Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Celery Root & Apple Soup

Recipe from The Back Bay Grill and Bon Appetit Magazine and Tested in Alice's Kitchen
Serves 6

Well, I'd never before eaten celery root, so when I saw that it was available in Lost River Market & Deli's beautiful produce section, I thought I be adventurous and try something new. Celery root looks like it comes from an alien planet. This recipe was a great introduction to a new food! The soup was terrific and worthy of company. I did substitute bacon for the pancetta and I used the green tops of scallions for the chives since it's not chive season in the garden. I imagine you could make this totally vegetarian by using veggie broth and omitting the bacon and the soup would be good. On Epicurious.com, a reviewer said they added Tabasco sauce and buttermilk for a variation. I think that sounds good too. I did purchase Grapeseed Oil at the co-op. It's very mild, so I'm thinking you could probably substitute a vegetable oil or a light olive oil.

Celery Root or Celeriac [seh-LER-ay-ak] is a rather ugly, knobby, brown vegetable that is actually the root of a special celery cultivated specifically for its root. It's also called celery root and celery knob . Celeriac tastes like a cross between a strong celery and parsley. It's available from September through May and can range anywhere from the size of an apple to that of a small cantaloupe. Choose a relatively small, firm celeriac with a minimum of rootlets and knobs. Avoid those with soft spots, which signal decay. The inedible green leaves are usually detached by the time you buy celeriac. Refrigerate the root in a plastic bag for 7 to 10 days. Celeriac can be eaten raw or cooked. Peel before using. Use immediately after peeling to prevent browning. To eat raw, grate or shred celeriac and use in salads. Cooked, it's wonderful in soups, stews and purees. It can also be boiled, braised, sautéed and baked. Celeriac contains small amounts of vitamin B, calcium and iron.

grapeseed oil Extracted from grape seeds, most of this oil comes from France, Italy or Switzerland, with a few sources now in the United States. Grapeseed oil can be used for salad dressings and, because it has a relatively high smokepoint, it's also good for sautéing. It may be stored at room temperature (70°F or under) or in the refrigerator. Grapeseed oil is available at the Lost River Market & Deli.

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
4 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled celery root (from one 1 1/4-pound celery root)
3 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled cored Granny Smith apples (from about 2 medium)
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 1 large)
4 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup chopped chives or green tops of scallions
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
Pinch of salt
3 ounces thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon) or bacon

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add celery root, apples, and onion. Cook until apples and some of celery root are translucent (do not brown), stirring often, about 15 minutes. Add 4 cups broth. Cover and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer covered until celery root and apples are soft, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly.Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency. Return soup to pot. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated.Puree chives, grapeseed oil, and pinch of salt in blender until smooth.Preheat oven to 375°F. Arrange pancetta slices in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Roast until pancetta is browned and crispy, about 18 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Crumble pancetta.

DO AHEAD: Chive oil and pancetta can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.Rewarm soup over medium heat. Divide soup among bowls. Sprinkle pancetta crumbles over each serving. Drizzle each bowl with chive oil.

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