Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Braised Celery: the unsung vegetable hero

In honor of St.Paddy's day, I had some friends over for a pot-luck style dinner.  I had made guinness braised short ribs and seared red cabbage (posts coming soon) but had an hour to kill before people came over.  Apartment was cleaned, food was cooked--what to do?  I figured I could cook one more side dish to pass the hour but had no idea what to cook.  I was exhausted so didn't want to run out for more groceries, and didn't have much in my fridge.  Except...celery?  I had a HUGE bunch of celery in my fridge because I cooked the meat with a bit of celery and it was very likely it would go bad if I didn't use it.  But who even eats celery?  Should I serve it as crudite?  I did a quick google search and realized that there were a lot of recipes for braised celery.  I thought that sounded a bit weird but couldn't hurt to try and I am glad I did.  
This is my version of braised celery and it was surprisingly delicious.  With the slow cooking, the celery became soft and sweet and took on the flavor of butter and shallots.  It was pretty glorious, let me tell ya.  So, if you have some leftover celery and are bored and want to try something new, check this out.  Or, if you happen to love celery to begin with, try it this way because it'll show you a whole new side of this under-rated veggie!

What you'll need:
1 bunch celery
1/2 shallot
2-3 tablespoons of butter
1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Start by cleaning the celery, chopping both ends off and cutting the stalks into 1 inch pieces, on the bias. 
Next, finely shop the shallot

Put the shallot into a pot with 1 tablespoon of butter and quickly saute until the shallot turns opaque and your kitchen smells lovely
Then, add the celery, another tablespoon of butter and salt and pepper
Add a few glugs of stock 

Let the celery cook, covered, for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If it looks like it's too dry, add another tablespoon of butter or a little bit more stock.  At the end of 45 minutes, the celery should be just lusciously soft and buttery.  Serve with a hearty main dish and enjoy!
Side Note: Many recipes suggest going over the celery with a vegetable peeler to get rid of the fibrous pieces.  I found that after 45 minutes, the fiber was soft and this step was unnecessary but if you need to cook this faster, using the vegetable peeler might speed the cooking process along.

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