Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Clam and Celeriac Soup

Doesn't sound good, does it? Well it was.

Like most things I cook, this dish was born out of necessity. I was hungry to the point of headache, needed to use the clams, and had celeriac on hand thanks to my winter CSA.

For those who still struggle with the question of what to do with celeriac, here's my advice. Think of a dish that usually has both celery and potatoes, and just use celeriac instead, thereby killing two birds with one root vegetable. (Hmm, two birds and one root vegetable - that sounds good...)

Hence the pairing with clams, which are often served en chowder with both celery and potato. But the headache prevented me from thinking of any additional steps, so I went with a simple, clear soup.

As you may know by now, I'm a big fan of Mark Bittman, aka "The Minimalist," and this soup couldn't be more in the vein of his stripped down treatments. With only two ingredients, clam and celeriac, it was shockingly good, not to mention local, seasonal, and sustainable.

I sat down fully expecting a mediocre meal birthed from necessity and shellfish on the brink of freshness. What I got instead was one of the absolute best things I've tasted in recent memory. The pairing was unbelievably complementary, and the flavors rich, clean and bright. I slowly slurped spoonful after spoonful, completely absorbed in the marriage of surf and turf, almost in disbelief and how much there was to taste. Clams were clearly meant to release their liquor into soup, thereby creating an instant broth that you can catch every drop of.

And I'm glad I didn't spoil it with milk or other superfluous ingredients. It couldn't have been easier, and it couldn't have been better.


Recipe: Clam and Celeriac Soup

clams (about a pound)
celeriac (about 1/2 of one)

Dice the celeriac, or celery root, into bite sized pieces.

Simmer in barely salted salted water until almost tender, at which point you add the clams, cover, and continue to simmer until they've opened.

When ready, some of the clams will have slipped out of their shells and some of the celeriac will have ended up in their place, which looks very funny. Garnish with coarsely chopped black pepper.

Serves two, or one with a headache.

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Maggie said...

This is a minimalist recipe! I have a monster celery root to use up but I don't think I can resist adding leeks or onions (no cream or milk for us either though). I'll give it a try.

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