Amid the black Perigord truffles, foie gras and caviar that laced a celebration dinner at New York restaurant Gabriel Kreuther, an utterly simple idea lay hidden. As I carefully deconstructed the “Cardamom Roasted Alaskan King Crab, uni coulis, celeriac, sea cress”, I discovered thin, tender noodles barely swathed in an uni-perfumed cream. When I honed in on the subtle flavors, I discovered that the noodles were made from celery root, the homely winter staple I had in my fridge. So a few days later, I made my own.
What follows is really a method rather than a recipe, an improvisation meant to inspire your further improvisation. Although I haven’t tested it, I could imagine the technique working for winter squash, parsnips and parsley root.
I pared the tough skin off the celery root, then cut it into 1/2-inch thick disks. First, I used a Japanese Benriner food cutter to slice each disk as thinly as possible.
Since big winter celery roots can get rather knobby in the center (which would result in broken and unevenly cooked noodles) I cut around those parts and planned to store them in the fridge to make a celery root puree the next day.
Imagining that some readers might not have a Benriner, I used a sharp Good Grips vegetable peeler to make shavings, which worked almost as well (the slices weren’t quite as thin).
Since this was a first test, the noodles were not terribly uniform, something that would be easy to perfect next time around.
To cook them, I used a method I developed recently for cooking all sorts of vegetables. I use a tablespoon or two of heavy cream or creme fraiche instead of butter or olive oil. Two tablespoons of cream have about the same calories of 1 tablespoon of butter and magically transforms vegetables by bringing out their natural sweetness: a big bang for the caloric buck. Scallions add an easy bit of savory flavor but you can use minced shallot or leeks.
I covered the pan and cooked the scallions over low heat until they are soft and fragrant…
Then I added a few tablespoons of water and brought it to a simmer. The tough celery root would need liquid to soften it and I didn’t want to add more fat…
I added the sliced celery root and a sprinkle of salt. Then I covered the pan and cooked them over moderate heat. Every few minutes I tossed the noodles with tongs, adding a bit more water as necessary, covering the pan to let the noodles steam. The goal was to add just enough water so that it evaporated by the time the the noodles became tender (which took about 10 minutes).
If a little water was left, I simply continued cooking the vegetables uncovered to evaporate it quickly.
Meanwhile, I gently heated some leftover Seven Hour “Spoon” Lamb I had in the freezer, which had fallen apart into a sort of stew.
Before serving the noodles, I added an additional tablespoon of cream and adjusted the seasoning (salt and pepper). The celery root had become extraordinarily noodle-like with a subtle celery root flavor.
I spooned some of the lamb over the noodles and drizzled juices around it. As is, it was really good. It became truly delicious with the addition of some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, which seems to tie the flavors together.
I could see just eating the vegetable noodles dressed with cream, Parmigiano and pepper (and maybe a scrape or two of lemon zest), for a lovely “pasta”.