How rude of me! It seems as if last week I neglected to even acknowledge that fine specimen sitting to the right of my endearing Cuban. I do suppose, however, that when you stand next to something so tasty and mouthwatering as a that particular Cuban you do run the risk of not being noticed. Several of you did notice so I am hoping to excuse my terrible manners (and neglect) by featuring this wonderful salad in a post right now. Monsieur Céleri Rémoulade, will you forgive me my trespass?
I experienced my first celeriac salad nearly 20 years ago at the hands of Francois, the young ‘old friend’ of my then boyfriend. Francois was good looking in a way that that only a European can pull off. I know you know what I mean … if he weren’t French you would not only not give him the time of day but you would wonder how anyone could be serious about those pants. He *was* French and so he read twice as attractive as he would have been otherwise. His pants, much to my chagrin, would be all the rage in the US in about 3 years.
In Paris he worked as an assistant chef in his father’s family owned cafe. My boyfriend had met him during a past vacation taken many years before I came on the scene – surprisingly the BF failed to ever mention him to me before despite the many *many* times The Paris Vacation continued to come up in his everyday conversations.
Francois showed up at our door unannounced one summer evening and surprised us by asking for a place to stay that week. Just like that and without any prior notice. Sometime later that evening he would surprise me again by making a blatant play for my boyfriend right in front of me (and and after just one glass of wine!) Still later I was to discover that our visitor was equally surprised to hear that my boyfriend had a boyfriend himself! Apparently I had not come up in any of the many conversations they had shared unbeknownst to me since The Paris Vacation. Uh huh. Before he left our home Francois also confirmed for me that his arrival was actually not a surprise at all – except to me – since his arrival had been planned long before he showed up. Surprise!
Time acting as life’s rear view mirror has a way of throwing light on the things that should not have surprised us at the time. Hindsight being 20/20 and all that. Looking back I think the biggest surprise that week should have been the realization that I actually loved the flavor of that gnarled up root ball. (I’m talking about the celeriac now.) Francois brought one home from the grocery store one afternoon and while I had seen them in the produce aisle I suppose I thought they were just for effect and not for eating. So, while the BF and I sorted out our farce of a life together, that week Francois would introduced me to all sorts of new flavors and tricks. I ate very well that week. It was the least he could do, considering.
Celeriac is the root ball structure of the celery plant and its distinctive flavor in this salad is quite popular in France. Rémoulade is actually the word given to the mayonnaise-like sauce that accompanies it. Together they are a classic French side dish. Around here its not so easy to find celeriac of a decent size but when I find one at the farmer’s market I buy it to make this salad.
This particular version of this easy-to-prepare-side-salad with a certain international je ne sais quoi comes compliments of the très beau Laura Calder. She hosts the French Food at Home program from her chic beautiful Nova Scotia home. (Actually I don’t think it is her real home even though that is the intended setup. J’accuse!) Ms. Calder makes her own mayo for this recipe which is actually quite easy to do and takes very little time but in the spirit of my leftover-makeover day convenience prevailed and I used the mayo in the fridge — something David Lebovitz has confirmed for me most French do anyway.
Classic versions of this dish don’t have have the bits of apple or fennel seed in the mix but seeing Ms. Calder’s inclusion of them was just the extra touch needed to renew my interest. I could now enjoy celeriac again without fearing the once familiar taste of Francois in my mouth.
The measurements below are estimates. When you make this please do so au pif so that you end up with the flavor balances you prefer. Traditionally the root is grated very course or cut into small matchsticks so that it doesn’t get too soggy or mushy when served. My mandolin was acting out so I sliced up small sticks with a knife.