braised celery

Serves: 6

Prep Time: 15 minutes | Cook Time: 2 to 2-1/4 hours

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braised celery hearts mozza

I’m off to Arizona then San Diego to interview Ina Garten onstage. Two nights in a row = twice the fun because I really enjoy being with Ina. This week we’ll chat about her new book and about Thanksgiving, because who could hang out with her and not talk turkey? Speaking of which, I’m a fan of the do-ahead turkey from her book Make It Ahead. You pour gravy on the bottom of an ovenproof platter, arrange sliced turkey on top, then reheat in the oven before serving. Genius.

Side dishes are on my mind, too, and for that I’m switching to another cook I admire and respect, Nancy Silverton. In her new book Mozza at Home, she has a recipe for Braised Celery that will turn your heads upside down. It involves slow- and high-temp oven-braising of the hearts, which come out caramelized, almost meaty miracles (it also calls from two kinds of olive oil, but I used a good extra-virgin olive oil for the whole thing). The reason this recipe lines up with Thanksgiving planning is because of all the chopped celery stalks we use in stuffing, soups, and turkey stock. Save the celery hearts and make this the day after for a light meatless dish, optional leftover stuffing on the side.

ingredients

3 celery heads
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1-1/2 cups chicken stock (homemade or sodium-free broth) or vegetable stock
1 lemon [I used Meyer], sliced into 1/4-inch rounds, ends discarded
10 fresh thyme sprigs
Extra-virgin olive oil for finishing
Maldon or fleur de sel sea salt

directions

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 300°F.

Remove outer stalks from the celery heads so that only the very lightest green, almost white core remains and reserve removed stalks for another use [like Thanksgiving]. Trim root ends of the celery, leaving enough of it to hold heads intact. Peel outer, exposed stalks with a vegetable peeler [I didn’t do this and it was fine] and cut each head in half lengthwise.

Put celery hearts in a shallow baking dish just large enough to hold them in a single layer, such as a 13×9–inch dish. Drizzle celery with olive oil and massage oil into the celery with your hands to coat the stalks. Sprinkle celery with kosher salt and toss gently. Arrange celery, cut sides up, in a single layer in the baking dish. Add enough stock to come three-fourths of the way up the sides of the celery, pouring it around, not over, celery. Lay the lemon slices over celery and scatter thyme sprigs on top. Cover dish tightly with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

Cook for 1-1/2 hours. Remove baking dish from oven. Increase the heat to 500°F.

Remove and discard foil. Remove and discard thyme sprigs and lemon slices. Return celery to oven, uncovered, for 40 minutes [or less! mine only took 20 minutes] or until top of celery is golden brown and glazed looking and liquid in dish has evaporated. Remove from the oven. Serve celery hot from the dish or transfer to a platter. Drizzle celery with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and serve with tongs.

Recipe and photos excerpted from MOZZA AT HOME by Nancy Silverton with Carolyn Carreño. Copyright © 2016 by Random House. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.