Obviously, the appeals of plain, vegetable mush soup have not been lost upon me yet. But don’t be fooled—this one is extra special, and by extra special I of course mean that it is more unremarkable than the rest. Maybe even the most unremarkable! This is not your average run-of-the-mill vegetable mush, no, no, it is mush of the most thrown-away, despised and barely tolerated vegetable. Celery.
I would pity the vegetable and its unpopularity more if I myself weren’t part of the unappreciative masses who consume celery stalks for only one of 3 purposes: 1.) as a base for stocks and soups (which uses only a couple stalks—the rest inevitably languish in the vegetable drawer), 2.) for ants on a log (don’t judge, that stuff is good), and 3.) to munch on some fake calories to keep my stomach distracted while I find something substantial to eat for dinner.
I honestly don’t know why I picked out celery-celery soup from all of Dorie Greenspan’s recipes in her Around My French Table cookbook to make. Maybe the day I decided to make it I was feeling extra sensitive and my empathetic instincts to side with the underdog has finally made its way onto my dinner plate.
All I know is the day I wanted to eat it for dinner, I couldn’t, because the celery root required for the recipe was no where to be found in the 3 nearest grocery stores near me. I will save your sanity, and mine, by not dwelling on the fact that I live in a culturally-forsaken area that doesn’t stock celery root in February. So, fast-forward two weeks from that night when I found some celery root in a health food store (that curiously and deliciously sells kombucha in bulk…awesome), and that is when the glory of this soup, or maybe more accurately lack thereof, began.
In case you haven’t figured it out yet by my ramblings, the double celery in the name signifies the presence of both celery stalks and celery root. There’s also some apples in the soup, which add some sweetness, but they don’t detract any of the main flavor. Besides that, there’s not much to it. Let’s just say that this is a soup of humble origins. (A random tangent: I actually love cooking really humble soups that require no more than water or broth, onions, and another vegetable or two. I think it goes back to when I had to read Night in middle school, and Elie Weisel wrote about how he ate some version of soup—aka water and onion—for his daily meal most days. I don’t know, there’s just something about eating a whole bunch of gooey cinnamon cake squares that immediately propels a person in the opposite direction afterwards.)
Anyway, what you end up with is a puree that’s light, and with sweetness and earthiness from the flavor of celery. I’m not going to add any whistles or bells to it, because after all we’re still talking about celery here, but it’s pretty good. Add on a drizzle of heavy cream, and some homemade curried croutons and curried apples—they take minutes to make and add a completely different, delicious dimension—and you’ve got yourself something even better. Something, dare I say, even actually special!
One Year Ago: Honey Whole-Wheat Bread
Celery-Celery Soup with Curried Croutons
From Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table
Serves 8, more or less
2 tablespoons butter
3 celery stalks with leaves, trimmed and sliced into rough 1/2-inch pieces
2 large onions, chopped
2 sweet apples (such as Fuji), peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound celery root, trimmed, peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of thyme
6 cups vegetable broth
heavy cream, creme fraiche, or whole-milk yogurt, for serving
2 hefty tablespoons butter, separated
1/2 teaspoon curry powder, separated
2 sweet apples, peeled, cored, and cut into a dice
bread (country, white, wheat, whatever) tore or cut into a dice (enough to make 1-2 cups)
To make the soup, melt the 2 tablespoons butter in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-low heat. Once melted, add the sliced celery, onions, and apples and season liberally with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and the onions are beginning to get translucent but not brown, about 7 minutes or so. Stir in the celery root and the herbs. Add the broth, turn up the heat to high, and bring the mixture to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn down the heat to low, partially cover the pot, and simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the celery root smashes easily when pressed against with the back of a spoon. As Dorie says, if you can, pull out the bay leaf and thyme—but good luck with that.
While the soup is simmering, make the curried apples and croutons. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt a tablespoon of butter. Add in 1/4 teaspoon curry powder and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add in the diced apple and saute until tender, about 2 minutes. (These apples won’t get crispy like croutons, but I hardly think that’s the purpose of them.) Taste for seasonings, then remove from the pan and set aside. In the same pan, melt another hefty tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Add in another 1/4 teaspoon curry and once again, stir until fragrant. Add in the bread cubes and cook, stirring frequently, until the croutons are browned and crispy. Taste for seasonings.
When the soup has simmered sufficiently, transfer the mixture in small batches to a blender and puree the soup until very smooth. Reheat and season to taste for salt and pepper. Serve, garnishing each bowl with a heavy drizzle of cream (or a big dollop of creme fraiche or yogurt), a big spoonful of the curried apples, and a sprinkling of the curried croutons.