I adore celery root. Its ivory flesh cooks up earthy and nutty-sweet, with celery‑like undertones (celery root is the same plant species as stalk celery but a different variety grown for its roots) and a light texture. Puree the cooked root with touches of butter and cream, and you’ve got a dish that’s neutral enough to stand in for mashed potatoes yet still offers plenty of personality.
Working with peeled chunks of celery root, I found that braising them in small amounts of water and butter produced the purest taste. And yet I soon found myself in a conundrum: It took 45 minutes for the pieces to turn fully tender, but cooking times longer than 30 minutes produced less celery flavor and more slightly cabbagey sourness. I needed to cook the root as quickly as possible.
How to Peel Celery Root
Celery root has thick, knobby skin that can be removed with a chef’s knife after you’ve trimmed off the top and bottom. Cut down around the sides of the vegetable, working from top to bottom and angling the knife as needed.
Small pieces would soften faster, so I used the food processor to blitz the large, dense chunks into tiny bits. I also added a touch of baking soda to the cooking water, because an alkaline environment would help the root break down. Indeed, after just 15 minutes, the mixture had cooked into a mush that I processed with a pour of heavy cream.
The flavor of the puree was delightful, with a mellow vegetal backbone, but since celery root contains only 5 or 6 percent starch, the consistency was loose. Many recipes call for thickening the puree with potato, and sure enough, half a starchy russet provided just enough body. Finally, a couple savory, herb-forward toppings gave the simple dish holiday pizzazz.