foodie fridays: celery root soup

Over the past holiday, we visited San Diego to attend our family reunion. If you’ve never been to San Diego, go. Like now. Book a plane ticket right now, and GO! The weather was incredible – sixty five and sunny the entire time we were visiting. If I could wish myself there right now I would. Sigh.

Okay, where was I?

Oh yes, family reunion.

Since the reunion was after Christmas and before New Years, there were still some gifts to be given and received between family members. My Aunt Joan, who is an incredibly talented chef, gave a me a signed cookbook by the famous chefs at the James Beard awarded restaurant, Bluestem, in Kansas City.

I freaked out. I was so overwhelmed with foodie joy that I could hardly contain myself. I scoured through the cookbook, ooooooing and awwwwwing. So many thoughts and ideas ran through my head. I could make mussels! No. How about the pheasant? Or better yet, monkfish? AHH, the choices are endless!

I did managed to contain my excitement for 2.2 seconds and gave my aunt the biggest hug on this planet. It truly was a very thoughtful gift.

Today, in honor of my aunt, who has always inspired me to push myself in the kitchen, I thought I would cook one of the recipes out of the cookbook. But not just any recipe; this recipe calls for a vegetable that I have never used before.

Have you ever cooked with celery root?

I am not going lie, she ain’t the prettiest gal on the block. Do you remember the scene from the movie A League of Their Own where the girls are at the beauty school and the teacher is telling her assistant what each girl needs to look better? Remember Marla Hooch? I die of laughter every time I hear this quote, “What do you suggest for her madam?” The madam responds, “A lot of night games.”

Anyways, the celery root reminded me of this scene as I was cutting the odd shaped vegetable. Oh, and in case you don’t know how to cut up a celery root, it’s basically the same method as cutting a butternut squash. Cut both ends off and peel the skin off with a knife. Easy peasy. Just don’t cut your fingers!

I had a blast making this soup. From cutting up a strange new vegetable to pouring white wine into a big ol’ pot to adding my own flare to the soup by using chicken stock instead of vegetable and garnishing with crispy pancetta and slices of green onions, I truly felt I was in the kitchen with my Aunt Joan.

You can serve this savory soup as an amuse-bouche in small cups or in regular appetizer bowls. Either way, it’s a win-win situation.

Now, about that monkfish….

Celery Root Soup (adapted from the Bluestem Cookbook)

Serves: 8 to 10 as an amuse-bouche
4 to 6 as first course

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups peeled and diced celery root
1 small yellow onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/4 cups dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup whole milk
2 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and Pepper
Pancetta, garnish
Green onion, garnish
Small crostini, garnish

Directions:
Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the celery root, onion, and garlic and stir to sweat, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and bay leaf and bring mixture to simmer. Reduce the mixture until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf and add the cream, milk, and 2 cups of the stock. Return the soup to a simmer and let it reduce and thicken, about 8 minutes.

Carefully transfer the soup to a blender (if you have an immersion blender that works too) and blend soup until it has completely liquefied. If the soup is too thick, thin it out, 1 tablespoon at a time with the remaining 1/2 cup of stock. Season with salt and pepper. Strain soup through a fine-mesh sieve. Pour soup into small cups or bowls. Garnish with crispy pancetta, green onion slices, and small crostini. Serve warm.