Crunchy and creamy at the same time, celery root salad is a Gallic standard that will make you want more, more, more!
By Louise Crosby
Many summers ago, I studied French for a month at an exclusive language school in Villefranche-sur-Mer, situated between Nice and Monaco on the Côte d’Azur. It was très exotique. Villefranche is a town of apricot and turquoise-painted buildings sloping down to a sparkling blue Mediterranean. People drink crisp, cold rosé wines, lavender perfumes the air, and cicadas buzz in the dry afternoon heat. I did as best I could through the morning language labs and grammar drills, but really perked up when we broke for lunch. That’s because the food was very good.
Of all the delicious homemade dishes we were served, one stands out in my mind, and that is celery root rémoulade, also known as celeriac rémoulade or céleri rémoulade. It was crunchy and creamy at the same time, and I couldn’t get enough of it. You might ask how such a gnarly root vegetable can be made into a sublime salad, but peel off that warty exterior, cut the ivory-coloured interior into thin matchsticks and bathe them in a mayonnaise-mustard-lemon dressing, and voilà, you’ll be in salad heaven. You’ll want to eat it by the bucketful.
Keep in mind, however, that celery root rémoulade is classic bistro fare served just about everywhere in France, and there are more civilized ways of eating it – as part of a crudité plate, for example. I couldn’t resist buying a bunch of rainbow carrots at my local market the other day, so I’m serving raw grated carrot salad alongside, with perhaps some olives and cornichons, maybe a few radishes, some patê and cheese, and a few slices of baguette, possibly spread with sweet churned butter. Now we’ve got ourselves a good little lunch, bien sur.
You may not be able to afford the French Riviera this summer, but you can introduce elements of the life there into your own day. Here, then, are recipes for celery root rémoulade and a basic mayonnaise to go with it, should you feel energetic, from the first edition of James Peterson’s Vegetables, and a grated carrot salad from My Paris Kitchen, by David Lebovitz. Bon appétit mes amis!
1 large celeriac (1½ to 2 pounds without greens), peeled with a knife
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¾ cup Basic Mayonnaise, or good-quality commercial mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, or more to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley (optional)
Cut the celeriac in half through the top and slice each half into ⅛-inch-thick slices – with the flat side of the half facing the blade – on a mandoline. Cut the slices – stack 2 or 3 together – into ⅛-inch-wide julienne.
In a mixing bowl, toss the julienne with the lemon juice. Combine the mayonnaise with the mustard and season to taste with salt and pepper and, if you like, more mustard. Stir this sauce with the celeriac and parsley. Taste the celeriac rémoulade and add more salt and pepper if needed.
Serves: 6 as a first course
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar, or more as needed
⅔ cup canola or safflower oil
⅔ cup extra-virgin olive oil, or ⅔ cup more canola or safflower oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Combine the egg yolks and lemon juice in a food processor or blender. Turn the food processor or blender on low and pour in the canola or safflower oil in a thin, steady stream.
If you’re finishing the mayonnaise with olive oil, transfer the mayonnaise – which should now be somewhat stiff – into a glass or stainless steel mixing bowl and slowly work in the olive oil, a tablespoon at a time, with a wooden spoon.
If you’re finishing the mayonnaise with canola or safflower oil, just continue to add it while the mayonnaise is still in the blender or food processor. Season the mayonnaise to taste with salt and pepper and if needed, more lemon juice.
If while you’re adding the oil the mayonnaise becomes very stiff, add a teaspoon of water from time to time to keep it at the consistency you like.
Mayonnaise can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, but it may separate. If it does separate, allow it to come up to room temperature and then slowly beat the broken mayonnaise with a fresh egg yolk in the same way as when making mayonnaise from scratch.
Makes 1½ cups
Grated Carrot Salad
2 pounds (900 g) carrots
¼ cup (60 mL) olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon granulated sugar or honey
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, chervil, or chives, plus additional chopped herbs for sprinkling on top
Using the large holes of a box grater or a stand mixer or food processor fitted with the shredding disk attachment, grate the carrots.
In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, mustard, and sugar. Toss the grated carrots in the dressing along with the chopped herbs. Serve on plates and sprinkle with additional fresh herbs.
Variation: To make a carrot-beet salad, substitute 1 pound of raw beets, peeled and shredded, for 1 pound of the carrots. Or add 2 ripe, peeled, and diced avocados to make a carrot-avocado salad.
For more of Louise Crosby’s delicious recipes, please visit KitchenonFourth.com