Serves four to six as a side.
If the peeling and cooking, above, took some of the edge off celery, this recipe really mellows it out. The long, slow stewing pulls a veil over its flavor and melts the stalks into smooth, luscious bites. Whoever thought you could describe celery as smooth and luscious? Well, I just did. But that didn’t stop me from putting some crunch back in with almonds and bread crumbs.
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from about ½ to 1 whole lemon; if you need more lemons than that, shame your grocer and buy them somewhere else)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch celery, peeled mercilessly (see above recipe), cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 1/4 cup chopped, toasted almonds
- 2 tablespoons toasted bread crumbs
- Find a pot about wide enough for all the celery to fit on the bottom. (Don’t sweat it if it doesn’t; you’ll just have to stir a little more often.) In it, heat the water, lemon juice, oil and honey, stirring until dissolved. Stir in enough salt so that the liquid crosses from sweet to savory..
- Add celery to the pot, and give it a few stirs to coat it with the liquid. Simmer on low or medium-low heat -- what you’re looking for is a lazily bubbling liquid. Cover tightly and simmer.
- Give it a stir every 10 minutes or so, making sure it's still bubbling lazily. After 30 minutes, add the raisins. After 40 minutes, take a piece out and taste it. I know it’s not a pretty color. Sorry. But is it smooth and luscious? Maybe a little bit like a potato, a little bit like velvet? If it’s still got too much crunch, just let it keep cooking, up to an hour total. (Add a little water if necessary to keep it simmering.
- When it is smooth and luscious, uncover it and turn up the heat to evaporate the water, until the juices form something like a glaze. Give it a taste, add a touch of salt if it needs it, and you’re done. Top it with the almonds and bread crumbs right before serving, or let your guests top it themselves to keep it crunchy, and show celery a little love!li>
- Is your water at full boil? OK, drop your celery in. After 2 or 3 minutes, taste a piece. When it’s tender and slippery but with just a touch of snap left in its heart, drain it thoroughly, shaking the colander to get the excess water off.
- In a separate pan, or back in the empty blanching pot, heat the stock or water over medium-low heat until some steam comes off. Now here’s a funny little technique: Tilt the pan so that all the liquid creates a puddle where the side and bottom of the pan meet. With a small whisk or a fork, quickly whisk in the butter, one chunk at a time. The butter will melt but emulsify, giving you a thick, creamy-looking sauce. When all the butter is incorporated, add the celery and, off heat, stir to coat it thoroughly. How does it taste? Season with salt and pepper until it tastes good. Shave cheese on top and serve immediately.