In celebration of celeryAugust 25, 2009
If there’s one vegetable always found in my crisper, it’s the humble bunch of celery – it goes in everything from soups to curries to pasta to tagines to all those good Mediterranean casserolish things, and even when past its prime it still keeps that fresh flavour note. But until now, the ol’ soffrito has been pretty much been the limit of my use of celery – chopped and sauteed along with the onion, carrot, garlic, etc. I’ve always hated the whole raw celery stick thing (same with raw carrot sticks – ugh), and lumps of raw celery in salads somehow speak to me of lack of imagination. As for that childhood Healthy Eating craze for celery sticks with peanut butter – eew.
However, when I got home from woodwork school the other week, Senor had made the most surprising and delicious Marcella Hazan dish – braised, gratineed celery. It was incredible: blanched, then braised in beef stock, sauteed with pancetta, onion & garlic, and then baked with parmesan over the top. Even after all that dousing it holds such a zingy, fresh flavour, but the texture is beautifully soft while still retaining the tiniest bit of crunch.
I made it again last night, and it will now go on my list of vegetable winners. I think you should try it too. My next experiment with celery will be Marcella’s braised celery and potato with lemon juice. Sounds equally good. This recipe is from The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking that I so selflessly gave Senor for his birthday …
Marcella Hazan’s Braised & Gratineed Celery Sticks with Parmesan
- 2 large bunches celery
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
- 25g butter (I skipped this & used olive oil only)
- 4 tablespoons chopped pancetta or prosciutto (I used speck)
- 500ml diluted beef consomme (I used a small diluted amount of the very fancy Simon Johnson veal stock I was given for my birthday – thanks Ricardo!)
- Cut off celery’s leafy tops and save the hearts for salad. Peel the strings off the celery and cut into 7cm lengths.
- Bring water to the boil, drop in the celery and 1 minute after water returns to the boil, drain and remove.
- Saute onion until translucent, then add pancetta/proscuitto and cook for 1 minute.
- Add celery, stir to coat well and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the broth/stock/consomme, adjust heat to very gentle simmer and cover the pan. Cook until celery feels tender when prodded, then remove lid and raise heat to boil away all liquid.
- Arrange the celery in a heatproof baking dish with the concave side of the sticks facing up. Spoon onion & pancetta mix over the celery, then sprinkle with grated Parmesan.
- Bake in the oven for a few minutes until the cheese melts and forms a light crust. Remove from oven and allow it to settle for several minutes before bringing it to the table.
So, there’s my (well, Marcella’s) celery celebration. Any other ideas for this excellent and versatile friend of the fridge?