Celery Root Soup with Pomegranate and Bacon
I got my hands on my first every celery root last week, when it made its homely appearance in our CSA box. I felt a little intimidated by the thing. It looks so tough. I really wasn’t sure what to do with it. I put it in the crisper and pretended it wasn’t there for a few days. Then I came across this recipe for Celery Root Soup in Gourmet Live, and I knew what I had to do. It was time to face the celery root.
Celery root is also called celeriac, but that makes me think of a disease, which you really don’t want to think about in relation to food…which means I probably shouldn’t bring that up…moving on. It is not, as I once thought, the root of a common celery plant. You probably already knew that. It’s very knobby looking and gnarled, and for those of us use to more suburban vegetable offerings, but celery root can be a bit of a mystery. I had no idea what this thing would smell like or taste like, or how it would cook. Luckily, once you break past its daunting exterior, the celery root isn’t challenging at all.
I thought the celery root would be as tough to peel as a winter squash, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover it shed its hairy skin easily. A simple vegetable peeler worked wonderfully, and took very little time. Once the skin is off, it’s easy to cut into smaller pieces with a sharp knife. There isn’t a pit that you have to work around or anything like that. For this particular recipe, I cut the celery root first into half-inch slices, then cut each slice into half-inch strips, then again cut them into half-inch cubes. I felt like I dispatched that tough beast with aplomb. It was very satisfying.
This is a quick soup, simple and elegant. I replaced the apples with pomegranate seeds, because we have about a zillion pomegranates right now from my Uncle Bob’s trees (they are awesome). The tartness of the pomegranate was perfect against the brightness of the soup, but what really made this sing was the crisp bacon garnish. Which you can’t see because it quickly sank into the soup, but you can taste it, and that’s what really counts. I’m not usually a “bacon makes everything better” kind of cook, but here, it’s a real winner. It adds a great salty, crunchy something something to what, well, might be kind of a dull dinner otherwise. (Not to disparage the soup, which really is lovely, but might not stand 100 percent on its own).
If you’re looking for a good starter for Christmas dinner, this might be the way to go. It also makes an excellent weekend lunch. If you’re not sure about celery root this is a great introduction to the vegetable, because it’s simple, and clean tasting, and you can really get a good sense for the flavor and kitchen abilities of the thing.
Celery Root Soup with Pomegranate and Bacon
I used whole milk here because it’s what I had, and it was just fine. But if you have heavy cream, you might want to consider using that instead. It will add some body and richness; this version is thinner and lighter.
Adapted from Gourmet.
- 3 medium leeks
- 2 small stalks of celery
- 2 slices of thick-cut bacon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1-pound celery root, peeled and chopped into half-inch pieces
- 1 heaping teaspoon lemon pepper
- 1 3/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 3 cups water
- 1/2 cup whole milk or heavy cream
- salt to taste
- about 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
Slice the leeks in half, then slice into quarter-inch slices. Rinse thoroughly under cold water, then let them drain on a towel or in a colander. Rinse the celery and slice into quarter-inch slices; set aside. Cut the bacon into small pieces.
Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat. When it’s nice and hot, add the bacon pieces. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, for about six or seven minutes, until the fat is rendered out and the bacon is starting to crisp. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and let drain on a paper towel; set aside.
Add the olive oil to the soup pot, then stir in the leeks. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, for about three minutes. Then stir in the celery. Let that cook for another few minutes, then stir in the celery root chunks, and the lemon pepper. Add the broth and the water, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the celery root is soft.
Now you want to puree the soup, using either an immersion blender, stand blender, or a food processor. If using a blender or processor, you might need to work in batches. Be careful not to fill your blender too full, because hot liquids expand when being blended. It’s a weird law of physics or something.
Once the soup is pureed, return it to the pot over low heat. Stir in the milk, and season to taste. Serve garnished with the bacon and the pomegranate seeds.