Celery root potage with crispy shallots

Whip up - literally - a creamy and mellow potage for dinner ... and don't forget the crispy shallot rings!

Well, I’m at it again – making soup, that is. I just can’t help myself this time of year. I would apologize, but since I think everyone else feels the same way I do, here we go again! Is it just me, or is this cold snap (hel-LO, two feet of snow!) chilling to the bone? Sometimes a mug of tea will warm you up from the inside out, but for me it’s only a bowl soup that really does the trick to right me.

Of course, more often than not I burn the tip of my tongue in the process – I am just too impatient to wait for soup to cool, and apparently I never learn – but there are worse things … like cold soup.

… which reminds me of another reason to love soup: you can enjoy the piping hot leftovers the next day at work while you shiver from the lack of adequate heating! Truthfully, there are no words to describe how cold I get at work some days when the HVAC just can’t keep up with the wintry winds blowing through the half-century-old aluminum siding and drafty doors (I’d say drafty windows, but we have none…). Well, scratch that – I can try to describe it.

Let’s see … I have a pair of elementary school-style black gloves to wear when my fingernails turn too blue (thin enough so I can still type and use my mouse, of course). I take hot water out of the water cooler instead of cool because cold water chills me. I keep a cardigan, a sweatshirt, and the lining of a military-issued winter jacket on hand for when my customary two layers aren’t enough to heat my torso. Oh – and I have two-inch thick down-lined mittens in my cabinet as well, but those are just to be silly and make a point about how ridiculous the cold is. Thankfully, I’m not the only one who freezes their bippy off at work, so I’m not laughed at so much as laughed with. Yes, I like the direction of that phrase as well!

So you can understand by now why I adore soups so much, and equally why I was looking forward to my lunch today. After a cold weekend, our building wasn’t too much past 66ºF this morning, but I knew I’d warm up around 12:30! This puréed celery root soup was truly delicious last night, but I was more thankful for it today. The recipe had been hanging around one of my recipe binders for years; the second my first spoonful passed my lips I wondered why I’d been so stupid as to let it sit for so long! This soup – which I’m calling a potage just to be funny, since potage means “thick soup”, which this is, but also because it’s a play on words since I added a potato to the recipe – is rich tasting, creamy, piquant, mild, and satisfying all at the same time. How can that be possible, you ask? Why, because it’s a soup, of course, and soups are my miracle meal!!

This particular recipe is from the 2003 Holiday issue of Food and Drink, which is a truly fantastic magazine published by the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (Canada). It’s been a recipe goldmine for me for years now, ever since I lived there with my family from ~’98 to ’00. Ever since we moved away almost a decade ago, my mom’s best friend (and mother of the author of this great blog ranting and rambling about life in London) sends along her past issues of Food and Drink for us in turn to cull recipes from. She’s a Godsend! Of all the obscure magazines in the world….. Well, I did tweak this recipe a bit – theirs called for pancetta to start and a leek instead of the shallots, but I had neither of the above but half a dozen shallots on hand, nor was there a potato involved in the original – but my result was probably better than theirs, I bet. I even decided to use up the extra shallots by slicing them thinly and frying them up to an earthy brown crunch. True, they were fried and therefore inherently unhealthy – yet also inherently tasty – but they were also better than the pancetta would have turned out, I’d venture to guess.

If you take this recipe verbatim or tweak it to your own liking – and pantry stock – I guarantee you will end up with the perfect soup for when you need a little warmth, whether at home, at work, or anywhere.

Celery root potage with crispy shallots (adapted from Food and Drink, Holiday 2003)

The potage:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 shallots, halved and sliced 1/8″ thick
  • kosher salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 2 cups chicken stock, low sodium
  • 1 celery root, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 Yukon Gold potato, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 3/4 cup milk (anything works; I used skim)
  • 2 Tbsp cream (your pick; I used heavy cream because that’s what I had)

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over barely medium heat, then add the shallots. Salt the shallots and stir to coat everything in oil; sauté for about 4 minutes, until they’re softened a bit. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic. Cook for another 2 minutes longer; keep watch on the garlic so it doesn’t burn. Add the celery root, stir, and cook for about 5 minutes. You’re looking for a gentle brown on the shallots and garlic, but just a little bit. At this point, add the potato to the pan.

Pour the wine into the saucepan and deglaze the pan. Raise the heat to medium-high and reduce the wine by half. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the celery root is tender; for me this was about 25 minutes, but it may be up to 40 minutes depending on the size of your chunks.

Add the milk and cream, stir, and adjust seasoning if necessary. Cook the soup a little longer so the milk has warmed up, but don’t let the soup boil away. If it does and the cream separates, however, don’t sweat it – puréeing the soup will fix this. Using an immersion blender or transferring the soup to a stand blender, purée the soup until the texture is as fine as silk. It should be smooth but still thick. Garnish with crispy fried shallots.

The crispy shallots:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 shallots, sliced 1/8″ thick and separated into rings
  • kosher salt

While the potage is cooking, heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot (a tiny drop of water evaporates immediately), dump in half of the shallots – but be careful to use a splatter guard or a lid to keep hot oil from spitting up at you. Using a fork, distribute the shallots in the oil so they cook evenly. Keep watch of them, stirring once or twice to make sure every piece cooks to a deep brown. This should take about 3 minutes.

Remove the shallots from the oil using a fork or a slotted spoon, laying them onto a paper towel to absorb excess oil. Immediately sprinkle with a bit of salt. Repeat this process with the rest of the shallots.

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3 thoughts on “Celery root potage with crispy shallots

  1. Soup looks great, and I love crispy shallots as a garnish! Nice. Sorry you are so cold at work–I’m often chilly too and I almost always get hot water from the water cooler. I like drinking hot water. Makes me seem like an old lady but I don’t care! Happy holidays, nightowlchef!!

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