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
4 ounces celery root, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups whipping cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush a 9″ x 13″ baking dish with melted butter.
Arrange 1/4 potatoes over bottom of dish and top with half of carrots. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle half of cheese over. Arrange celery root slices over cheese. Continue layering with potatoes, carrots and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Pour cream over top. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake about 35 minutes longer. Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes.