Friday, November 7, 2008

Celery Root, Fennel & Potato Mash - Thanksgiving Prep #4

Today I had planned on writing about another momentous political event from ten years ago. But as I was traveling the highways and byways of town today, I came upon an evil so pernicious, so hellish, that I had to change my plans.

Today I am here to enlist your support in eradicating a blight on our society. Yes, fair citizens of Crab Nation, the moment has come to rise up as one and to shout, "I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take it this anymore".

I am of course speaking about the ludicrously early appearance of Christmas Carols on the radio. It is a beautiful day here in the American Midwest, high clouds on what sadly promises to be the final day of Indian summer. Imagine my horror when I turned on my car radio and came across the cloying treacle that is "Jingle Bells".

If that weren't bad enough, this particular station has been playing "holiday classics" since October 31st. That's right, for the last 8 days people have been implored to deck their halls, while mothers, in full sight of their children, have been incited to smooch with a home-invading Santa Claus. Worse yet, the weather outside isn't frightful and I certainly don't want it snowing any sooner than it has to.

BAH, Humbug!

It's not that I hate Christmas mind you, I just hate it in October, before we've even gotten a whiff of Thanksgiving. October 31st to December 25th is 56 days. 56 days!!! Applying the same math we should start seeing Valentine's Day adds on December 21st, and you'd hear about Labor Day sales beginning June 10th.

ENOUGH!!! Stop it!!!

There, I've vented; out with the bad air, in with the good. All I'm asking is, can't we give Thanksgiving a chance?

The transition to today's recipe would have made a whole lot more sense if I'd written the political story, so you're just going to have to bear with me. Today's recipe qualifies as a more sophisticated version of mashed potatoes, or it can also be used as a warm hors d'oeuvre. It won't take to gravy as well as my garlic mashed potatoes, but it should satisfy any gravy ignoring philistine you may have invited to dinner. Enjoy CrabbyScrooge's....

Brandade of Celery Root & Fennel
Gourmet magazine, October 2008

1 large celery root (celeriac), peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 large fennel bulbs (1 1/2 lbs total), stalks discarded, bulbs quartered
1 pound boiling potatoes (2 large), peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice, divided
1 whole star anise, ground
4 large garlic cloves, minced (about 1 1/2 TBSP)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley

For Croutons

1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
9 (1/2 inch thick) slices good quality white sandwich bread, crusts removed and cut into triangles

Put the vegetables in a large steamer rack in a large pot. Sprinkle with 1 TBSP of lemon juice.

Steam over boiling water, covered, until very tender, about 20 minutes

While vegetables are steaming, finely grind the star anise in a spice grinder.

Cook the garlic in a small heavy duty skillet over medium-low heat, stirring, until fragrant and just starting to color, about 3 minutes. Add cream and bring to a simmer.

Puree the steamed vegetables in a food processor or in the pot using a stick blender. As the food processor is running add the star anise, garlic mixture, remaining tablespoon of lemon juice, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 3/4 tsp pepper. Process until smooth.

Sprinkle with parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature.


Heat smashed garlic in 1/2 cup of oil, that's right a 1/2 cup, in a large heavy-duty skillet over medium heat. Cook for about three minutes until fragrant. Remove garlic from pan.

Fry the bread triangles in the oil. Work in batches, without crowding the pan. Each batch should take 1 - 2 minutes, turning the bread pieces halfway through.

Transfer to a paper towel to drain and if necessary add more oil between batches, making sure to allow the oil to heat up for 2 minutes prior to restarting the frying process.

Note: You might be tempted to skip the croutons as too much work or too much fat, this would be a mistake. Try the croutons once, chances are I won't have to encourage you to try them again.

OK, I'm better now. Sometime soon I'll post the political story, but until then, just remember, you can do it, you can cook.

Ho, ho, ho indeed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This looks great & I bet it really 'lifts' and lightens the flavour of the potatoes.