You might have passed right by celery root (also known as celeriac) at the store, thinking it looked anything but edible. I admit, it freaked me out the first time I shopped for it, but I trusted the description I'd read (pleasantly mild celery taste, texture similar to a potato, overall effect of savory, delicious with cream and/or cheese) and went for it.
I've been very, very glad ever since.
Despite its gnarly appearance, celery root is quite easy to peel, revealing a pale green interior and a lovely, celery-meets-tarragon fragrance. Slice it thin and layer it into a gratin. Or chop and simmer with leeks to make this creamy, luscious soup.
In addition to being delicious, celery root just happens to be a very low carbohydrate vegetable, making it a lovely stand-in for potatoes if you're mindful of such things (I am). I topped the soup two ways for the pics - above, with sliced scallions and crispy bacon; below, with a drizzle of walnut oil and toasted walnuts. If you're thinking cheese could be happy here, you're so right...
Did you notice that this recipe provides one more option for using creme fraiche? Given that it's 1) magical with eggs, 2) dreamy with fruit, 3) heavenly as a pan sauce, and now 4) divine swirled into soup, let's make 2011 the Year of Creme Fraiche!
Celery Root & Leek Soup
Serves 4 as a main course, 6 as an appetizer
3 Tbsp. butter
1 leek, pale green & white parts only, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 celery roots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
a few gratings of fresh nutmeg
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
6 c. water or chicken broth
1/4-1/2 c. creme fraiche
freshly ground black pepper
crispy bacon & sliced scallions
toasted nuts & a drizzle of nut oil (i.e. hazelnut, walnut)
shredded Gruyere cheese
In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add leeks and garlic, with a light sprinkle of salt, and saute until leeks are becoming tender, about 8 minutes. Add celery root, nutmeg, and dried thyme. Stir in the water and 1 tsp. of salt (if using chicken broth, add less salt, to taste). Bring soup to a simmer, then turn heat to low and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes or until celery root is very tender. Puree soup in batches in a blender, then stir back into the pot. Stir in creme fraiche. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with your favorite garnishes.