Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Blog 2 of 2: Celery Root & Mushroom Lasagna

I've been somewhat obsessed with celery root since the fiance and I took a trip to Montreal a few summers ago.  We had a celery root salad that I can still taste if I think hard enough about it.  I've been dying to play with it in the kitchen ever since, but I just now got around to it.
Celery root - it looks ugly, but is mighty tasty!
 I mused around for several recipes that sounded intriguing, and landed on this Celery Root & Mushroom Lasagna from Food & Wine magazine.  I've had it printed out for a month, and was determined to make it this weekend.
For those of you not familiar with Celery Root, our friends at Wikpedia share that:
Celeriac (Apium graveolens rapaceum) is also known as celery root, turnip-rooted celery[1] or knob celery. It is a kind of celery, grown as a root vegetable for its large and bulbous hypocotyl rather than for its stem and leaves. The swollen hypocotyl is typically used when it is about 10–12 cm in diameter; about the size of a large potato. Unlike other root vegetables, which store a large amount of starch, celery root is only about 5-6% starch by weight.  Celeriac may be used raw or cooked. It has a tough, furrowed, outer surface which is usually sliced off before use because it is too rough to peel. Celeriac has a celery flavour, and is often used as a flavouring in soups and stews; it can also be used on its own, usually mashed, or used in casseroles, gratins and baked dishes. It can be roasted like a potato, giving it a crispy edge.

After procuring the necessary ingredients, I fully intended to make this three hour (yes, you read that correctly - three hour) recipe right when I got home from the grocery store.  But, after a much needed long nap and getting Blog #1's pie in the oven, I got a bit of a late start - around 8:00 p.m.

I love the fact that this recipe is so veggie heavy.  Pounds of mushrooms, leeks, celery root and shallots!  And, it was easy to make veg - I eliminated the prosciutto and used a vegetable broth (Pacific Natural Foods) in lieu of the chicken broth.   Also, a tip: rather than buying individual packages of herbs, you can just get a Poultry Blend, which will have just enough of the sage, rosemary and thyme (yes, I now have "Scarborough Fair" in my head).

Clockwise from bottom right: cremini mushrooms, leeks, celery root and soaked porcini mushrooms.
Now granted, despite all the produce.  healthy is not exactly how I'd describe it . . . we're talking pounds of cheese, lots of heavy cream.  But, have you ever tried to peel and chop a celery root?  It's like hacking through lumber.  I was literally sweating.   The chopping alone took about 20 minutes, so, if you find chopping tedious, this is not the recipe for you.

The aforementioned ragu.
However, if you're willing to put up with all the hacking, this recipe is tremendously rewarding.  The smell of the vegetable ragu was intoxicating - shallots and mushrooms and leeks and celery root in olive oil and butter, along with a bundle of fresh herbs . . . it was all I could do not to just eat it all while it was cooking.  It would make a terrific pasta sauce. 

After the ragu and cream sauce were done, and the lasgana noodles were boiled, the assembly began.  

The recipe called for fresh basil and fresh mozzarella, in addition to the ragu and cream sauce.

And here it is, after an hour in the oven.  It's 11:07 p.m. and I'm eating my first piece and wow, was it worth the wait!

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