If there ever were casting for the vegetal version of Alien vs. Predator, celeriac would be well equipped to play both roles. With spidery veins coiling a pocked bulb shaded somewhere between wan and death, it’s frightful enough to look at, to say nothing of touching, and the last thing you’d want to nestle in a roasting pan among all those pretty sweet potatoes and beets.
But be brave and face your fear: It’s going to be worth it. Cut away that warped exterior and behold a moist smoothness, crisp like jicama with the freshness of parsley and the grassiness of celery—though it’s unrelated to that common green stalk. No, celeriac is a root all its own, revered in France for rémoulade, that Gallic coleslaw redolent with lemon and mustard.
It’s also revered at Scarsdale’s Savona (2 Chase Rd 914-798-0550; savonarestaurant.com), as a partner for beef and poultry. Chef Eric Goods slices and cooks it in cream, then purées it and sets it beside short ribs. Or he’ll roast it with turnips, carrots, parsnips, and herbs to accompany baby chicken. “Celeriac’s cleansing properties cut the richness of meat, stock, and wine,” he says. “I like its creamy texture and sweetness; it has more dimension than a potato.” And so he’s puréed and stuffed it into ravioli; even taken a tip from the French, shredding it raw into a salad of grilled octopus, red onion, and escarole.
To my mind, there’s only one scary thing that remains: being unable to get a reservation.
Escarole Salad with Celeriac, Green Apple, and Walnuts
Courtesy of Eric Goods, Savona
1 celery root (celeriac)
1 Granny Smith apple (peeling optional)
2 Tbsp walnuts
3 heads escarole, washed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
¼ cup red wine vinegar
¾ cup walnut oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
pecorino cheese, for shaving
Peel celeriac and slice into matchsticks, or julienne (cut into thin strips) with a mandoline. Core apple and slice similarly. Toast walnuts by adding to hot sauté pan and tossing until browned and fragrant. In a large serving bowl, combine escarole, celeriac, apple, and toasted walnuts. Whisk vinegar and oil and drizzle onto salad, to taste. Season with salt and pepper. Toss salad and top with shaved pecorino.