Monday, March 12, 2012
Celery Gratin: Sharing Some Celery Love
I’ve been a long admirer of the British food writer, Jane Grigson, and I especially enjoy her lovely book, Good Things. It’s a treasure of seasonal cookery (now there’s a word I wish was in more popular use!) and she shares a wealth of information in a friendly, wise manner.
One of my discoveries is her brilliant combination of celery, butter and salt. I generally think of stuffing celery with peanut butter or cream cheese ... rather ho-hum but a decent snack. Jane Grigson shares what is by far the tastiest way to enjoy raw celery - with good butter and sea salt. If you haven’t tried this before, spread a stalk of celery thickly with your best butter and sprinkle some Maldon sea salt on top. So simple and so good.
Celery is the spotlight of this week’s Food52 recipe contest. A new challenge and stretching your imagination is always fun, and creating a recipe based on celery certainly affords this opportunity. Since I didn’t have any experience with cooking celery, other than adding it to soups, I wanted to see what I could come up with.
The first step was easy since I already knew it to be delicious - sauté the celery in butter and salt. From there a gratin began to unfold. Cherry tomatoes add a pop of color and bright flavor, and the white wine, butter, cream and Gruyere cheese ... well, you can imagine all they add! The celery flavor shines through and the softer texture from cooking it is pleasing. Sweet tomatoes, wine and cream form a tangy, rich sauce and Gruyere cheese adds a nutty, indulgent finish.
I’m appreciating celery’s versatility and happy to see it escape the crudités platter to become a more inspiring dish.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 bunch of celery (approximately 1 1/2 pounds), leaves removed (save for soup) and stalks cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 teaspoon kosher salt
A few grinds of fresh black pepper
3/4 cup white wine
1 pint cherry tomatoes, rinsed and sliced in half
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 cup Gruyere cheese, grated
Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Have an 8x8 or 9x9 inch broiler safe baking dish ready.
In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the celery slices, salt and pepper and stir to coat. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, until the celery begins to soften nicely. Add the wine and bring to a simmer. Stir in the tomatoes and continue to simmer for 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into the baking dish and pop it in the oven for 15 minutes. Give it a stir about halfway through.
Remove the dish from the oven, stir in the cream and sprinkle the cheese on top. Return the baking dish to the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the cheese is melted. If desired, turn on the broiler and let the cheese brown a little. Serve warm with some crusty bread to soak up the sauce.