I have already extolled the virtues of celery root to you once (Celery root? What? If you don’t know what I am talking about, check out my blog on Apple Celery Root Soup for more about celery root) so I will not bore you again here. Except to say, once again, that it is Awesome. With a capital A.
After making my soup for many pleased customers, (one client has told me she still has dreams about it (I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a gigolo (Well, they do say that sex and food affect the same area of the brain (Wait a second, did he just do four parentheticals inside one another? Four?! Come, on now that is just getting ridiculous!) I decided that this wonderful vegetable needed some other uses.
So, I decided to try and roast it. I mean, it resembles a potato, what would happen if I cooked it like one? I have a roasted potato recipe I love from my Tri-tip blog. What happens if I dice the celery root into chunks and roast them in a similar way?
But I needed something to make it with. I mean, celery root is only the vegetable after all. It needed a protein of some kind. After thinking of that starchy celery taste, I decided it would be less hearty than potatoes, so beef didn’t seem right. I also discarded the idea of pork (for now.) I would hardly call celery root subtle with it’s intense flavor, but I thought it had more of a mineral-y flavor, almost like a good Sauvingon Banc has. And, that goes best with and chicken. Specifically a good herb roasted chicken.
Hey, I thought to myself, could I just modify my roast potato recipe and roast them together? No, roasting a whole chicken as normal would either crush the potatoes underneath or make them too soggy. But, maybe if I could cut down the cooking time and somehow make the chicken lighter…aha! It came to me. I would butterfly the chicken and roast it directly on top of the celery root. I’d give the celery root just a little time on its own and then plop the chicken, spine removed and flattened, directly on top. That way, the celery root would get all that wonderful chicken drippings without getting overly soggy, and, in turn, the celery root would prop the butterfly chicken up off the roasting pan to create a natural roasting rack.
The cooking process seemed to compliment each other perfectly, and I decided to try it. Cubed celery root went in the oven first, then I topped it with a butterflied chicken (or just one half of the chicken.) I rubbed an herb butter both above and underneath the skin and then pricked the skin with a fork a few times to ensure crispness. Within a half hour or so, the kitchen smelled indescribably good. I had neighbors ask me the next day, “what were you cooking yesterday? It smelled amazing!”
And it tasted even better. The celery root was crisp on the outside but melted in your mouth on the inside, just like a perfect roast potato. The chicken skin was crisp and tasted of both the herbs in the butter and the celery root. And the best part was, my wife and I were so satisfied with just celery root and chicken, we didn’t even realized we’d eaten a vegetable and no starch! (Oh, and pairing it with a Sauvingon Blanc that we’d bought from Grocery Outlet was heaven. It also goes well with a Gewurtztraminer.) It has since become a staple of our household.
1 Butterflied Chicken
2 small celery roots or 1 large celery root (sometimes called celeriac)
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
½ cup butter (1 stick), softened
About 2 Tbsp fresh herbs of choice (I like rosemary and thyme)
- To butterfly the chicken, locate the spine, and, using kitchen shears, cut the full length of the bird on both sides of the spine. Then open the chicken like a book and flatten on cutting board, skin side up. The chicken should remain flat on the board. Some pressure may be required to get it really flat. The flatter, the faster the cooking time.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Peel celery root. This is tricky. Chop off the top with the celery they leave on the top for identifying reasons. The sides can be peeled with a peeler, or carefully wit a knife. The gnarly bottom, however, will need a knife. You will not be able to get all the skin off the bottom while the root is whole. Go ahead and and cut into ½” cubes, discarding the soft center of the root (This does not roast well.) As you cube the root, you can cut off any more skin.
- Put the diced celery root in a roasting pan big enough for a chicken. Make sure not to overfill. The celery root needs to be in the pan a bit loosely to cook through. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & pepper.
- Put the celery root in the oven and roast for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, add fresh herbs (rosemary and thyme etc.) to softened butter (if you don’t have time to leave the butter out to soften, you can microwave it for 10 seconds) and mix well to create an herb butter.
- Season skin of chicken lightly with salt and pepper. Using fingers gently separate the skin from the meat. Apply herb butter to skin and spread generously under the skin. Poke several holes in the skin with a toothpick or skewer for crispness.
- After the celery root has roasted 15 minutes, remove it from the oven and add chicken directly on top of the celery root. Roast for 15 minutes more at 450.
- Reduce heat to 375, baste chicken, add garlic cloves, and return to oven and continue roasting for 45 to 60 minutes, basting every 15 minutes.