When I get into a work groove on the computer, I often crave something to munch on to…um… “fuel” my inspiration. Or that’s the excuse I give myself for my at-the desk nibbling. Lately, my snack of choice has been celery sticks. But don’t be fooled into thinking my celery consumption is some health nut badge of honor. After all these years of living in Brittany, raw celery has become a treat, an exotic delicacy only to be found on North American shores.
You can find all the celery root (celeriac) you want in France. (Something that’s not the case in the US, but that’s another subject for another time.) But long, stalky heads of celery are not much of a hot item. The French don’t really eat raw celery. The stalks are used in small quantities to flavor soups and pot roasts—which is probably why celery is usually sold by weight and by the stalk. That means the celery heads you find at the store have usually been violently yanked apart by cooks needing just one or two stalks for a pot au feu or boeuf bourgignon. I’ve tried buying a stalk or two just to eat, only to be bitterly disappointed. The celery head variety cultivated in France seems to be different. It’s a lot more fibrous—and a lot less delicious raw.
Which brings me back to my current “I’m-in-the-US” celery stick habit. It has led to a surplus of celery bottoms—or hearts. These are the root ends of the heads – the whitish parts of the ribs that are too bitter and tough to eat raw. I don’t use all that much celery in my cooking, so I’d just been collecting these in the bottom of my fridge for a while, till I decided to braise them.
Andh my, were they good! Better than I expected, if truth be told. They turned silky soft, and their flavor was rich and almost fennel-like (the two plants are cousins, after all). I ate the first ones straight as a side dish, then cut up what was left and added the braised celery pieces and juices as a brothy pasta sauce. #NoWasteKitchen
Braised Celery Hearts
To make the sauce for the braised celery hearts extra rich and delicious, use half butter, half olive oil to braise them. These will keep up to a week in the fridge and reheat exceptionally well.
2 tsp. butter
2 tsp. olive oil
2 celery bottoms/hearts, halved
¼ tsp. salt
Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium Dutch oven or a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the celery hearts cut side down, and cook 5 minutes, or until deeply browned. Turn with tongs, and brown on outside 3 to 5 minutes more. Add 1 ½ cups water and ¼ tsp. salt, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer 30 to 45 minutes, or until the celery hearts are very tender. Makes 4 braised heart halves