Friday, April 1, 2011

To Celery, or not to Celery.

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate. --Julia Child

There are two things that I know Chris does not like to eat, yet they are two items that I rely on a lot when cooking.  I've been successful at hiding them or painstakingly picking them out of the dish before serving to him, but this week, I decided to put it all out in the open.

The first thing he doesn't like: onion.

He will eat them if I caramelize them or "mistake" them for garlic, but will not eat them raw and is very suspicious if he sees them in a soup or stew.  We're still unpacking and hadn't gone food shopping yet, so I decided to put the items in my latest box to use--which included some nice, yellow onions. I sliced some onion and garlic into a pot with some olive oil and cooked until they started to sweat, then in went a cup of water,  some dried herbs (parsley, thyme, sage, etc.), cracked pepper, and a few pinches of salt.  I coarsely chopped a few potatoes (I had red and white, so did 2-3 of each) and four lovely organic carrots, and tossed in a handful of baby Bella mushrooms (in place of meat).

I added chicken stock until the liquid covered just the tops of the vegetables and simmered over medium heat for about 30 minutes until the potatoes were tender, then let it cool and put in the fridge for the next evening's dinner.  The next night, I grabbed a beautiful loaf of ciabatta at a bakery in Penn Station on my way home, and dinner was done.  It was a perfect meal for what felt like a winter's eve...simple and hearty, and a nice welcome home on a cold day.  Yes, I was sure to pick out any large, noticeable pieces of onion from Chris's bowl, but he made no negative comments and actually took the leftovers in his lunch. (Success!)

The second thing: celery.

I could go on  and on about the numerous tuna, chicken, and egg salad disasters we've encountered at many a sandwich shop: Chris takes a hopeful bite, only to realize his sandwich is loaded with that green, crunchy stalk he detests.  So, when I opened my latest box to see a huge celery root (celeriac), I was a bit dismayed.  Last May, for my FCI class, I had made Céleri Rémoulade (Celery Root in Rémoulade Sauce) and Chris and I both had been surprised at how much we liked it (it tasted a lot like parsley with subtle hints of celery), but I wasn't sure I could pull it off a second time.  Still, that big ugly orb was taking up a lot of space in my newly downsized kitchen, so I needed to use it.  I had some lovely pork chops in the fridge and thought I could make a casserole/gratin type dish.  I had seen a great recipe from Epicurious with celery root, bacon and olives, and decided to change it up a bit.

I cut off the ugly outer skin of the root and cut it into 1/8 in thick slices, using my mandoline.  While I was doing so, I soaked the slices in a bit of water and lemon juice so they wouldn't brown, then toweled them off.   Then, I buttered a gratin dish, put down a layer of the celery root pieces, topped them with crumbled bacon, black olives, Parmesan, a few dots of butter, some garlic powder and parsley, and then repeated this until all the celery root was gone -- which was about one more layer.  I topped the final layer with a bit more butter, and then poured about a cup of whole milk over the whole thing (I was out of heavy cream.)  I covered with foil and baked in the oven for an hour at 400 degrees (removing the foil for the last 20 minutes), let it cool and put it in the fridge to finish before dinner the next night.  (Chris asked,  "What smells so good?") Score.


Jump to tonight -- I topped the dish with breadcrumbs and more cheese and put in the oven to reheat for about 20 minutes, the last 5 minutes on the Broil setting.  I thought it was a wee bit too milky, so poured off some of that liquid into my pork chop pan and made a sauce for the meat, which was very nice.  Overall, it was a pretty great side dish -- lighter than I expected, but full of flavor and comfort, too.  And, there wasn't much left, so I don't think Chris caught on.


Still, I think I better lay low with the onions/celery for a while -- Chris reads this blog after all, and might get suspicious.

Happy eating,
xoxoxo



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