Roasted Celery Root "Steaks" with Tomatillo Salsa

Roasted Celery Root "Steaks" with Tomatillo Salsa

Ugly vegetables are the best.

Sometimes, I walk through the produce section or the farmer's market and look at something and think, wow, I don't know where I would start to begin to slice/crack/peel/chop that thing. I must have it. 

And that, my friends, is why I have a lovely specimen of the celery root, or celeriac on my counter.

This beautiful creature was about to become "steaks." I followed this recipe from Bon Appetit, and was truly impressed. 

I wrangled the thing, expletives flying, and managed to slice-peel (one might even say hack) the outer layer off. It was a barbaric affair, but I dove in headfirst, and from that point there was no backing down.

Then, I loaded them into an oiled cast iron skillet, and pan-fried them on the stove a bit, to caramelize the outside. After getting them started this way, the starchy, tuberous roots were given a nice roasting in the oven, to cook them through.

In the meantime, I worked with another ingredient that I've tried before, but never worked with, myself; Tomatillo.

The papery husks of the tomatillo was pretty neat to work with -- reminded me of the ground cherries that someone brought to a meeting I was a part of, earlier this Fall. Those, however, were sweet and tangy, with a chocolatey undertone, much unlike the bright flavor of the tomatillo.

I chopped them up after de-husking them, and added some chopped onion, olive oil, garlic, salt, a chopped Serrano chile (from which I removed most of the ribs, for purposes of avoiding a spice overload -- in hindsight, I totally could have left them in, along with some more of the seeds). 

This was a bit acidic, so I might add some bell pepper next time I make this, to even out the flavors of the onion and the spice of the Serrano chile.

I made a pot of wild rice, and took the celery root out of the oven -- fork-tender, by now.

The celeriac turned out delicious -- the olive oil, salt, and pepper that I used to coat the "steaks" helped it to roast into tender, pleasantly starchy slabs of tuber goodness. The texture wasn't unlike a baked potato, but somehow sweeter and slightly less fluffy.

So, here's to the weird ingredients and those bulbous, fibrous roots sitting on the top shelf of the produce section, unassuming and out of the way. Next time you pass them by, just know that it only takes a few expletives and some elbow grease to get down to their layers of roast-ready goodness.