You say Celery, I say Celeriac

Celery and celeriac are not the same thing, despite what our attempt at a clever title might suggest. Actually distinct varieties in the same plant genus, Apium, developed from the same wild species. Celeriac is more widely appreciated in Europe than in the U.S., as a lovely replacement for potatoes, whether steamed, roasted, or mashed. Here we are using both celery and celeriac in a preparation of brook trout. See this post for a much longer appreciation of the trout itself. For this recipe, we’re playing with the flavor affinities and contrasts of celery.

We begin with a very bright, unconventional slaw including celery, rhubarb and fennel and then also offer a subtle highlight with grill-dried celery leaves as a garnish. The celeriac is peeled and boiled, then pureed with butter and heavy cream to provide a delicate hint of traditional roasted celery flavor beneath the grilled trout. Our trout here was plank-roasted over apple wood. Though a pan roasted approach would as well, the smoky, grilled preparation really allows the brightness of the slaw and the creaminess of the puree to play full, complementary roles.

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We chose to peel a single bulb of celeriac, and then dice it into 1 inch cubes. We boiled it in just enough water to cover in a large pot, with a pinch of salt and an additional bay leaf. Once soft enough to easily crush a cube, we drained and then added 1/2 cup of heavy cream and 4 tablespoons of butter, then mashed the celeriac until fine. Options here would include pureeing the mixture until smooth. Yukon Gold potatoes could be added when boiling to create a less pronounced celeriac flavor, though celeriac is already fairly mild, with just a overtone of celery. A 1/2 cup of grated white cheddar or a fresh goat cheese would also be great.

The celery, rhubarb, fennel slaw is a variation on this apple, fennel salad, with thinly sliced rhubarb standing in for the granny smith apple. Either approach is excellent, but we had rhubarb on hand and enjoyed the “three stalk slaw”, a reference to the look of each of the ingredients. We made this a few hours in advance to allow the fennel to soften slightly.

The rainbow trout is simply gutted and cleaned, then sprinkled with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. We had applewood planks cut from an ancient apple tree in the backyard which were ideal for this grilling application. A few leafy stalks of celery were set off heat on the grill and allowed to dry the leaves to use as a garnish.

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The rich, creamy flavors of the celeriac were a beautiful canvas for the smoky fish, with out three-stalk slaw providing a bright contrast, the different hits of celery flavor playing very different roles. Overall a very satisfying dish.

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