“A typically French hors d’oeuvre” for Julia Child, and the taste of childhood vacations for me, this creamy mustard slaw is a Gallic classic, a stalwart of Parisian bistros and hypermarket refrigerators. equally. Like many root vegetables, celeriac may have a face only a mother could love, yet its fresh crunch and sweet, nutty, slightly fennel flavor make it the perfect base for a winter salad. Next time you reach for a bag of baby leaves or a tub of coleslaw, give it a whirl instead.
Julia Child insists that the celeriac must be softened first, by briefly blanching or immersing it in acidified water. Felicity miniatures.
A celeriac is a celeriac, of course (although sometimes called celery root, it’s actually a different variety grown for what’s below, rather than above). It can simply be peeled and used as is, but, given the rate at which exposed meat discolors, it is advisable to keep it in acidified water while working, or soak it in lemon juice, as Anthony Bourdain recommends in the cookbook of Les Halles. , to keep the pieces with a pearly white color.
Once peeled, it tends to be cut into julienne, or long, thin strips, which can easily be done by hand (kid has a good clear guide in Mastering the Art of French Cooking), though a julienne peeler makes the process faster. while Nigel Slater openly admits that he finds it easier in a food processor. Richard Olney’s French Menu Cookbook suggests you can grate it too, but I wouldn’t bother: the texture is wrong: mushy, rather than crunchy.
David Tanis finishes off his celeriac remoulade with chopped chives and a dash of cayenne pepper.
Child opines that “the root should… be softened somehow,” either by blanching it, as called for in Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cooking, or by soaking it with salt and lemon juice for several hours, which Child prefers, because it “removes the slight bitterness of the celeriac, mellows it out, but retains its flavor and freshness,” an approach also taken by David Tanis in his book A Platter of Figs. Olney, Bourdain and Slater use it right away, and Anne-Sophie Pic soaks the cut locks in ice cold water for 10 minutes, “so they’re nice and crisp.”
Although I love crunchy salads, I’m surprised to find that I prefer the texture of David’s blanched celeriac, which is closer to my memories of the French kind, as it’s snappy yet slightly pliable. However, if you’re in a hurry or like the idea of keeping it completely raw, feel free to skip this step.
There is a remarkable diversity of opinion here, with mustard being the only constant. Some dressings are dairy-based, with Slater and Tanis using spicy creme fraiche and double cream Olney, Bourdain, David and Pic prefer mayonnaise, and Child prefers a thick vinaigrette. The natural sweetness of celeriac means that, as David explains, the dressing must be “very seasoned”, in his case with “salt, mustard and much more vinegar than is usually allowed”. Maybe it’s the richness of the fat, but I find Olney’s version a bit bland; The spicy creme fraiche is better, and the mayonnaise even better, but, again, unexpectedly, as a fan of full-fat dairy, I find Child’s simple yet surprisingly creamy dressing the one that wins my heart. If you fancy something thicker and richer, feel free to turn it into a bit of mayonnaise for something more like David’s recipe.
Anthony Bourdain adds walnut oil to his dressing to complement the nutty flavor of the celeriac.
Dijon mustard is the most popular choice for flavor, though Slater and Pic go off track with the grain variety. This looks nice, but I miss the acid kick of the traditional kind. If you want to use it, use half and half, or add additional vinegar to taste if all you have is whole wheat.
Bourdain whisks walnut oil into his dressing, which works well with the nutty flavor of celeriac, and Olney’s fresh horseradish, which is nice at its creamiest but would be lost in the spicy mustard heat of my recipe (although I looks interesting). An alternative might be to replace the mustard with horseradish and add additional vinegar, or Olney lemon juice, to the dressing to make up for the lost acidity).
Horseradish and lemon juice give Richard Olney’s creamy remoulade a decent kick.
Since it’s usually not served neat, but rather as a garnish, celeriac remoulade needs nothing more to finish than a sprinkling of green herbs (Alain Ducasse uses chives, tarragon, and parsley, while Slater and Olney stick to parsley alone, with the latter also hopping on some chopped walnuts (I like all or any of the above, though chives, as Tanis also recommends, I find works especially well with the other flavors.) Alternatively, add color and warmth with a dash of cayenne pepper , as Tanis does, or take dramatic inspiration from California’s Malibu Farm’s Helene Henderson and top it off with black poppy or sesame seeds.
Remoulade goes especially well with cured meats and fish; Pic serves it with gravadlax at his Valence bistro, and Slater tops his with smoked bacon or mackerel in his book Tender. If you’re using it for this purpose, you can steal some ingredients from the remoulade sauce and add some chopped gherkins and capers as Lulu Grimes suggests in The Cook’s Book of Everything: non-canonical, perhaps, but no less delicious to it. However he eats it, he must be in the company of a baguette. That is not negotiable.
Hybrid celeriac remolade by Felicity Cloake.
Perfect celeriac remolade
Homework 20 minutes
It serves 2-4
About 500 g celeriac (ie about ⅔ of a small head)
4 tablespoons dijon mustard
75 ml fairly neutral oil
2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
1 small bunch of soft green herbs of your choice (chives, tarragon, parsley, dill, or a mix), finely chopped, for serving
Peel the celery, then cut it into sticks; you can use a food processor or julienne cutter, or slice it into 1.5mm thick slices, stack them on top of each other and cut into sticks of similar thickness. As you work, periodically squeeze the lemon juice over the cut celeriac to prevent discoloration.
Now you can use the celeriac as is, but I like to blanch it too. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil, submerge in the celeriac for a couple of seconds, then immediately rinse under cold water, drain well, and pat dry.
To make the dressing, put the mustard in a small heatproof bowl, add two tablespoons of boiling water, then add the oil and vinegar. Season to taste, adding more mustard if you prefer a spicier dressing.
Toss the dressing through the celery, to coat. Now you can serve the remoulade right away, but I think it’s best to leave it for a while for the flavors to meld. Top with chopped herbs before serving.
Celery – raw or cooked, why isn’t it more popular in the UK? And what are your favorite recipes to get the most out of this versatile winter vegetable?