This side dish is a standard at all our holiday meals — the tart crunchy celery root the perfect compliment to the roasted meats and savory veggies that are served up this time of year. The recipe is a spin on one by Julia Child whose T.V. show was the only one my grandmother — the original gourmet cook in our family — ever deigned to watch.
NOTE: Prep is not for the faint of heart, especially if you’re cooking for a crowd, in which case you can double or triple the recipe. I highly recommend slicing your celery root so it has the thickness of a matchstick, which means opting for the extra step of slicing it once (with a 2 or 4 mm blade), and then running it through a second time on the bias to create a matchstick. If you use the shredder blade on your Cuisinart, yes, it’s faster, but the result tends to be mushier. (This trick is thanks to a hot tip from my sister, who despairs of a mushy outcome.) Or, if you have a food processor with a french fry blade that can produce the right-sized matchstick, go for it.
Makes approximately 4 cups; serves 6 to 8 | Best made 1-2 days ahead
- One 1-pound celery root (3 to 3-1/2 inches in diameter)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons boiling water
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive or mild vegetable oil
- 2 to 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
- 2 to 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (optional)
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup sour cream (optional)
- SUBSTITUTION NOTE: In our family kitchen, we skip the olive oil, vinegar and sour cream combo in favor of 1+/- cup of mayonnaise (Hellman’s, aka Best Foods), and play with the ratio of mayo to mustard to lemon for the right flavor and consistency
- Optional: 1 Tbs chopped capers
- 1 bunch watercress (or other greens)
- To prevent the celery root from discoloring, work quickly. Peel the brown outside off the celery root with a short, stout knife, and cut the celery root into chunks just small enough to fit in your food processor.
- Slice in processor with your blade of choice (and cross-wise again if using a slicer vs a shredder). At once, toss the sliced root in a large bowl with the salt and lemon juice—lemon helps prevent discoloration, and lemon and salt together have a mildly tenderizing effect. (If you are doubling or tripling the recipe, shred and season the root in batches.) Let it steep for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, to make the dressing, place a large bowl over a pan of simmering water to warm. Set the warm bowl on your work surface, add the mustard, and by dribbles whisk in the boiling water, then the oil (OR MAYO, if using instead); finally, dribble and whisk in the vinegar to make a thick, creamy sauce. Add chopped capers if using.
- To assemble, rinse the celery root in cold water, drain and dry it. Fold it into the dressing and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. If desired, fold in the parsley and enough sour cream (if using mayonnaise, you can probably skip this step) to lightly coat the strips. Serve the celery root on a serving plate atop a bed of watercress or greens of your choice.
Note: The celery root is ready to serve now, but will be more tender if it steeps, covered, for several hours in the refrigerator—where it will keep nicely for several days.