Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Salad of Celeriac With Olives, Anchovies, Capers, and Eggs

This dish is always well received when I make it, but I seldom do as it is quite a bit of work. The recipe comes from Simca's Cuisine, One Hundred Classic French Recipes for Every Occasion by, Simone Beck. If you don't already own this cookbook, it is worth purchasing as she provides very clear, simple directions for everything from croƻtons that aren't greasy, to really elaborate dishes such as this. If you follow the directions, the recipes work. That seems rather obvious for a cookery book, but unfortunately having tested recipes no longer seems to be the norm in publishing.

Let's talk about celeriac for a moment. A good celeriac should be about the size of a softball, still have stalks at the top that are green, and be firm. If it is a shriveled, spongy little thing-pass it over and cook something else. Celeriac turns brown quickly, so you need to get it into lemon juice immediately. This recipe calls for letting it macerate for 30 minutes, which sounds like a bit much, but I've had such great success with the instructions as written, I wouldn't want to experiment with shortened time. Plan ahead to make this dish. Besides, at $3.88 a pound, you don't want to go wasting celeriac.

A few words on the sauce-the dried piece of orange peel seems to be integral to the recipe, and while you wouldn't notice it in the overall sauce, you'd miss it were it omitted. If you don't obsessively swipe the orange peels out of the hands of your family all winter to dry on a string in the kitchen, you can cheat and dry some in the oven. Dried orange peel comes in handy for making cordials, compotes, and so many things it seems pointless to ever toss it out. I have a couple pint jars worth to last until next winter's orange crop. You can of course buy dried orange peel...if you're the sort of person that pays money for things people dustbin. I don't think my readers are that sort of people.

So the sauce, the wonderful sauce that the boys refused to let me toss out the last tablespoons of, scattering to the kitchen in search of bread heels to finish it off with-what better endorsement is there? Don't despair at the length of the recipe-it really isn't as much of a challenge as it seems, but there are a large number of steps involved-more than we're used to in our, "Quick and Easy" recipes world.

The recipe did not call for it, but I served it over a bed of assorted greens from the garden, with some slices of grilled sourdough bread.

You Will Need:

6 anchovy fillets
1/2 cup tepid milk
1 medium celeriac (1 1/2-2 lbs)
Juice of 1 large lemon
4 large or 6 medium eggs
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 cups puree de tomate provencale (recipe follows)
1/2 tablespoon sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons capers
3 ounces (5/8 cup) small, black olives
Black pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

For the puree de tomate provencale:
(recipe makes more than you will need, but it freezes easily)

5 pounds very fine, ripe tomatoes
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Enough onions to make 1 cup finely minced
A large bouquet garni of thyme, savoury, basil, and oregano
a 1 inch piece of dried orange peel
Black pepper
1-2 tablespoons sugar to taste

Wash and quarter the tomatoes. Warm half of the olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add tomatoes and cook uncovered over moderate heat, stirring until they have rendered all their juice. Put them through a food mill, and set them aside.

Heat remaining oil in same skillet and add the minced onions and cook slowly until tender but not brown (about 15 minutes). Add tomatoes, garlic, bouquet garni, peel and a little salt. Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes.

Remove bouquet garni and peel. Puree the tomatoes again through the food millAdjust salt, pepper and sugar. If sauce is too thin, reduce it over heat to 2 1/2 cups. Stir to keep it from burning. let cool, then adjust seasonings.

Place the anchovies in the milk to soak for 1 hour before using. You don't need them until almost the end, so if you do this as you begin, it should be fine. When ready to use, drain and blot dry.Cut into dice.

Peel the celeriac cutting deeply to remove all the blackish parts. Cut the slices into strips, then cubes and place in a bowl with the lemon juice to macerate for 30 minutes.

Place the macerated celeriac into a pot of 6 cups boiling water. When it returns to the boil add 2 tablespoons (not a misprint) of salt. Boil 10 minutes. Drain, refresh under cold running water, then dry on towels. Set aside.

In the same water, hared boil the eggs for 10 minutes. Remove them, let cool in cold water, then shell them.

Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the chopped onion and garlic, cooking until lightly coloured. Pour in the tomato sauce and the sugar. Stir until sauce has thickened and browned. Remove from heat, add the vinegar, capers, olives, and anchovies. Add pepper and adjust seasonings as needed.

Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan. Roll the pieces of celeriac in flour and knock off excess. Fry them until they are lightly browned. Blot oil (I use paper bags).

Spread the tomato mixture in the middle of a serving dish, cover with the fried celeriac, surround with quartered eggs, and scatter parsley. Serve cold, but not chilled.

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