Celery: Who Cares?
There’s a growing interest in Sous Vide vegetables, trending from novelty towards improved nutrition. I tinkered with SV vegetables from the beginning, but my interest in SV originated in its benefits in the treatment of protein items. Soon I realized that the process not only provided interesting results, it also extended the shelf life of produce. Even so, celery never once crossed my mind. Like a lot of people, I keep celery in the fridge. It’s cheap, and we always think we’re going to adopt healthier snack habits. I usually end up throwing quite a bit of it out, unless I’m making a lot of stocks and tuna salad. Anyway, I shop at Costco a lot, and I insist on buying potatoes there, too. Even if I lose half of them, I’m still saving money.
If I process whole potatoes (or cut), they will last almost indefinitely in the fridge. When I buy a 20 lb bag for the two of us, we have baked potatoes, French fries, and potato chips right away. SV doesn’t really work for any of those apps. You can make SV mashed potatoes and keep them in the fridge to heat as needed. For everything else, like potato salad, hashed browns, au gratins, and the myriad other variants, SV potatoes are really great.
This article isn’t about potatoes. This article is about CELERY. Consider, though, that potatoes really don’t have much flavor themselves. Ketchup has flavor. Salt has flavor. Butter, sour cream, chives, bacon, they make potatoes pop. And celery doesn’t have any flavor either. It has crunch. So nobody cares about the poor celery. Celery may as well be spelled “MEH,” for the cachet it offers. In romantic movies, the young lovers walk down the street together, he with a bag of groceries, a baguette and a bunch of celery sticking out the top, to indicate that they are officially playing house.
But nobody really EATS celery, do they? It shows up in Chinese dishes, it’s crisp, green, fits the model, but nobody makes an entree out of celery. It’s in the aforementioned tuna salad, potato salad, macaroni salad, it’s an ingredient in a million things, stocks, whatever. It really is the entry level vegetable, useful, but unable to stand on its own. Wings come with celery and carrot sticks, but nobody ever asks for extra, unless they’ve really hit bottom.
As if celery wasn’t boring enough, we’re going to start with the part that everybody throws out. That’s really the best part.
- They call them celery hearts in the store, but it’s more like celery whole with some outer stalks removed because they kind of wilted in the sun or in transit.
183Fx1 hour, shock cold.
- Remove from the bag, and make sure you save the juice. It is full of flavor. In the old hippy/macrobiotic diet days, people actually used to DRINK celery juice, carrot juice, clam juice, clamato juice, and, I’ll tell you, it’s not bad in a Bloody Mary. V-8 fans, you’re in luck.
- Cut off the stalks and reserve for another purpose that we will outline later, once I come up with a clever name for it.
- Gently remove the dark outer leaves, like you would an artichoke. Huh. It IS kinda like an artichoke. Hmm.
- Resist the urge to cut a slice off of the bottom. Too late? Oh well, that’s what holds it all together.
- Most celery hearts will yield about four intact slices.
- Again, the circular root section is what holds it all together, so just make sure your slices have some of that in them.
- The trim will still provide flavor in stock, etc.
- Trim the tips so you get the sort of diamond/artichoke/candle flame shape.
Who would have thunk? Well, it still tastes like celery, right?
- Little S+P, maybe a little paprika, fennel
- Leetle bit of flour on top and bottom.
- Beaten egg, little bit of water. No milk. Do not use milk. H20. Water.
- remove from the egg, let it drip, and then into lots of crumbs so you coat completely. Very important. Do not try to hack this part.
- Just like that. Let it rest. ALWAYS let breaded stuff rest for a few minutes. A common mistake. It needs to time to attach itself. Anxiety and haste are the banes of the cook.
- Deep fry@300F-350F until you get the cool color.
- It really does look like a trick cut artichoke. Huh.
- Ketchup. Mayo. Or even that aioli stuff.
- Instead of breading, brush with a little egg white and sprinkle with the seasonings…I did the same thing with the SV butternut squash.
- I saw Wolfgang Puck on GMA show the other day, doing a promo demo for his NY steakhouse, called “Cuts,” in the Four Seasons Hotel, where he was touting the many wondrous virtues of the cast iron frying pan. Everything comes around and back, eventually, the universe is a donut. Why burn all that wood and charcoal? Isn’t Manhattan smoky enough?
- Get it hot. Yeah, I know, open a window. It’s not like it’s not gonna smoke.
- They all look kinda lonely.
- Some cured pork belly to keep them company.
- The chopped parsley is never far away.
- We be stylin’ now.
- Celerychoke, Sir? Ma’am?
I still prefer to be paid hourly
In the spirit of keeping it fresh and fun, let me share this recent application/incarnation of Sous Vide vegetables…
There was a small culinary movement a while back that favored taking familiar dishes apart and rearranging the ingredients in a novel way. It didn’t really catch on, but a few of the ideas weren’t bad. So, what had been a “composed” salad, became somewhat “decomposed,” and that was one of the problems. The name smacks of another process that is not so pleasant.
That being said, what we have above is potato salad. That’s right, Tater Sal’d. Sous Vide Potatoes, Sous Vide Celery, Sous Vide Onions, Sous Vide Carrots, UN-Sous Vide poached eggs, olives, parsley, EVOO, Umami vinegar (a flavored vinegar I make), even a little Sriracha Aioli and Special K Mustard Sauce. All the Usual Suspects, and a couple more. I had it for breakfast at about 5 am, and I enjoyed it. I consider that to be a good sign.
I showed it to my wife (the pic, not the actual dish, no way she’s up at 5), and she thought it looked festive and Christmasy, I get it. My thought was to call it an IKEA Salad because there is some assembly required. Narf. I made a joke.