The horror, the horror… Celery Root Soup with Gorgonzola and Apple

How can something that tastes so good look sooooo creepy?  Even the cozy daylight-balanced produce-aisle lighting of Whole Foods can’t dispel the sense that something wicked this way comes whenever I get to the celery root bin.  Hieronymus Bosch, H.P. Lovecraft and Arcimboldo rolled into one beat-with-the-heebie-jeebie stick vegetable.  You know that scene in one of the Harry Potter movies where Harry and company have to wrestle screaming mandrake roots into pots?  That’s how I feel about celery root, like it might suddenly contort in my hand as I lift it out of the bin. Forget pumpkins – celery root ought to be the official hobgoblin vegetable.  If Celery Root Soup with Gorgonzola and Apple didn’t taste so good I’d probably just keep whistling and walk on by.

Lots of people avoid celery root because it just looks too gnarly to deal with.  (I know, I know, I just ended a sentence with a preposition – so shoot me.)  In point of fact celeriac, as the French refer to it, is easy to prepare, and has a few unusual taste combinations up its sleeve – it goes well with chestnuts, for example, with apples (I roasted the leftover apples from last weeks Lazy Man’s Sheet Pan Apple Tart with leftover celery root from this week’s recipe and it tasted great, despite finding myself in straightened culinary circumstances – no bacon!) and makes a spectacular marriage with blue cheese.  If you follow the photos you can peel and dice celery root in a snap, which will open the door to this soup (everyone should taste Gorgonzola and celery root together at least once before they die) and add another alternative to the rut of same-o same-o potatoes and carrots as we forge ahead into roasting season.  If you’re willing to grate celery root (or use the grating disk on your Cuisinart with the big holes) you can make celery root remoulade, which happens to be one of my favorite mayo-veggie salad combos of all time.

Celery root has a hidden bonus.  With only a third of the starch content as a potato it can easily be substituted for the latter in recipes.  A mildly fruity fragrance of celery, along with the flavor of celery and nuts will be added to the dish, but that’s not usually a bad thing, especially as an accompaniment to fish.

And as for celery root’s appearance, once you peel it you’re home free.   Ignore the frisson of apprehension as you lift it from the vegetable bin.  Those aren’t eyes, that’s not a mouth… or teeth…  mwahahaha. 

Ken

Special Note: To the thirteen thousand of you who stopped by our blog to take a look at Lazy Man’s Sheet Pan Apple Tart last week, thank you.  I was, in a word, overwhelmed.  To those  whose comments in Russian or other interesting languages didn’t appear, I apologize.  Please try again in English, however imperfect.  Believe me, your English is better than my Mandarin or Tagalog.  The volume of traffic prevented me from getting timely translations.  You have my gratitude in any case.  There’s something quite moving in the realization that people from all over the the world share a love for a simple apple tart. K.

Celery Root Soup with Gorgonzola and Apple

Makes 1 quart

Ingredients:

  • 1 large celery root bulb (about 20 ounces)
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 small onion, peeled and sliced ¼-inch thick, 1 cup
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • ¼ cup heavy cream (optional)
  • ¼ cup diced apple tossed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice and ½ teaspoon sliced sage leaves
  • 2 tablespoons Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled.

Directions:

  1. Peel and dice the celery root by chopping off the top and bottom so the celery root will rest firmly on the cutting board.  Slide the knife down the sides to remove the skin, then cut the peeled bulb in half.  Lay each half flat on the cutting board.  Using a chef’s knife cut each half into slices 1-inch thick.  Lay  the slices flat.  Cut the slices into batons about an inch wide.  Cut the batons into cubes.  A 20-ounce celery root will yield about a pound of dice.  Set the diced celery root aside while you start cooking.  It’s not a problem if it starts to turn a bit brown with oxidation.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onions until lightly browned, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Take care not to burn them. Transfer the cooked onions to a bowl.
  3. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the saucepan. Increase the heat to medium add the celery root, season with salt and pepper and sear on all sides, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic, cook 1 minute, then turn the heat to low. Return the onions to the pan and season with salt and pepper add the thyme and apple cider and reduce to a glaze, about 7 minutes. Add the chicken stock cover, and cook until the celery root is tender enough to purée about 45 minutes.
  4. Strain out stock and puree the solids, adding stock as needed to make a smooth puree. Return the puree with the chicken stock to the pan. Reheat and whisk in the cream and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  5. Serve in warm bowls topped with the apples and Gorgonzola.

All of the peeling, slicing and dicing takes about 5 minutes.

Jody notes:

When you’re faced with a new ingredient, start with what you know.  Think about the newcomer’s relatives, and their flavor combinations.  Not everyone is familiar with celery root, but who hasn’t had celery?  And since celery is a natural partner to apples and blue cheese in a salad, I just substituted celery root for celery and then–because celeriac is a root vegetable and root vegetables make great soups–I turned the combination into a soup.  Like most root vegetables, celery root benefits from slow cooking to bring out and caramelize its sugars.  You could substitute parsnips or Macomber turnips in place of or in combination with the celery root in this recipe and you’d be fine.

Celery root oxidizes over time and will turn brown so if you want to cut and hold the root before cooking it, store it in acidulated water (water + lemon juice).

I deliberately opted to go with fresh thyme and fresh sage in this recipe. Either alone is fine, but if you have only the dried versions of these herbs I’d skip them altogether.   I’m not prejudiced against dried herbs, it’s just that dried sage and thyme are quite strong and their flavor in this recipe would be a little too prominent.

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37 thoughts

  1. You’re right, it does look rather Sleepy Hollow-ish. We don’t get celery root in the markets here in India, so the gorgonzola-celery root experience will have to wait for me.

  2. Ken,

    To your comment about all of the comments you have been receiving about the GF…as someone who has been in the food industry for some twenty years now, I personally have found that this, which you and Jody have created together, to be perhaps the most thoughtful, well-crafted of all.

    I enjoy entering your kitchen. Feels like mine…

    Inspired and looking forward to more,

    David

  3. Fabulous comments about celeriac. The ugly, the ugly. It’s so great that you write for not necessarily savant home cooks. A small point: it’s “straitened,” not “straightened.” But that’s truly minor. I just love the idea of the combo of celery flavor with blue cheese & apple. It practically makes me feel faint, here at the crack of dawn. And my God, you’re getting replies from Russia? Well, you’re doing something right, and good for you.

  4. Hey Guys!

    I was just saying to Phil that I needed to start making soups, now that autumn is here. Certainly my favorite time to do so! I think I will, as Jody suggests, combine Macomber turnip with the celery root think that sounds unctuous!

    Tania

  5. I’m so excited for this recipe. Just yesterday my co-worker gave me the celery root from his CSA — apparently his wife hates the taste — because he knew I would love it. I’ve often roasted the root and made it into soup, but never with the addition of apple, the fresh herbs and the crown of Gorgonzola. I have all the ingredients on hand except for the cheese, and I know the market will be happy to sell me some. Thank you!

  6. I only just started making soups, and I’m not terribly good at it yet (balance of flavors is off), but… I think I need to try to make this. Looks delicious!

    • This is easy. You’ll do fine. Just be careful not to load up the blender when you puree the vegetables (so you don’t have molten soup blasting out of the top, always a fun element). Ken

  7. HA….I love the mandrake imagery, they really do look like the little buggers, don’t they? I am a huge fan of celeriac, and imagine that this combo with apple and blue cheese would be sublime. I often mash them with potatoes for a subtle twist on a classic. Must make a remoulade one day as well. Love your photos of breaking down the root…that’ll teach it for scaring you!

  8. Used to scare the crap out of me as a kid reading about how you had to stop your ears with beeswax when you pulled them out of the ground or their scream would kill you. Sounds like a good idea with potatoes–I’ll have to try that. Remoulade is sublime, plus you can feel like a turn of the century dandy while you eat eat it! Ken

  9. Hey folks. Another great recipe. Totally fun picking up the celery root imagining I might make it palatable. As I sit with my second cup I read that I forgot the lemon (a mortal sin), did not know when to add the sage and am delighted I added the cream. It is not as thick as your photos unless your apples and blue cheese are sitting on a submerged prop. : ) While the apples floated, the blue cheese will instead be a surprise ending at the bottom of the cup.

  10. Oh, crap! You figured out the prop! Just kidding–we always put marbles in the bottom of our soup bowls before serving. Actually our blue cheese sank too. Jody said to just keep adding more blue cheese, but somebody has to draw a line in the sand. It’s pretty good when you get to the bottom of the bowl. ;) We figured out that if you use smaller crumbs of cheese they float; chunks sink. Glad you liked it. Ken

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  13. I had been on the look out for a something that would make me dig up my last 5 bulbs of celeriac; was reluctant to lose one of the last vestiges of green in the garden but knew in my heart they wouldn’t survive the frost. I would sacrifice more than my celeriac bulbs and greens for another bowl of this soup. It was so very very delicious. Cream not needed with all the creaminess of the celeriac and…sigh..gorgonzola. Thank you. Was heavenly.

    • Hi, Nora–“but knew in my heart they wouldn’t survive…” It’s the first time I’ve heard an end-of-life discussion applied to celery root. ;-) I usually add hardly any cream–you’re right, it’s rich enough as it is, and the Gorgonzola is the surprise. Glad we hit the spot. Ken

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  15. This is tonight’s dinner–eating it as a type (or nearly, don’t want to get it on my keyboard)! As promised, it was the next celeriac soup recipe I tried…just took me a year and a half to get to it. It’s great! I have made some other (non-celeriac) soups using apple cider which had the proportions wrong and were too sweet but this is just right, and the blue cheese is so nice against that flavor.

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