I've sort of put a moratorium on the buying of any food magazines or cookbooks until I've cooked at least one recipe from every cookbook I already have. I can't see that this is actually going to happen, but for right now this is what I'm going for. Over the last month or two I've acquired several new books. Mark's mom got me the big, fat Gourmet cookbook for Christmas. My mom got me a subscription to Bon Appetite for my birthday. Tyler Florence's new cookbook came out recently and I just had to have it. (Despite his unholy alliance with Appleby's I find Tyler's recipes very flavorful and totally reliable.) Then when I was out Christmas shopping I discovered a book called Local Flavors, by Deborah Madison. It's all about cooking using seasonal produce from the farmers markets, something that I am a strong believer in. I've made Deborah Madison recipes before and they were pretty spectacular. Even though I was supposed to be shopping for other people, I had to have it.
So this past weekend I was in the mood to cook, but had no idea what I wanted to eat. I briefly considered doing a recipe from my bible, Sunday Suppers at Lucques, but it just seemed sort of overwhelming. I thought about my new cookbooks and felt pangs of guilt that after my initial excitement, I wound up just shelving them away and pretty much forgot about them. I pulled out Ms. Madison's book and after leafing through it, settled on this intriguing recipe.
A chowder with chunks of celery root as the star ingredient, rather than the more common clam or corn sounded so bright and fresh. And I loved the idea of wild rice mounded in the middle, but what really sold it, was a drizzling of white truffle oil as the decadent finish. Perfect for the cold weather.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced and cleaned
2 ribs of celery, diced
1 celery root (about 1 pound) peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
1 cup russet potato, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups whole milk or cream (I used milk)
white truffle oil, optional
1/2 cup wild rice
Cover the wild rice with 5 cups of water in a small sautee pan. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes or until tender. Drain off the excess water, when the rice is finished.
Melt the butter in a soup pot. Add the leeks, diced celery, the celery root, and the sliced potato, as well at the parsley, bay leaf, thyme and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.
Add the stock, stirring to combine, and bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.
Add the milk and continue to cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the celery root is tender. Taste for seasoning. To thicken the soup a little, puree 1 cup of the vegetables and return to the pot. Alternately, you could use an immersion blender.
To serve, ladle the chowder into wide, shallow bowls and mound some of the wild rice in the center. Garnish with a little more parsley and a drizzle of the white truffle oil.
This soup is a really nice variation on a classic chowder. It's creamy and filling and at the same time the celery root is so light. I think celery as a flavor is sort of underused. Usually it's kind of buried away along with carrots and onion or it has the stigma of being bland diet food (along with cottage cheese) but placing celery front and center can be so pleasant and what's so great about the celery root is that you get the flavor without the stringy texture. I love making the wild rice separate from the soup and then adding it when serving. It really preserves the chewy texture of the grain and the nutty flavor contrasts beautifully with the fresh celery taste. And then there is the truffle oil. What a great way to gild the lily. Its unmistakable, pungent scent and flavor elevates what's already unique to something really special. One thing I might change the next time I make this is using cream, rather than milk. The milk is perfectly fine, but I really love a seriously thick, creamy chowder and using regular milk just doesn't quite do it. I think there are some occasions where you just have to really go for it and this is probably one of them.
I served it with toasted slices of dense bread (La Brea Bakery) studded with raisins and nuts, although some nice pumpernickel or sourdough, of course, would be great too.