Apium graveolens, "celery", a member of the parsley family, is certainly one of the most versatile bits of vegetation in this store, although it rarely gets the respect that it so richly deserves. Now thousands of years ago around the Mediterranean and China, celery was a bitter herb with skinny little ribs. It was used strictly for medicinal purposes and supposedly as a powerful aphro ... disi... Well, you know.
Now the Greeks used celery much as the Romans used laurel leaves as garlands for their athletes, who were also refreshed with celery wine, which was supposed to be very invigorating indeed.
GREEK ATHELETE: [jobs in, take a sip of celery wine, splashes some on his face, exits]
Homer mentioned celery, or selinon, in "The
Odyssey," which is about as Greek as you can get without joining a fraternity.
Now by the 16th century, the original wild form of celery had been developed out into three distinct varieties. One was a leafy variety, which is still available in China and parts of Europe, but rarely in America. Then there's good old-fashioned rib celery. It should be noted that here in America, Dutch farmers who settled in and around Kalamazoo, Michigan, were the nation's first serious celery farmers. See, back then there was plenty of mucky but rich land up there, and the Dutch had the experience, and, of course, the wooden shoes to tackle it. By the 1890's, farmers were actually boarding local trains to hand out samples of the crop. I wonder how that looked.
[the three Dutch Farmers turn around behind AB and begin shouting to the customers in the store]
DUTCH FARMER #1: Hey, everybody, ve are ze celery stalking. If everybody sits down, shuts
up, and grabs a rib of celery, nobody's going to get hurt. [hands AB a rib of
AB: Thank you.
DUTCH FARMER #2: [the camera pans down to this shoes] Hey, what are you looking at? Didn't your mama tell you it's not polite to stare?
AB: We don't want any trouble, Mr. Dutch Farmer Man. I'll, I'll take that.
DF2: You make sure you eat that.
AB: I-I will. [bites into it] It's delicious.
Of course, back then, celery was still pretty bitter stuff, so they blanched the
crop. That is, they placed a brown paper bag on it while it matured in the
The third variety of celery was developed specifically for its enlarged root ball, which we call, cleverly enough, celery root, or celeriac, which is not very popular in the United States. Why? Well, could it be because it looks like a big, old ... Watch this.
AB: [rolls the celery root across the floor]
GIRL #1: [It stops at a young girl's feet, she screams]
MOTHER: [she covers the girl #2's eyes]
SHOPPER #1: Oh, how disgusting.
SHOPPER #2: Huh?
Typical American reaction. If it's ugly on the outside, it can't possibly be good on the inside. Well, despite its rugged exterior, believe me, the celery root is crisp, it is nut-like, and has the flavor of clean, pure celery. [cuts into the celery root, and takes a bite]
ALL: [moans and walks away disgusted]
AB: What? What I ... Ohh.
[at the refrigerator] Storing celery root is easy. Just twist it up in a couple layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to a month. As for rib celery, moister means fresher, so I like to give it the flower vase treatment with a little water in a halved soda bottle. Plastic shower cap makes a very nice topper.
AB: [to the celery root] Now, since you've got the most to prove, you go first.
[at the sink]
Step one, don't wash it. Oh, you'll be tempted to. But it will only make peeling
harder, as a slick and slimy exterior will result. Your best tool is to go
after it with a heavy-duty peeler, okay? But even getting in with this is going
to be tough. So the first thing I do is I always quarter these guys with a nice
serrated knife. That way you can work on the board and keep things stable. But
this means that you can finally kind of get in on a corner with your peeler.
There. And just work around it. Take your time.
Now as you get each one of these clean, to keep it from browning in the air, stash it in some water laced with a little lemon juice or vinegar. Now my favorite celery root application requires matchstick cuts. And although I could to that with a knife if I felt like it, I'd rather take the easy route and use a slicer with a matchstick blade, which of course necessitates, as always, the hand guard. We don't want any injuries here. So we're going to cut one celery root, that's about one pound into matchsticks, just like this. Aww, they're pretty.
|Next, we'll need a dressing. One and a half tablespoons each freshly squeezed lemon juice and Dijon mustard, which will be easier to measure if you dump it in the lemon juice. A few turns of pepper, a quarter teaspoon of salt, and then we will bring to the party three quarters of a cup of crème fraîche. [trumpets blare]||
1½ Tbs. Each Dijon Mustard
& Freshly Squeezed
Freshly Ground Pepper
¼ tsp. Kosher Salt
¾ Cup Crème Fraîche
Ahh, that sound means that crème fraîche is our ingredient of the day. Now it is a slightly fermented heavy cream from France. And up until a couple of years ago, it was only available at fancy French food stores. But these days, it's available at a lot of your larger American mega-marts.
|If you can't get hold of it, it's worth making yourself. Just get a clean jar and combine three parts of heavy cream—it's got to be heavy cream—with one part good-quality yogurt with active cultures, or bacteria. Cover, set in a warm corner of your kitchen for 12 hours or until it is slightly thickened. That's crème fraîche. After that, stash it in the fridge to halt the march of bacterial action. It'll keep for about two weeks, and it is worth the trouble, believe me.||
3 Parts Heavy Cream
1 Part Yogurt (with active
Cover, put in warm place,
|So whisk your dressing together, add the celery root, toss and then cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.||1 Pound Celery Root|
The Louisiana version of remoulade can be either
mayonnaise, ketchup or oil based.
Celeriac remoulade, a celebrated French bistro standard. Think of it as an alternative slaw, served with roasted poultry or a steak. If you really want to put the "mon dieu" into your French friends, put it on a hot dog. Now when contemplating the culinary options of a new and fairly unknown ingredient, occasionally it helps to look at its ingredients. [the cafe walls pull away to reveal the kitchen]
|Now as you can see, celery root contains a fair amount of starch and far less of the fiber that gives rib celery its dental floss demeanor. This, married with the root's subtle, nutty flavor, makes it ideal for producing a purée.||
We will require three heads, approximately two and a half to three pounds of
celeriac. You're going to quarter them, just as before, and peel them, just
as before, and it'll make a big mess, just as before. And you're going to take
your cleaned pieces, just like before, and you're going to put them in some
acidulated water, you know, just like before.
Now when you've got all your pieces dumped on the floor like that, we're going to cube those quarters into basically half-inch cubes. If you wish to cube your celery root for later puréeing, go ahead and stash these guys in clean acidulated water to prevent browning. If you plan on puréeing right away, don't bother.
|Now fetch down your favorite four-quart saucepan and place it over low heat, and add a tablespoon of plain old olive oil. Don't break out that fancy, fruity extra virgin stuff. The heat will simply deflower it, if you get my meaning. Now, when said lipid begins to shimmer, go ahead and dump in all of your big, ugly root pieces, along with four cloves of garlic, peeled, of course, and sliced thin, a teaspoon of kosher salt, and about a quarter teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Now just stir and cook, cook and stir, until the celery root just begins to soften. Figure on five minutes, depending, of course, on the ripeness of your particular specimens.||
1 Tbs. Olive Oil
2½-3 Pounds Celeriac, Cubed
4 Cloves Garlic, Peeled &
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
¼ tsp. Freshly Ground Black
|[about five minutes later] Now when the pieces are just soft like this, we're going to boost the heat to medium-high and add five cups of nice, clean, fresh water. There. Now keep stirring until this comes to a boil. When it does reach a boil, turn the heat down so you can maintain a simmer for 20 to 22 minutes. Then carefully remove it to your colander and drain. [removes a piece to test for softness/doneness, much like he does for potato pieces] I'll take a look here, just see how that's done. [squeezes a piece with the tongs] Yeah. Perfect. It'll mash easy. That's what we want.||5 Cups Water|
|Now while those drain, two tablespoons of unsalted butter will go into one quarter cup of nice heavy cream in the microwave, and blast that just long enough for the butter to melt.||
2 Tbs. Unsalted Butter +
¼ Cup Heavy Cream
The cook must always be very cautious when puréeing starchy foods. The physical power dosed out by a food processor, blender, or even a stand mixer can take this cube straight to the gluey, nasty phase without stopping at the pleasantly whipped phase where we'd like to get off the bus. There is, however, one tool that can do the job.
GUESTS: "W", Equipment Specialist
Man Shopper #1, #2, #3, #4 & #5
[AB is dressed in a trench coat, wearing a fake mustache]
Anytime you shop for a kitchen appliance, it can be a little bit tricky. But
once you slap on a motor, confusion is all but guaranteed.
Now I have a pretty good feeling that our old friend "W" will be able to answer any questions that we have about immersion blenders. But believe me, she's going to be a lot more cooperative if she doesn't know it's me.
AB: [walks up to W, clears his throat]
W: Oh, can I help you?
AB: [in a faux English accent] Why, yes, I was hoping you could steer me towards one of those long, spinny, blendery kind of stick devices.
W: An immersion blender?
AB: Ha! That's it. That's it exactly. I could see you are as smart as you are pretty.
W: Ohh. Oh, thank you. Um, this way.
W: Hmm. We have several models to choose from.
AB: Hmm. Indeed you do. Let's just cut to the chase. Show me the one with the highest wattage.
Man #1: Did someone say wattage?
Man #2: More watts means more power, you know.
Man #3: Heck, yes, it does.
Man #4: When I was in college, I had a 6,000-watt stereo in my dorm.
Man #1: No kidding.
Man #5: I sent out for a special 300-watt cordless drill.
Man #1: Awesome.
AB: Excellent. So what'll it be, little lady?
Man #1: Yeah, come on. Show us your watts.
W: What is it with boys and wattage? I bet there's not even a one of you that can tell me what it means. Can you?
Man #3: It, it means louder?
AB: Yeah, louder.
W: Energy flow is an expression of power. And the word "Watt"...
AB: ... which comes from James Watt, the famous steam engine innovator ...
W: ... expresses the rate of energy flow. Which means a 200-watt motor can consume more electrical energy per second than a 100-watt motor.
Man #3: That means it's got more power, right?
All Men: Yeah, yeah.
W: But what really matters is the ratio of watts out to amperes.†
All Men: [scratch their heads]
W: Oh. Okay, guys, look. A 500-watt motor may be very capable. But what really matters is the entire system and design that is connected to it. Take this immersion blender. It only has 240 watts.
All Men: [scoff]
W: But, but! It's highly controllable with the nine speeds, and a superior blade design.
W: And it has a removable metal shaft that can withstand extremely high temperatures, and is easy to clean.
All Men: [mutter to themselves]
W: Okay, well, just think of it as a Borg Warner T-56 hooked to a '69 H.D. Camaro.††
All Men: Ho, ho! Yeah!
Immersion blender checklist:
and yes 200 watts is plenty of power!
With the right tool in hand, we're ready to blend. When you're about halfway to
mash, go ahead and add the butter and cream mixture and work until you've got a
smooth yet still chunky consistency.
Mmmm. It's like a big, nutty, slightly sweet bowl of mashed potatoes. And I could just eat these things by the bowlful. Of course if you want to serve along with something else, you might try something roasted in the meat department. A nice, juicy steak, perhaps, or some game—wild, if you can get it. Of course, you know what would be really nice right now, would be a beverage.
The immersion blender was invented in
Switzerland by Roger Perrinjaquet in 1950.
FUZZMUCKER: [as a carnival barker] Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, you owe it to
yourselves not to miss out on the preventative and curative powers of Fuzzmuckers famous celery tonic.
ONLOOKER #1: Hey, what's so special about celery?
FM: Madam, I am so glad you asked. Why, in his monumental 1747 treatise Pharmacopoeia Universalis, physician Robert James revealed that through the ages, celery has been used as a diuretic, a digestive aid, an acti-lactogen ana-carminitive general tonic as well as an aphrodisi ... Well, let's just say, ladies and gentlemen, it should be the tent pole of any nutritional program. Hah hah.
ONLOOKER #2: Will it help my rheumatism?
FM: Rheumatism? Madam, do I appear to suffer from said affliction? [dances around]
O #2: No, but ...
FM: Well, do you think that's by coincidence? $1 a bottle for Fuzzmuckers guaranteed celery tonic.
ONLOOKER #3: Guaranteed to do what?
FM: Guaranteed to do ... Why, whatever needs doing, of course. Did you know that in the Orient, celery is used strictly as a medicinal. Why, in Iran, the seeds are boiled down to extract the essential oil, apiol, the fumes of which are inhaled to relieve headaches.
ONLOOKER #4: [lifts his hat, to reveal a shower cap, poorly disguising his head as bald] Will it grow my hair back?
FN: Sir, try one on the house. Rub it on your scalp and drink the rest. [distracting the audience] Great Scott, what's that? I thought I saw something.
O #4: [quickly removes the shower cap]
ONLOOKER #5: Look, he's got hair.
O #4: It's a miracle!
FM: It's not a miracle, it's Fuzzmuckers! Only two bucks a bottle. Step right up.
EVERYONE: [moves forward waving money]
FM: Step right up while they last, ladies and gentlemen.
ONLOOKER #6: I'll have two.
FM: That's right, there's plenty to go around.
[FM enters revealing it was AB] Phew. Celery tonics have been around for at least a century, though the F.D.A. eventually forced the manufacturers to downgrade the word "tonic" to "soda" because of the "unproven" medical implications. [takes his robe off and sticks his fake mustache to the cabinet]
AB: [motioning to Onlooker #4] Come on, come on, come on. [hands him some money]
Pittsburgh. Sunday. Don't be late.
O #4: Whatever. [hands him his hat and shower cap scalp]
I don't know if it really possesses any magical cures, but I do know that there
is some magical flavor in these little seeds [holds up a container of celery
Ahh. Behold the mighty celery seed, the spice that is the key to my considerable success. You know, besides Rhode Island where German immigrants added it to a very famous seafood boil recipe, in Chicago, where again, Germans started sprinkling it on hot dogs, Americans, by and large, do not pay this powerhouse any respect. And we're going to fix that. Oh, it looks like it's time to make up another batch of Fuzzmuckers, so you might as well stick around. We'll do a small, home-oriented type of batch.
|What we'll need is two tablespoons of celery seed, ground. And I usually use just a blade-style coffee grinder for this. I keep one around just for spices, don't you know. There. That should do it. We don't want it too finely ground. There. That'll do it.||
2 Tbs. Celery Seed, Freshly
|Now we move to the syrup. By syrup, of course, I mean a simple syrup, which is a very powerful concoction, especially if you're into the manufacture of cocktails. Now it follows a very specific ratio, which is two to one, by volume, sugar to water. So two cups of just plain, old sugar, and one cup of equally plain H2O. Believe it or not, you can dissolve two cups of sugar into one cup of water, as long as you apply a little bit of heat. So you'll get this onto high. There we go. And simply stir occasionally until all the grainy stuff has disappeared.||
2 Cups Sugar
1 Cup Water
As soon as your syrup has attained boilage, you may kill the heat, and bring
forth the goodness [the ground celery seeds]. And don't stir this in. Just dump
it right in the middle. If you try to stir it, you're just going to make a mess
in there. Cover and set your favorite timer for one hour. I'll be back.
When an hour is up, we will need some kind of heat-proof vessel to catch our syrup. I like to use a canning funnel, and the gold, or supposedly gold filter out of my coffee maker will do the trick.
Now go slowly. We don't want to spill here. You smell that? Can you smell ... Oh, of course you can't. I'm sorry. You can't smell this. Well, if you could, you'd be smelling something called apiol, an essential oil that gives celery its special aroma and flavor.
Now we should also mention that although they look a lot like seeds, celery seeds aren't. They're actually tiny fruits, dried fruits. But they look a lot like seeds, so we'll go with that. You have to use a very, very fine mesh, and it's going to take a little while to drain, but that is okay.
Place syrup in the refrigerator uncovered, until completely cooled.
Get down your favorite beverage glass, load up with a little bit of ice, and grab your syrup. This stuff will keep, by the way, for up to six months if properly refrigerated. And some seltzer or club soda, whichever you prefer. Now, about two tablespoons, or one ounce of the syrup goes over the rocks. And then stand back, foamy. [opens the bottle of club soda, which effervesces and spills on the floor] Pour that right over the rocks. Give a swizzle, and enjoy that celery goodness. Oh, you could, of course, put this into cute little bottles like this and sell for $1 or $2 or maybe even $3 if you can work out that whole "hair replacement gig".
2 Tbs. Syrup
8 Ounces Soda Water
Although 1 ounce of syrup is tasty, 3 ounces syrup to 8 ounces
sparkling water will grow your hair back.
[at the refrigerator] Perhaps you thought I was going to skip over the lowly celery stalk in retribution for losing $10,000. Of course not. I can hardly blame celery for being nature's spoon. I blame the peanut butter for that one.
|We will require eight stalks of celery for our braise, so we will first give them a rinse to remove any lingering particulate matter. Once they're good and clean, slice into one-inch pieces on the bias, please.||8 Stalks Celery|
|Before you exile these leaves to the compost heap or to the stockpot, consider their botanical pedigree, okay? Celery is part of the same family that gives us parsley, dill, and coriander. And just like those more famous herbs, these leaves, when finely chopped, can be used to provide a final flavorant to a wide array of dishes. So don't waste them.||
Celery family: Apiaceane,
|Grab a sauté pan in the 10-inch range, and heat a tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Once it's melted, in goes the celery, along with a pinch of kosher salt and some ... [motions as if grinding pepper] ... you know. Let it cook for five minutes or until the celery begins to soften. Then bring a half a cup of beef broth, or canned bouillon if you must, to the party. Give it a stir, lid it up, and reduce the heat to the lowest setting you have.||
1 Tbs. Unsalted Butter
Pinch of Kosher Salt &
Freshly Ground Black
½ Cup Beef Broth
In five more minutes, the celery will be tender, but not mushy. So uncover,
crank up the heat, and reduce that liquid, okay? In another five minutes, it'll
be a nice, tasty glaze. So remove this to your serving dish and garnish with
the chopped celery leaves. Remember, they are a very lovely herb.
Well, I'm not about to tell you to stow the peanut butter, or the pimento cheese if that's your speed. But I do hope that we've made a successful argument for giving celery a more prominent and varied placement on the plate. After all, any plant that gives us an herb, a spice, a vegetable, and a starch can't help but being ... Yeah, you know.
See you next time on ... yeah, you know.
†Hmmm...I've forgotten a lot of my engineering, but that doesn't sound right. Watts = Volts x Amps. So, the ratio of Watts to Amps would mean Watts/Amps = (Volts x Amps)/Amps which would mean just Volts. And everyone gets the same voltage: 120 in the USA. What they may mean is the output work form the input energy. "W" goes on to remark on the gear housing and blade efficiency. If the gear torque is low and the blade design is poor, then no matter how much wattage the motor has, the stick blender will not perform as well as a "good" model. Any suggested input on this would be appreciated: firstname.lastname@example.org
††The Borg Warner T-56 is a 6 speed manual transmission. The Camaro is a pony car manufactured by Chevrolet.
Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger
Last Edited on 08/27/2010