Growing up, my mother always made corned beef, cabbage and potatoes for St. Patrick’s Day. I can’t recall eating cabbage any other day in the entire year, but I really looked forward to it each March. This year, I couldn’t quite wait for the holiday to arrive (and I didn’t have any corned beef left over quite yet to make corned beef hash and cheese bread), so I got my cabbage fix in a little early, swapping out traditional potatoes for the lighter, foodier celery root in the process.
If you have not tried celery root (also called celeriac) before, it’s a really strange-looking type of celery that’s grown as a root vegetable. Don’t be intimidated by its furrowed surface, as it actually has a very mild flavor that seems to be a cross between a potato and celery. But unlike its root vegetable brethren, celery root is very light in starch. Give it a try; you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised that this ugly root can taste so light and fresh!
As for cabbage, I know it’s not the most popular leafy green vegetable in the produce section. And if you’ve ever had it cooked to death in a soup or stew, or boiled to death for St. Patrick’s Day, I don’t blame you for hating it. But if you give cabbage another chance, you might find that it can taste positively delightful when cooked properly to an “al dente” texture that retains the slightest bit of crunch. And it’s usually dirt cheap.
The combination of al dente strips of cabbage and tender cubes of celery root creates a surprisingly light and fresh-tasting dish, as contrasted with the heavier boiled cabbage and potato combination. And as you might expect, drunken mustard sauce made with beer, Dijon, and a little almond (or regular) milk really amped this up. Add a little horseradish or combine the Dijon with a spicier mustard if you want – the mild sweetness of both the cabbage and the celery root will go well with it.
Topped with some chopped green or red onions for some added crunch and freshness, this warm celery root-cabbage salad is good to go for vegans and vegetarians out there. Or add a sprinkling of crisped-up pancetta (or, better yet, crisp up some of that leftover corned beef after St. Patrick’s Day) for a quick, easy, meat-lover friendly topping.
Eat this as a meal or serve it as a side dish. Either way, it still tastes great for lunch a few days later. After making this for Monday’s dinner and eating it for Tuesday’s lunch, I finally finished the last of it for lunch today – so I can vouch that it stays quite nicely, and because I conveniently stored it in unmicrowavable plastic, I can also vouch that it still tastes great slightly chilled and at room temperature, especially when drizzled with a little extra-hot mustard.
Celery Root and Cabbage in Drunken Mustard Sauce
1 1/2 lb. cabbage, cut in 1- by 3-inch strips
1 lb. celery root (celeriac), peeled and cut in half-inch cubes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. pancetta (or corned beef), chopped into tiny cubes
1/4 c. almond milk
1/4 c. beer
3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard, plus more to taste (option to mix in spicier mustard or horseradish)
1/4 c. chopped red onions or scallions
Set metal steamer insert into medium pot, and fill water to just barely below where the cabbage will sit. Cover, and bring to a boil. Add cabbage strips, cover pot, and steam until tender but still al dente, about 5 to 10 minutes depending on the type of cabbage used and the size of the strips cut.
Meanwhile, in a smaller pot, bring enough water to boil to cover celery root by at least an inch. Add cubed celery root and salt to boiling water, and boil until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, cook pancetta in skillet over medium-high heat until browned and crispy. Remove from heat and set aside.
Transfer cooked cabbage and drained celery root to a large bowl.
In a measuring cup, whisk milk, beer and mustard until combined. Pour over cabbage and celery root, and toss to coat. Serve hot, topped with chopped onions (and crisped pancetta for the meat lover). Optional: drizzle with spicy mustard for added zing!