A long time afterward, I found out why it didn’t taste like celery. Because it wasn’t! It was celeriac, which is a whole other animal... or at least a whole other variety of celery. Its other names in English are knob celery and more often celery root, although that’s misleading even though it is a root vegetable and it is in the celery family.
Celeriac looks kind of like a nubbly turnip with a bad complexion and a green topknot. Not the most attractive vegetable in the market. A strange, almost prehistoric looking thing in fact. But in spite of that, céleri rémoulade is one of the classics of delis, bistros and school lunchrooms alike. A sort of grated carrots but white, and with a different sauce.It can be rather crunchy, almost tough, so some people like to blanch it in boiling water for a minute beforehand. If you julienne it up thin enough, that probably isn’t necessary. Try both ways to find out which you prefer.
On the Mediterranean coast, they often add a few drops of anchovy oil, which you can recycle when you open a can or jar of anchovies.
This is a starter that’s better when made a bit ahead. Thanks to the lemon juice, it shouldn’t discolor or turn. And it’s a good change from cole slaw for the picnic days of July.
- celeriac (1 lb = 3-3½ c cut)
- ½ c lemon juice + 1 T
- ½ c olive oil
- 3 T Dijon mustard
- salt and pepper
- fresh or dried green herbs
- While the celeriac is resting, make the rémoulade sauce by blending together the mustard, ½ t of salt and a good pinch of freshly ground pepper (white will look better, but black is also fine). Very gradually beat in the oil as for a mayonnaise until it is creamy. Lastly blend in 1 T of lemon juice. This can go fast with a food processor or mixer, otherwise use a metal whisk and good biceps.
- Mix the celeriac and the sauce together well and put into the refrigerator (min 15 minutes but you can cover it and leave it to macerate overnight as well).
- Just before serving, sprinkle with chopped green herbs: 1 T fresh chervil, parsley, and/or tarragon (or 1/4 t if dried herbs).