Celeriac. Celery root. Turnip-rooted celery. Knob celery. All names for the gnarly rooted winter vegetable that is a member of the same family as parsnips, carrots, chervil, parsley, and fennel. As roots reach deeper into the earth and celery-like stalks unfurl to provide beauty in the garden, a massive edible bulb grows under the soil. Like parsnips, harvesting celeriac after a frost enhances its flavor. Photos from my kitchen: (L) Bright green leaves sprouting from the celeriac's crown indicate that it is still very much alive. (R) The roots have been trimmed from the underside. Their diameter shows its strong root system. The following video http://youtu.be/-a4sIVAzhto demonstrates how to prep celeriac for a variety of uses like...
Celeriac Lentil Gratin. I've returned to the casserole dish this evening for more helpings than any adult, who normally makes rational decisions, should. It's that good. Really. The recipe comes from the website of Crumbs Magazine, which is a UK publication, via a submission by Jenny Chandler. The quantities are in grams and milliliters, so I leaned on metric-conversions.org and a kitchen scale that measures in both grams and ounces.
The recipe called for Castelluccio lentils, which is a brown variety. I had none. But, I did have Shiloh Farms Black Beluga Lentils. After weighing 300 grams, I transferred the lentils into measuring cups and determined it was equivalent to approximately 1 1/2 cups. Instead of two 400-gram cans of chopped tomatoes, I subbed a 23.5 ounce jar of Newman's Own Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce. A perfect swap out in this hearty winter root vegetable casserole. Pair it with a side salad of baby lettuces -romaine, arugula, mizuna, tatsoi, chard, mustard, frisee, radicchio, spinach, mache, beet tops, and kale. A hunk of crusty bread. Some fresh fruit.
Celeriac and Lentil Gratin
Serves 4-6. (With salad and a hunk of rustic bread, it will serve 6 nicely.)
2 tbsp olive oil (I used a generous tbsp butter.)
1 onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed (I minced finely.)
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes (I subbed 1-23.5 oz jar Newman’s Own Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce.)
300g Castelluccio (brown) lentils, rinsed (I subbed 1 ½ cups Shiloh Farms Black Beluga Lentils.)
salt and pepper, to taste (I used 1 ½ tsp salt, divided and ½ tsp pepper, divided.)
large handful parsley, roughly chopped (I had neither fresh nor dried, so I omitted.)
225 ml double (heavy) cream, divided (This is approximately 1 cup. I subbed half & half by skimming 1/2 cup cream off the top of my nonhomogenzied whole milk then filling the remainder of the measuring cup with milk.)
1 celeriac, about 1kg, peeled, quartered, and finely diced (1 kg=2 lbs 3.2740 oz. I used 2 celeriac which weighed 2 lbs 2 3/8 oz. After peeling, I sliced them into fried potato size slices.)
zest and juice of ½ lemon (I omitted.)
100g Parmesan cheese, grated (This amounts to 1 ½ cups grated cheese.)
1)Preheat oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. (What is a “gas mark?”) Heat oil (or butter) in a large saucepan and saute the onion gently until soft and beginning to turn golden. Add garlic and stir until its wonderful smell wafts up from the pan. “Tip in” the tomatoes (or pasta sauce) and simmer for about 10 minutes. 2)Meanwhile, put the lentils in a pan, cover with about 5 cm/2 in of water and simmer for about 20 minutes until soft and creamy rather than al dente. Drain if necessary and then season well with salt and pepper. (I followed the cooking instructions on the lentils package. For 1 ½ cups lentils, add 4 ½ cups water. I simmered a little longer than 20 minutes until the water was absorbed, so there was no water to drain. I seasoned the cooked lentils with ½ tsp salt + ¼ tsp pepper.) Stir in the parsley, if using, and 3 tbsp of the cream. 3)Add the celeriac to the pan of tomato sauce, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes or until tender. (Depending upon the size of the celeriac slices, it may take a little longer. ) At first, there will not appear to be enough tomato sauce, but the celeriac will release plenty of moisture as it cooks. When the celeriac is tender (fork easily pierces it but not mushy-somewhat firm), add the remaining cream, the lemon zest and juice (if using) and season with salt and pepper. (I used ½ tsp salt + ¼ tsp pepper.) 4)Layer the celeriac and tomato mixture alternately with the lentils in a large, shallow ovenproof dish (like a glass 9X13 baking dish), finishing with a layer of celeriac. (I used approx 2 cups celeriac/tomato mixture on each of the 3 layers sprinkling ¼ tsp salt on each of the first two layers. I divided the lentils equally between 2 layers. Sprinkle the top with the grated Parmesan cheese and bake for about 30 minutes until nicely browned on top. (I removed it just as the cheese was barely beginning to turn golden.) Notes: This can be prepared ahead and even frozen. Thaw before baking for an extra 10-15 minutes, covering with foil if the top begins to get too dark. (I haven’t tried freezing it.) Try using any whole brown or green lentil for the dish. Not red lentils, though, as they will collapse into a mush.