It is no secret that I love potatoes. Other than raw, there is pretty much no application for the potato that I don’t embrace wholeheartedly. But as someone who is trying to eat healthy, and who needs to eat low-carb for my health, I am often trying to find something that can sub in for all or some of the potato in recipes, and help me stick with my program. This can be difficult, because not every vegetable behaves the way a potato does, and it is the very starchiness that I’m trying to avoid that is the source of a lot of the textural joy.
For me, when I am looking for a potato booster or swap-in that brings all of its own pleasures to the party, I look no further than celery root, or celeriac. This large strange looking knobby ball in your produce section is easy to pass by. Usually looking like something tiny alien out of a Star Wars movie, it can have wiggly roots or hairs sticking off it, usually looks dirty, and is a bland off-white tinged with green. But inside this unassuming exterior lies a heart of cream-colored firm flesh that can be eaten raw or cooked and has a mild flavor somewhere between celery and potato.
Even better, it is really good for you. About half the calories and carbs of potato, with great fiber, it is also a good source of vitamins and mineral, including Vitamin B and iron and calcium. It is at its peak in the colder months, as with most root vegetables, and is a terrific addition to any root veggie mix you are putting together for roasting.
Watch: Celeriac: What Is It and What Does It Taste Like?
The French shred it fine when raw and dress it lightly with a combination of lemon juice, mayonnaise, crème fraiche and a little Dijon for a classic remoulade that is a delicious alternative to cole slaw. You can cube it and roast it for an alternative for roasted potatoes, or even steam it al dente and use it in your favorite potato salad recipe. You can even roast it whole, for a dramatic carveable vegetarian or vegan entrée. It easily purees for soup, and while a lot of people promote butternut squash as a way of lightening the cheese sauce for mac and cheese, I find that using celery root puree in those recipes, while it doesn’t add that orange color, is less sweet and a better pairing. It can be sliced super thin and fried for chips or layered into a decadent gratin.
But nowhere does it shine as well as it does in a mash. Depending on what else I am serving, I might use it half and half with regular potato, or just use it alone and celebrate it for itself. Whether you want a buttery and indulgent super smooth version or a more rustic and chunkier mash, you’ll be amazed how delicious and elegant an option it is. So, the next time you are thinking of reaching for potatoes, do a quick spin around the produce section and see if you can find a celery root hiding near the turnips and rutabegas. It just might be your new favorite thing to make, even if you aren’t worried about your carbs.