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Guest Chef Michael Carrigan

This month both a fruit and vegetable from the fall harvest season is utilized in a time-honored recipe that traces its heritage to a simple porridge enjoyed by peasants of the 15th century Italian countryside.
Image of Chef Michael Carrigan
Chef Michael Carrigan, executive chef at The Las Vegas Country Club, combines his Ingredient Challenge component, celery root with the crisp taste of a new crop apple variety to infuse seasonal flavors into a risotto dish that definitely celebrates the fall harvest.

While celery root, aka celeriac, is an underused ingredient in this country, it has been a part of many European cuisines for centuries. This root’s gnarly, rough exterior of deep folds and a knobby, irregular shape, will never win a beauty contest; however, when washed, peeled, sliced, diced, shredded or puréed, the tuber can add a very pleasant blend of celery-parsley zest to a wide variety of dishes.

In France, celeriac is a very popular French-fried appetizer served with a mustard flavored remoulade dipping sauce. Julienne slice the raw root into salads for a flavorful crunch that pairs well with any dressing. Puréed, celery root brings texture and a delicately seasoned finish to soups and stews. In Chef Michael’s risotto, the small-diced, caramelized pieces also add a nice color hue to the plating, while its pronounced flavor presides over the garlic, onion and apple flavors just enough to give this creamy dish the comforting overtones reminiscent of a warm stuffing.

For this recipe use small celery root, no larger than a baseball--even a little smaller if you can find them. Larger roots tend to be woody and lack flavor compared to smaller tubers. Since the celeriac’s topography can be scarred with many deep crevasses, purchase a few more than the recipe calls for as you may have to peel away a lot of good root during the cleaning process.
Image of Organic Fuji Apples
Chef Michael’s recipe calls for using either a Fuji or Ambrosia apple for this dish, since both hold their firmness quite well when cooked. Conversely, avoid soft textured apple varieties for this recipe, like Gala, Cameo, or Golden Delicious. Ambrosias are a new, amazingly flavored specialty variety that can be found in upscale markets through mid-December. Domestic Fuji apples have a great natural shelf life and will maintain good flavor right through March. While neither of these varieties turns brown particularly fast when exposed to the air, it is still a good habit to prepare the rest of the ingredients first, before prepping the apple.

Risotto is an Italian rice dish that literally translates as “short grain” and probably evolved from the making of common rice porridge that was a populist dish during the Middle Ages. It’s a good thing to remember, as the definition of a successful risotto is a creamy smooth texture. The making of risotto is a simple, but very deliberate culinary exercise that demands a focused adherence to a set of traditional protocols that also allow for an almost unlimited freedom of ingredient choices within its step-by-step discipline. The dish depends upon a constant stirring and gradual cooking of a flavorful broth into short grain Italian rice, such as arborio. This technique releases the grain’s starch, which is the key to a creamy texture. Into this carefully developed smoothness goes a layering of flavors that always include cheese, sautéed vegetables and fresh seasonings. From this basic formula springs a multitude of variations that incorporate meats, fish, poultry, fruits and spices in an infinite number of tasty combinations.

The chef’s micro celery garnish was left in the recipe, though micro-greens are rarely available at retail, just in case the reader is lucky enough to have these in a home garden. For a good alternative, Chef Michael suggests using the small leaves that have not been trimmed off a standard bunch of celery stalks. Clip the small, white baby leaves as well as the larger, green leaves. Slice these leaves lengthwise into small strips, toss together and then stack in an attractive, multi-colored, top garnish for a tasty finish to the dish.

When done correctly, risotto treats the palate to a unique texture and complexity of flavors that is a special experience. When hurried, it becomes just a poorly cooked dish of rice with several unconnected flavors. So prepare this dish when you have the time to enjoy and watch the process. In fact, may I suggest adding to Chef Michael’s ingredient list: one glass of the same wine chosen to use in the recipe for the cook, along with some favorite background music. Start with the methodical preparation and laying out of each ingredient in the order needed, ready to go. The dish will unfold like a flower before your eyes. Enjoy!

Chef’s note: Since risotto is a side dish, Chef Michael recommends serving his Celeriac & Apple Risotto with the Roasted Chicken with Lemon & Sage Butter recipe found in this site’s Recipe Archives.

Celeriac & Apple Risotto
By Chef Michael Carrigan, The Las Vegas Country Club
Yield: 4-6 servings
Image of Celeriac & Apple Risotto
4 cups Vegetable stock (hot)
1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin olive oil
1 Organic Yellow Onion – medium size, small dice
2 Organic Garlic cloves, fine chopped
2 Celery Roots, medium small, peel and small dice
4 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
1 cup Arborio rice (uncooked)
½ cup Dry White Wine
½ cup Heavy Whipping Cream, whipped to soft peaks
1 Organic Fuji or Ambrosia apple, peeled, cored, small dice
¼ cup Parmesan, Roman and Asiago cheese blend, shredded
¼ cup celery leaves, fine chiffonade (cross wise slice)
Ground Black pepper to taste
Micro-green Celery (garnish) option - celery stalk leaves, thin sliced lengthwise

  1. Heat vegetable stock and have ready for cooking the rice.
  2. Sweat garlic and onion in olive oil over low heat for about 2-3 minutes, making sure not to get any color on your vegetables.
  3. In a separate pan, sauté and caramelize celery root in 2 TBSP of butter over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, Be careful not to burn it. Once caramelized, remove it from the heat and reserve for later.
  4. Add Arborio rice to the garlic & onions making sure to coat all the rice with the olive oil. Stir this constantly for about 1-2 minutes while turning up the heat slightly.
  5. Now add white wine to deglaze the pan, which brings the beginning flavors together.
  6. Reduce the wine by half and then start adding the hot vegetable stock about ½-1c at a time.
  7. With the first stock, turn the heat back down to medium-low and continue to stir, do not let the rice stick to the pan.
  8. As the vegetable stock absorbs into the rice, add another ½-1c of stock and repeat the same stirring process. Continue this process until almost all the stock is gone and the Arborio is about 90% cooked.
  9. To finish the risotto, add in apple and the remaining 2 TBSP of butter, the cheese blend, black pepper and mix in thoroughly. Then check the seasonings and make any adjustments needed.
  10. Just before plating, fold in the caramelized celeriac, celery leaves and a spoonful of the whipped whipping cream to ensure a nice light and creamy risotto.
  11. Garnish with a little bunch of micro celery or sliced celery leaves. Bon Appétit!
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