29 January 2012

Tomato "Cassoulet", Two Preparations of Celery Root, Greens

The weather this weekend has been phenomenal, hitting the mid-60s with mostly-cloudless skies and no winds. Perfect for lounging in a park watching the dogs, getting chided for not having one ourselves, riding the cable car, and... soup? A hearty bean-and-pork concoction heavily influenced by cassoulet on a warm day? You, astute reader, may have forgotten that it is winter. It gets cold when the sun goes down, and it gets cold fast. Not quite cold enough to really complain about, the mid 40s are still enough for bundling up and turning on the heat. And, yes, a hearty dinner.

I had a few goals in mind for the dinner; I wanted to cook something like the titular dish of this post, having seen one on the dinner specials board whilst eating brunch and I wanted to use seasoning very sparingly. For the veggies, I decided on broccolini (because I love it and my grocer had Sovrano cheese) and celery root, which has a strong flavor. Also, you can make, essentially, mashed potatoes with it and call it "celery root puree" and put it on your fancy menu next to things like "fricassee de poulet". If you had a fancy menu, that is. Anyway, celery root puree is nice but I also wanted to try making fries from it or, going with the earlier menu theme, "celery root frites". So I ended up with this:
The seasoning was sparing; I've thrown some herbes de provence on top of the soup and celery root for effect, but when cooking it was simply salt and pepper. Starting with the bowl, we have a tomato-and-bean soup with dry sausage, severely blackened ("frites noir") celery root skinny fries, roasted broccolini dressed with a bit of sovrano, and celery root puree. While dark, the fries didn't taste burnt; they had started to brown, I turned around to shape the puree into balls, and turned back to see the charred-looking mess. Honestly, I would change nothing with the dish except not charring the fries. The prep was simple and the flavors strong.
Tomato "Cassoulet" Soup, Celery Root Preps, Broccolini
Serves 2-ish
1 can (15oz) of diced, salted tomatoes
1 can (15oz) of white beans (navy beans/haricot)
1 small (4oz?) dry sausage, sliced thinly into rounds
a bit of strong, hard cheese (sovrano grana recommended, or use pecorino)
dressing herbs (fresh herbes de provence or other hearty herbs, or dried if you don't have fresh)

Heat a cast iron over medium until hot. Add the sausage, cook on one side for a minute, flip, and cook until a decent amount of fat has rendered out and the sausage darkened. Reduce heat to medium-low, add in the beans and tomato, and stir. Stir every now and then while you do the rest, but you are mostly going to leave this alone for the next 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 to make...

Two celery roots, two preps (plus broccolini)
2 celery roots
1 bunch broccolini
white wine vinegar
a bit of strong, hard cheese (sovrano grana recommended, or use pecorino)
high smoke point oil (grapeseed if you have it, or refined canola)
salt and pepper

Chop off the top and bottom of the celery roots, then skin with a knife. You can lose a bit of flesh during this. Chop one of the roots into fry-shaped pieces then soak in a bowl with white wine vinegar. Prepare a foil-lined baking sheet and in a bowl combine enough oil to coat the broccolini, a few turns of salt, and a turn of pepper. Shake out the fries and toss them and the broccolini in the oil mixture. Lay out on baking sheet without crowding, otherwise the broccolini won't crisp properly. Put in oven about 30 minutes before you want to eat.

With the untouched celery root, chop it into cubes and start a small pot of water boiling. Proceed as you would for mashed potatoes, viz. boil until a fork easily pierces, drain, (optionally add some fat like butter or milk), mash with fork, and salt to taste. This will take about 20 minutes and cool quite quickly when mashed, so consider saving it until the fries are frying.

After the cooking sheet has been in the oven for 15 minutes, remove it and take the celery root off. It should have softened and lightly browned. Grate cheese over broccolini, place back in oven, and lower to 350. Given how small the fries will be, prepare the smallest frying prep you can manage; I used my smallest pot with only a few tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the fries, shaking intermittently. Prepare a paper-towel lined plate to dry fries on.

Once the fries go in, add some cheese to the cassoulet (to taste) as well as any salt or pepper you think it may need; the sausage should have seen to this, but you never know. Mash the celery root as described above, remove the fries to paper towel and drain. Toss with a bit of salt and pepper. Remove broccolini from oven. Garnish with any herbs. Eat.

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