A side dish featuring celeriac, that brute that is so hard to peel, this time not mashed or pureed. Fondant celeriac - who knew this boring vegetable could be so elegant?
What is 'fondant' when it's not chocolate?
Fondant, unless we are referring to chocolate, is an exercise usually applied to potatoes. The method means cooking vegetables in an emulsion of fat and liquid. The potatoes, awfully fancy and wastefully carved into little barrel shapes sit in a single layer in a pan.
They are browned in fat, usually butter, then drowned in hot liquid: stock, wine or water. Then they are cooked energetically under cover until the liquid is almost absorbed. The result is excellent, the spuds wonderfully soft but not falling apart– that’s unless you’ve used floury potatoes which is a big no-no.
Celeriac can be fondant too
This time though we are not talking about potatoes but celeriac. that brute which looks so unappealing and has skin thick like armour. It does occasionally get its five minutes in the sun when it is made into vegan steaks or baked in a salty crust by top chefs.
It does suit the fondant treatment really well, because it doesn’t fall apart though softens reasonably easily. It’s also a good canvas for herbs and a handful of raisins.
Fondant cooking with cartouche
The very orthodox fondant cooking technique includes a disc of parchment to cover the vegetables in the pan, once browned and soused with liquid. That disc is called cartouche – it prevents the contents from jumping up, spitting and behaving unruly.
I do sometimes make an effort to cut a circle from baking paper and use it while cooking my celeriac fondant, but mainly to impress myself: phwoar, look at those cartouche cooking skills!
But unless you want to be pedantic or pretentious, the lid of the saucepan is completely sufficient.
How to cook fondant celeriac
The celeriac, peeled and shaped nicely into even chunks, goes into the pan ideally large enough to fit it in a single layer. But unless you’re competing for Masterchef, I shouldn’t be too concerned about it.
All the herbs and seasoning, plus the raisins if you’re using them (and you should!) can be added at the start too, and now the celeriac needs to be cooked in butter until lightly browned. Toss the pan occasionally or turn over a few pieces if they caramelise too much – it should take about 5 to 7 minutes over high heat.
And then boiling water or stock is added just to cover the pan contents, the cartouche or lid goes on and it takes roughly 15 minutes from then to finish the cooking process. It’s ready when tender at the tip of a knife or a fork, and almost all the liquid has cooked off or been absorbed.
If for some reason the celeriac is ready but there’s still far too much liquid in the pan, you can scoop the chunks with a slotted spoon onto a bowl, give the sauce a spell of high heat to reduce it, then return celeriac into what by then should be a buttery sauce.
What other vegetables can be cooked like this?
I totally recommend cooking other root vegetables with the fondant technique.
Carrots, especially small and evenly sized chantenay, are perfect for it. Parsnips cut into chunks, small beetroot, peeled into round shapes, sweet potatoes, chunkily diced, will all be excellent.
But perhaps do not try to cook a mix of vegetables in one pan as they will need different cooking times.
What to serve celeriac fondant with?
Roast meats. Vegetarian roasts. Whole grain risottos. Chicken dishes. Meatloaf. Any main that you enjoy accompanied with something more substantial than just a green salad.
More celeriac recipes
The celeriac showstopper, salt crust baked celeriac is so gorgeously impressive – and tasty – it might be your next party centrepiece.
Vegetarian steak and chips: celeriac steak with sweet potato chips. Who needs beef?
Raw celeriac is fantastic, in classic French remoulade: shredded and dressed lightly with good mayonnaise.
More root vegetable recipes
Less starchy, sweeter and more interesting, parsnip fries instead of potato chips are a great idea.
Jerusalem artichoke gratin, baked with bacon and cream, is a good way of preparing those little tubers.
Rather unfashionable, turnips are lovely when properly cooked. Parmesan turnips with your next roast dinner?