To our surprise, two lumpy, bumpy, oh-so-quick-to-oxidize celeriac that we tugged from the soil the day before stole the show.
Since I had to work the evening before, I decided to prepare what I could that afternoon to ease the morning’s tasks. As I was chopping the vegetables for the stuffing, I realized the fridge was harboring just a half bunch of celery. Instead of trudging off to the store for more, we opted to supplement with diced celeriac.
This rather new-to-us root vegetable has been a longtime staple in Europe, noted for its mild flavor — reminiscent of celery and parsley. Although it takes a long time to grow (it’s the first seeds I sow in late February), the wait is worth it. The serrated leaves add vibrant color to the garden, and the plants are rather maintenance free. All they’ve needed is a bit of weeding now and then and supplemental water in a dry season.
I set them out in early May (they can tolerate mild frosts), and give them little thought until October when we pull the first bulbs.
Aptly described by NPR as “a troll’s orb of warts and roots,” celeriac would be hard-pressed to win a beauty pageant. But since we’ve learned to look beyond its unsightly appearance, we’ve grown quite fond of it.
So, to offset the shortage of true celery, Kevin stepped out to the garden and pulled two ugly, twisted bulbs, topped by parsley-like dark green, floppy leaves.
After cutting away the leaves and much, much rinsing of the root, I sliced away the hairy exterior until I was left with a smooth, off-white mass, akin in texture to a turnip. This I quickly diced and immediately added to the onions and celery already braising in a stick of melted butter. (If celeriac must sit before being cooked, it’s best to dip it into lemon juice-laced water to prevent browning.)
Once the onions were translucent and the rest soft, I folded in cubed rye bread and seasoned the melange with some salt, pepper, parsley and sage.
Kevin judged the result to be the best stuffing he has ever tasted. (I’d have to agree.)
And, when our son helped himself to leftovers the next day, he reached the same conclusion.
So from now on, I can no longer look to rye bread as the key to flavorful stuffing — it’s lumpy, bumpy, but oh-so-flavorful celeriac.