Often called just plain “celery root, ” celeriac, Apium graveolens var. rapaceum, is indeed the enlarged, spheroid root of the celery grown for its stalks, A. graveolens var. dulce. The first written references to it date from the sixteenth century in Europe and suggest that this variety was first cultivated in the Old World, perhaps in the Arab world. Celeriac, once peeled and sliced into matchsticks or very thin disks, can be eaten raw in salads. This sounds simpler than it is, since the gnarly, softball-sized root takes more care and heft with the peeler than a potato.
Céleri rémoulade, by far the most famous recipe, takes raw celeriac matchsticks and softens them overnight in a mustard vinaigrette called rémoulade, which means reground. Why this should be is a mystery unexplained by standard sources. It may descend from an earlier version of the sauce in which herbs were ground particularly fine. The similar sauce often served with shrimp in New Orleans is pink from paprika.
© 2007 Raymond Sokolov. All rights reserved.