This celery root soup seems like the type of thing a cooking magazine would suggest as an elegant way to begin your family’s Thanksgiving feast. I can picture it, served tableside out of a gorgeous soup tureen, as a family of beautiful people gather around a beautiful fall table. The mood is festive, but serene. They’re all so happy just to be spending the holiday together.
But that’s fantasy-land and your family’s Thanksgiving is probably more like mine (at least that’s what I’m telling myself). Dogs will be racing around the house, adult siblings will be fighting, wine will be spilled, and someone will be having a nervous breakdown over a turkey that just won’t cook. As you look around and realize half of the group hasn’t bothered to change out of their pajamas and the opulent table you had imagined is actually covered in dirty mixing bowls, you’ll wish it was just a quiet Monday night and you were sitting down to a bowl of this soup with a hunk of bread and a glass of red wine.
And that’s how I enjoyed my celery root and apple soup. In perfect family holiday land, it would be a wonderful Thanksgiving first course, but in reality, it’s better appreciated at the kitchen table on a weeknight, garnished with a couple crispy pieces of pancetta and a mess of roasted Brussels sprouts served on the side.
Okay–we’ve got soup to make. This soup is super simple and needs just a few ingredients: celery root, a couple of apples, onions, and a few sage leaves.
Celery root is a pretty gnarly looking, hairy root vegetable. It tastes mildly of celery, but its texture is more like that of a potato. I love it and not just because of its ugly duckling status; it’s delicious. Before you cook with it, you’ll have to trim off all that hair, chop off the top and the root ends.
Now that the celery root has been cleaned up, you can cut it into chunks. Peel and dice apples and onions and you’re ready to go.
Add broth. I had made chicken stock from the chicken carcass I had saved from dinner the night before, but you could certainly use a vegetable stock, if you prefer. Simmer the soup until the celery root falls apart when you press a wooden spoon against it.
Puree the soup and swirl in a little cream, if you’re feeling decadent. I was, mostly because I had some to use up from last weekend’s caramel sauce. Do you see where I get my inspiration? It usually starts with wanting use up something silly like half of a shallot or a few tablespoons of cream. My secret’s out.
Ladle your soup into bowls, top with the crispy pancetta. Break off a hunk of bread, sip some red wine, and appreciate the flavors of Thanksgiving without the chaos of a family holiday.
- 1 large (1½-2#) Celery Root, peeled and diced
- 2 medium Apples (I used Gala), peeled and diced
- 2 small Onions, peeled and diced
- 4 fresh Sage Leaves
- Butter and/or Olive Oil
- 5 c. Chicken or Vegetable Stock (homemade or low-sodium)
- ¼ c. Heavy Cream, optional
- 12 thin slices Pancetta, optional
- Melt about 1 Tbsp. butter with 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the celery root, apple, onion, and sage leaves. Season with a little salt and sauté until the onions take on a little color, 5-10 minutes. Add the broth, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered until the celery root collapses when pressed with the back of a wooden spoon, about 35 minutes. Remove the sage leaves, allow to cool slightly.
- Puree the soup using an immersion blender, conventional blender, or food processor until smooth. Taste. Season with salt and pepper, as needed and swirl in the cream (if desired). Gently reheat over medium-low.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the pancetta on top. Bake for about 10 minutes, flipping the pancetta halfway through, until it is very crisp.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and float 2 pieces of pancetta in the center, immediately before serving.