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#1011 - Some Thoughts on Celery
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When we stop to think about food, we have to admit that some things are inherently more exciting than others. Wild mushrooms vs. white rice, roast pheasant vs. cold cuts, and just about anything vs. celery. But as innocuous and bland as celery may seem, there was a time in our history when it really did make people weak in the knees! During the Victorian Era, fresh celery was a delicacy that graced the tables of wealthy families. The celebrated Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina, proudly displays sterling silver table service designed especially for celery.
Today, most celery is grown in California and makes its way around the country. It is still very much a supporting player, but a vital one. Basic mixtures like mirepoix (celery, carrots and onion) or the Cajun "Holy Trinity" (celery, onion and peppers) are essential culinary mainstays.
Celery root (a little hideous to look at) is a valuable and tasty root vegetable, suitable for a puree. Its flavor is similar to the stalks, but much more intense.
Celery seed is a useful seasoning. A Bloody Mary cannot be made without it, and it is a featured ingredient in Old Bay Spice.
Here is a simple recipe for braised celery, one of the few times it appears as a featured ingredient:
8 stalks fresh celery, trimmed to fit the sauté pan, with leaves reserved
1/2 stick unsalted butter
salt and pepper
1/2 cup good quality chicken broth
one hard boiled egg
white balsamic vinegar
1. Melt the butter in a deep sided sauce pan, over low to medium heat. When melted, add the celery stalks, and cook until they begin to become tender.
2. Add the salt and pepper and the chicken broth. Cook covered over low to medium heat, until the celery softens. Remove the cover and allow the celery to cook for a few more minutes as the sauce reduces.
3. When the celery is tender, but still has a little crispness left, remove it from the sauté and plate it. Garnish with crumbled hard boiled egg and celery leaves, and dash a few drops of white balsamic vinegar on it.