Chosen Bites: A simple and savory winter meal

Celery root makes a delicious puree and with the addition of potatoes and garlic, it is gobsmackingly delicious!

Celery root (photo credit: Laura Frankel)
Celery root
(photo credit: Laura Frankel)
Colder temps have me craving soothing and comforting full flavored dishes. December may be cold and dark, but I am going to use that to my advantage to create a creamy root vegetable puree that is as satisfying as a warm blanket and a succulent roasted chicken that is festive and heartwarming.
For my puree I am using Celery Root or Celeriac. Before you say you don’t know what that is, you really do!
You have seen it a million times in the store or market. It is the gnarly, knobby looking thing near the beets and other root vegetables. So ugly in appearance, you may avert your eyes, but so delicious in its flavor, it will be your new favorite veggie.
Celery root is NOT the root of celery but is a different vegetable entirely. It is also called knob celery. Celery root can be eaten raw or cooked and in my opinion, tastes like what celery wishes it tasted like. It is fresh and tastes like a kinder-gentler celery. It has low starch content but a texture similar to a potato. Because celery root is a low starch vegetable, I like to add it to my stocks for extra flavor.
To peel the celery root use a knife. The knobby and gnarly skin makes it impossible to use a vegetable peeler. Choose a firm and fairly smooth root.
Celery root makes a delicious puree and with the addition of potatoes and garlic, it is gobsmackingly delicious!
Chef’s technique note: let’s talk frankly. When you make mashed potatoes you boil the potatoes in water until they are tender and then drain them and add liquid back and then mash them. Right?
Well, what if you cooked the potatoes in the right amount of liquid until they were tender and then just mashed them? Right there in the pot with no draining?
This simple trick saves you from tossing all that starchy and flavor filled water down the drain. My technique keeps all the flavor and desired starchy goodness in the pot and in your dish.
Celery Root and Potato Puree with Olive Oil
I use extra virgin olive oil with my puree. It gives the creamy puree that little extra something. By cooking the vegetables and garlic together and by not draining the cooking liquid, we end up a savory and big flavored puree.
1 large celery root, peeled and diced 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced 8 cloves of garlic, peeled 3 cups of water or chicken stock 1/3 cup of best quality extra virgin olive oil Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1. Place the vegetables, garlic and water or stock in a medium sauce pan with a fitted lid. Simmer over medium heat until the vegetables are fork tender. If you need to add more liquid, add just a bit. We want the vegetables cooked and with no liquid remaining at the end.
2. If there is liquid left, uncover the pan and reduce the heat to low and keep cooking until all the liquid has evaporated.
3. Add the olive oil, salt and pepper and mash the vegetables using a potato masher, ricer and an immersion blender. Be careful not to over whip the puree so it is not too starchy. Perfect Roasted Chicken
I start my poultry at a high temperature to get the fat deposits under the skin moving and to start the browning process for the skin.
This classic technique insures a crispy skin and juicy meat.
5 sprigs rosemary, picked and finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons 10 sage leaves, picked and finely chopped, about 2 tablespoons 3 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped Pinch red pepper flakes 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling 2 (3 to 3 1/2-pound) whole chickens 2 lemons , cut in quarters 2 celery ribs, chopped 2 onions, chopped 2 medium carrots, chopped 2 garlic bulbs cut in half horizontally 1 cup white wine 1 cup chicken stock Kosher salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 232 C
1. In a mixing bowl, combine the herbs, garlic, red pepper flakes and olive oil.
2. Loosen the skin of the chicken by gently working your hand between the skin and meat. Schmear the herb paste under the skin and in the cavity as well.
3. Place 1 lemon in each chicken cavity. Tie the legs together. This helps the chicken to cook at an even rate and makes the final product look neater.
4. Generously rub the outside of the chicken with additional olive oil and salt and pepper. The goal is to lube up the bird so the meat is tender and the skin is crispy.
5. Scatter the cut vegetables in a roasting dish and place the chickens on top of the vegetables.
6. Add the wine and stock the pan.
7. Roast the chickens for 20 minutes until the skin is beginning to brown. Reduce the oven temperature to 176 C and continue roasting for 35-45 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 71 C.
8. Transfer the chickens to a cutting board and loosely ten them with foil for 10 minutes.
9. Strain the vegetables and discard. Skim the fat from the cooking liquid. Transfer the cooking liquid to a small saucepan and simmer until it has reduced by ½. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
10. Before carving, untie the legs and remove the lemon and discard.
Serve the chicken with Celery Root Puree and natural pan juices.
Chef Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and author of Jewish Cooking for All Seasons, and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.