While we might be in the tail end of Summer, it seems some cooler weather is finally upon us, and all I want to do is eat mountains of creamy carbohydrates. Obviously our three-ingredient potatoes au gratin would do just fine, but the noble spud isn’t the only root that takes well to a gratin-ing.
Oh, hello. Do I have your attention? Are you ready to fire off an angry comment, condemning me and my worst take yet? I feel you friend, for I had a similar reaction when someone told me that potatoes au gratin didn't need any cheese.
You may have seen celery root in the produce aisle, and you may have thought to yourself “that looks like a hassle.” The knobby, sorta round root is actually easy to prepare, and doing so is quite rewarding. It’s a little firmer and less starchy than a potato, with just a hint of the herby, vegetal brightness you associate with celery. It’s also very good when drowned in cream, then baked until browned and bubbly.
The hardest part of this whole thing is peeling the celery root, and even that isn’t that hard. Just slice off it’s wobbly, knobby bottom so you have a flat surface, then use a y-peeler or sharp paring knife to remove its tough skin.
Once peeled, you can pretty much treat it as you would any root vegetable — roast, mash, etc. — but, as I’ve already explained, we are going to be gratin-ing. You may notice there is no cheese in this recipe, and this may upset you, but please calm your tits, for there is plenty of cream. (And, technically, all you need for a “gratin” is a browned top.) To make this rich and velvety vegetable dish, you will need:
2 celery roots
About a pint of heavy cream
1 clove of garlic, cut in half vertically
Preheat your oven to 190C and rub the cut side of one half of your garlic clove around the inside of your favourite casserole dish. Wash and peel the celery root, then — using a sharp knife or mandoline — slice the top part of the root into thin circles. Once you get to the more bulbous portion of the root, continue to slice into circles, then cut those circles into half moons.
Lay down a layer of slightly overlapping root slices in your casserole dish as evenly as you can, not worrying too much about aesthetics. Sprinkle with a big pinch of salt, and pour in some heavy cream until it just covers the slices. Repeat at least three times, or until you run out of root. When you get to your last layer, you may be tempted to pour in so much cream so that your celery root is completely submerged, but there’s no need.
The cream will bubble up and the root will cook down; pour in just enough so that the dairy gently laps over the edges of the slices. Pop the whole thing in the oven for 15 minutes or so, or until the top slices start to curl up. Flip those curly boys over, return the whole thing to the oven, and continue to cook until the top is well-browned, and the cream is bubbling violently around the sides of your dish (about 50 minutes to an hour).
Remove the dish from the oven and let it cool for a whole 15 minutes before serving, otherwise your sauce will not thicken properly. I know that seems like a very long time to wait, but trust me, it’s delayed gratification at its finest.