Pork and Pickles

These are a few of my favorite things

Celeriac; or what the heck is this hideous vegetable in my CSA box?

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This week at our CSA drop site, someone had abandoned the celeriac (also called celery root) from their box. I snatched them up with this celery root and leek soup in mind, but a couple years ago I’d have been the person abandoning their produce. I mean, look at them – they’re *hideous*!

So ugly but so delicious!

And what is this stuff, anyhow? As you can guess by the name, it’s part of a celery plant, but a variety that’s been bred to form these big roots instead of a large bunch of stalks. They do form stalks (you can see remnants of them on the larger celeriac above) but they’re not particularly edible. To prepare it, you need to trim top and bottom and either peel it with a vegetable peeler or with a knife. I’ve got this OXO Good Grips peeler that I’ve probably had for 15 years, and it does a great job with thick peels like we’re dealing with here. I’ll sometimes use a paring knife or chef’s knife for the job, too.

Eek, it’s naked!

At this point you can cut it up however you like – dice, julienne, shred… But for this recipe we’re going to need it cut into 1/2″ dice. Toss the pieces into acidulated water to prevent browning, then let it sit while you deal with the rest of your ingredients.

Dice up a few slices of bacon and cook them over low heat to render the fat. While that’s cooking, slice up 2-3 leeks and throw them into a bowl of cold water to soak off the dirt that’s undoubtedly lurking between the leaves. Once the bacon’s nice and crisp, remove it from the pan and set it aside for later. Don’t throw out that fat, though! You should have a couple tablespoons of bacon grease in your pan – if you don’t, add a bit of lard or olive oil. Drain the leeks thoroughly and toss them into the pan, stirring to coat with fat. Let that cook on low heat for 10 minutes or so, until the leeks have wilted and are becoming soft.

Leeks cooking in bacon fat – let me assure you, this smells *heavenly*!

At this point, we’re ready to add the celeriac cubes – drain the water off and toss them in. Cook this for a couple minutes, then add 2 cups of chicken stock (substitute water or vegetable stock if you need to) and 3 cups of water. Add a bit of salt and a few grinds of pepper, too. Cover the pot and bring it up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let it cook until the celeriac is nice and tender, maybe 30 minutes or so.

Double, double, toil and trouble

Once the celeriac is tender, it’s time to puree the soup! I usually use my handy dandy immersion blender for this (a wedding gift I’m still using 14 years later!) but it wasn’t cutting it today, so I pulled out the blender and pureed the soup in two batches. Once it was nice and silky smooth, I poured it back into the pot and added half and half, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

The original recipe uses the bacon and some julienned apple for a garnish, but I just end up throwing them into the pot with the soup – I don’t have patience for fiddly presentations.

Dinner!

Along with the soup, I had one of the cheddar and beet green biscuits from this morning’s breakfast (recipe here). Quite the satisfying dinner!

Celery Root and Leek Soup with Bacon and Apple
  • 3 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 leeks, chopped and soaked in cold water to remove dirt
  • 1.5# celery root, peeled and cut into 1/2″ dice
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 granny smith apple, julienned
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, cook bacon over low heat until bacon is crispy and the fat has rendered. Remove bacon pieces with a slotted spoon and reserve. Drain leeks and add to the pan with the rendered bacon fat. Saute until wilted, about 10 minutes, then add the diced celeriac. Saute 2 minutes and add stock and water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer, then cook until celeriac is tender (about 30 minutes). Puree, then add half and half, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Place julienned apple and bacon pieces in bowls and top with soup, then chow down.

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Author: Jess

Cook, music lover, cyclist, knitter.

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