Creating a vegetarian Thanksgiving menu got me thinking about celery-root soups. Celery root, also known as celeriac, is a vegetable I hadn't cooked with before. However I'm always adventurous in the kitchen, so I adapted a recipe that highlights the knobby vegetable. The end result was delicious and velvety, with a rich, celery flavor. The bacon permeates the puree with smokiness and the apple adds a necessary crunch. This would be an elegant start to Thanksgiving dinner or any other formal meal. To meet celery root and see how I made it,
4 medium leeks, white and pale green parts only
4 bacon slices
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 lb. celery root, peeled with a knife and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup vermouth
4 3/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 Granny Smith apple
3/4 celery rib, very thinly sliced on a long diagonal (1/2 cup)
1/3 cup inner-celery leaves
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/2 cup half-and-half
- Halve leeks lengthwise, then coarsely chop. Wash leeks in a bowl of cold water, agitating them, then lift out onto paper towels and pat dry.
- Cook bacon in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, turning occasionally, until crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels.
- Pour off all but 2 tsp. fat from pot, then add oil and cook leeks over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 6 minutes.
- Add celery root and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.
- Add vermouth and cook sizzling, for 3 minutes.
- Add broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until celery root is very tender, 35 to 40 minutes.
- While soup simmers, thinly slice apple lengthwise into 1/8-inch-thick slices with slicer, working around core, then cut slices into 1/8-inch matchsticks with a knife. Gently toss with celery and celery leaves.
- Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids), transferring to a bowl. Return soup to cleaned pot. If soup is too thick, thin with 1/2 to 3/4 cup water. Stir in salt, pepper, and half-and-half and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until warm.
- Season with salt, then divide among 4 bowls, and top with apple-celery mixture and coarsely crumbled bacon.
Make ahead: Soup, without half-and-half, can be made 1 day ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then chilled, covered. Reheat over moderately low heat, then add half-and-half and cook until heated through. Cool bacon completely, then chill, wrapped in paper towels in a sealed plastic bag. Recrisp in a preheated 300°F oven 6 to 8 minutes, or wrap in a paper towel and recrisp in a microwave 30 seconds to 1 minute. Prepare apple-celery mixture while reheating soup and recrisping bacon.