Sunday, February 23, 2014

Braised Celery with Tomato and Parmesan

Braised Celery with Tomato and Parmesan on plate, fork and napkin in background

A great side dish to accompany, well . . . anything

Never tasted Braised Celery? Well, you’re in for a treat. Because braising makes celery tender and sweet, revealing new depths of this often-overlooked veggie.

For this recipe, we cook celery in tomatoes (marinara sauce, actually), then finish it with a layer of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. We end up with a dish that’s almost a gratin, but not quite.

Braised Celery makes a perfect sidekick for grilled/roasted meat, fish, or poultry. Or anything, really. And its flavor is lip-smacking good. So this might be the perfect time to wear your “Kiss the Cook” apron.


Braised Celery with Tomato and Parmesan on plate, overhead view on black

Recipe: Braised Celery with Tomato and Parmesan

Braising involves cooking food slowly in a bit of liquid (using the oven, in this case). There are many recipes for braising celery, ranging from very simple (e.g., cooking in concentrated chicken stock) to lengthy and elaborate (with lots of additional ingredients required). The recipe I discuss here is fairly straightforward. It does include a few “extra” ingredients, but it still allows the flavor of the celery to stand out.

This recipe is adapted from Lidia Matticchio Bastianich’s Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen.

Prep time for this dish is about 10 minutes, with additional total cooking time of about an hour. (This recipe directs you to make a marinara sauce for braising the celery. If you want to use pre-made marinara—or another tomato sauce—see the Notes).

This dish yields 4 to 6 side dish-sized servings. Leftovers keep well for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container.

Ingredients
  • ~6 celery ribs (enough to fill your baking dish in a single layer; see Step 5), plus celery leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ - ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • salt to taste (for me, this means a few big pinches of kosher salt)
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste (maybe 6 grinds)
  • ~2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated (about a cup, packed)
Procedure
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Clean the celery ribs, peel the stringy fibers on the convex side, and cut them into 4-inch-long pieces. Reserve some celery leaves.
  2. Peel the garlic and slice or dice it finely.
  3. Heat a 2-quart saucepan on top of the stove. When the pan is heated, add olive oil. When the oil is hot (this will take perhaps 15 seconds—it’ll shimmer), add the sliced/diced garlic.
  4. Sauté the garlic for about a minute and a half. Then add the reserved celery leaves and continue sautéing for another 30 seconds or so (a total of 2 minutes altogether). Add the red pepper flakes and diced tomatoes. Simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes (until the sauce has thickened slightly). If the mixture is too chunky for your taste, you can break it up a bit with an immersion blender (use one with a metal shaft—see Notes for why). Add salt and black pepper to taste. At this point, you’ve made a basic marinara sauce (see Notes if you’d like to substitute another sauce).
  5. Spread half the marinara sauce on the bottom of a shallow baking dish or gratin pan just big enough to hold the celery (I use an 11-inch gratin pan). Add the celery, hollow side up; try not to overlap the pieces (though a little overlap is OK). Cover the celery with the rest of the sauce. Cover the baking dish tightly with aluminum foil. Place the baking dish in the preheated oven and set a timer for 35 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, grate the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
  7. At the 35-minute mark, test to see if the celery is tender (the tip of a paring knife should slide into the celery effortlessly). If you used the inner ribs of the celery head, the celery probably will be tender at this point; if you used the outer ribs, it usually won’t be. Continue baking until the celery is tender—mine usually takes 45 minutes.
  8. When the celery is tender, remove the aluminum foil from the baking dish. Spread the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese over the top. Bake for another 10 minutes or so, until the cheese is melted and bubbly—and has browned just a little (or a lot, if you prefer). After you remove the Braised Celery from the oven, let it sit for at least 5 minutes before serving to give the juices a chance to settle.
Braised Celery with Tomato and Parmesan on plate, fork and napkin in background

Notes
  • As noted above, this recipe includes instructions for making a quick marinara sauce (Steps 2 – 4). But if you prefer, you could substitute a pre-made marinara sauce (homemade or store bought) that you already have on hand. Or use another Italian-style tomato sauce. Do note that unless you heat the pre-made sauce before assembling the dish (Step 5), total cooking time will be a bit longer.
  • I strongly suggest that you use high-quality imported Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for this dish (rather than a domestic version produced in the US). It’s worth the expense to use the real stuff.
  • When using an immersion blender in hot liquid, make sure to use one with a metal shaft. A plastic shaft can crack from the heat. Guess how I know.
  • You can assemble this dish (without the cheese) ahead of time, and then just cook it in the oven for an hour or so before serving. To assemble ahead of time: Make the marinara sauce and allow it to cool. Then assemble the dish (Step 5), using a baking dish that’s safe to chill and then heat in the oven. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and refrigerate. When you’re ready to finish cooking, preheat the oven and grate the cheese. Then cook the covered dish as you normally would (Steps 7 and 8), adding at least 10 extra minutes of braising time since the chilled ingredients will need time to reheat.
Braised Celery with Tomato and Parmesan on plate, fork and napkin in background

Remember—It Goes Well with Anything

“I never knew there were so many ways to use celery,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs.

“Yup,” I said. “In addition to this dish, there’s that terrific Italian Celery and Mushroom Salad we did on the blog last week.”

“And don't forget that great Celery, Corn, and Bacon Chowder,” said Mrs K R.

“That’s a hearty one,” I said. “Which would make it welcome this week.”

“Since it’s going to turn very cold here—again,” said Mrs K R.

“What does Punxsutawney Phil have against us?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but that rotund rodent is getting annoying,” said Mrs K R. “Wonder how Braised Celery would pair with Groundhog Stew?”

You may also enjoy reading about:
Celery, Corn, and Bacon Chowder
Italian Celery and Mushroom Salad
Braised Belgian Endive
Braised Fennel
Fennel and Tomato Gratin
Braised Cabbage
Or check out the index for more recipes

78 comments:

  1. Beautiful, as always! And I do so love the thoughtfulness of your insider tips and ideas! We’ve been doing braised celery and carrots together on the stove, just cooking away on the back burner while the rest of dinner is in the works. But yours has a mindless-ness (hmm … not the right word, maybe "no-attention-required" works better?) that appeals. Great work, guys!

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    1. Hi Alanna, I've been called mindless before! ;-) Very fitting at times. But I know what you mean. I like to braise celery and carrots with pot roast (I always do it separately, not in the same pot as the meat), but otherwise don't do it -- I should, it's such a nice pairing. Thanks for the comment.

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  2. Definitely going to be buying a large head of celery tomorrow when I go grocery shopping! Between this and the mushroom and celery salad, I have a couple of sides for the week. Have never seen celery be the star of a braise. It sure looks delicious! Thanks for another great recipe John!

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    1. Hi MJ, so much one can do with celery! Who knew? ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Yes Never had braised celery or any of the dishes you are dishing out with celery! I just have one word for your creativity - WOW! I learn new things here every time I visit. Thanks Much!

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    1. Hi Ansh, celery has so much to offer! I won't overlook it in the future. Thanks for your kind words, and for taking time to comment.

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  4. I loved braised celery but have never put it with tomatoes and Parmesan. I can't wait to try this with a juicy chicken breast. What a nice light supper this will be.

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    1. Hi Karen, this works so well with chicken! Great combo. Thanks for the comment.

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  5. The only times we'd ever eat cooked celery was when my mother included it in a Yankee Pot Roast. I know this will be delicious! Thank you for sharing the celery recipes, now I have no excuse for letting a head languish in the veggie drawer!

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    1. Hi Lydia, celery is a classic in pot roast, isn't it? I always include it in mine! Thanks for the comment.

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  6. John, I'm completely intrigued by this tasty looking braised celery! I'm guilty of overlooking the vegetable, however, this post will change that.

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    1. Hi Brooks, isn't this a nice dish? I've overlooked celery too much in the past myself! Thanks for the comment.

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  7. John, another fantastic celery dish! I know I would love this one... different story for my man... but I will definitely give this a go, thanks so much for sharing!

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    1. Hi Lizzy, it's really a fun dish! And a great way to eat celery. Thanks for the comment.

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  8. Wow, another great looking celery dish. You are giving me a mean hankering for celery! Thanks for sharing, I will have to try this.

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    1. Hi Lynn, sorry about that hankering thing. ;-) But this is worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

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  9. Aww yum. I was looking for a good looking dish to make for a vego friend. She'll love this.

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    1. Hi Maureen, this dish has so much flavor your non-vegetarian friends won't even realize it's vegetarian! Thanks for the comment.

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  10. Hi John , a very unique recipe for celery ... now celery will be a side dish regularly at my table , it will give the greens and broccoli a break and lucky me my kids love celery . Now I know celery is not just for seasoning , but also used as side dishes . Thanks so much for sharing :)

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    1. Hi Nee, celery really is pretty versatile, isn't it? And really has great flavor, too. Thanks for the comment.

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  11. Looks great John. I've been showing all your celery posts to my husband trying to convince him to eat celery. I love it, he does not. He says if you keep eating celery, you are going to get so skinny that you will fall through the cracks of your kitchen floor. I had to show him your boca negra cake…I don't think you will fall through the cracks anytime soon. :)

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    1. Hi Karen, LOL! No chance of us falling through the cracks. ;-) And all the cheese in this dish gives it more than a few calories. Thanks for the comment.

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  12. Whenever I braise a roast, I always include lots of carrots for me and lots of celery for my husband. I'll have to try this one out for him; he will love it when I do. --Rocquie

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    1. Hi Rocquie, I almost always include celery when I braise a roast, too.I'll bet your husband will indeed love this. Thanks for the comment.

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  13. You are coming up with a lot of celery recipes. I love braised celery but I haven't cooked it for a very long time. This looks lovely and I love how you've cooked it in a tomato sauce - must be full of flavour xx

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    1. Hi Charlie, tomato sauce really does add a lot of flavor. Although celery braised simply is so wonderful too! Thanks for the comment.

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  14. Interesting recipe. I would have not though of using celery in this way. Looks wonder.

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    1. Hi Dawn, isn't this fun? A great way to feature celery! Thanks for the comment.

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  15. This looks so delicious! I love celery raw, juiced and stewed. Braising celery as a side dish is such a great idea - thanks for showing me this great veg in a new light. Have a great day! :)

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    1. Hi Padaek, celery has a lot going for it, doesn't it? And this recipe really showcases it! Thanks for the comment.

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  16. Braised celery?! Sounds awesome, John! This is making my mouth water!

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    1. Hi Ashley, it's good stuff! Definitely worth trying. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  17. Mouthwatering! I'd serve your braised celery as main dish...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, we had this as a side, but I can definitely see it being a main -- the cheese adds a bit of heartiness. Thanks for the comment.

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  18. I am so glad to see this recipe of celery coz my family is going to love this...thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi easyfoodsmith, you're family is in luck! This is a terrific recipe. Enjoy! And thanks for the comment.

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  19. I love all the innovative things you're doing with celery. So creative! This dish was new to me, and makes me wonder why we don't cook with celery more often.

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    1. Hi Beth, celery is such a fun subject! There's a lot to do with it if you just play a little bit. Thanks for the comment.

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  20. I had no idea celery could be braised! Such a cool recipe.

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    1. Hi Laura, isn't this a neat recipe? And so tasty, too! Thanks for the comment.

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    1. Hi Chocolate Shavings, this really is an interesting recipe -- a little bit different. Thanks for the comment.

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  22. I love this! Celery is so under-utilized.

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    1. Hi Alyssa, celery really doesn't get enough love, does it? Time to change that! Thanks for the comment.

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  23. L.O.V.E. This screams dinner party. GREG

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    1. Hi Greg, this is a fun recipe. And tasty. You'll like. Thanks for the comment.

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  24. Braised celery. Never seen that! This sounds like a fun recipe though, and a good starting point for a vegetarian dish. Hmmm, ideas ideas. So many thoughts, so little time! :)

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    1. Hi Great Zambini, this really is a fun recipe. Awfully tasty, too! Thanks for the comment.

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  25. wow! celery's stock just went up in my portfolio! great idea!

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    1. Hi Sarah & Arkadi, this truly is worth having! Really, really good. Thanks for the comment.

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  26. I bet this would be great at room temp as part of an antipasto spread, too! Mmm, the uses for celery never cease to amaze.

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    1. Hi Carolyn, I'll bet you're right! I think this would be outstanding at room temperature as an antipasto offering. Thanks for the idea, and for commenting.

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  27. Wow, what a fantastic looking side!! I will definitely be making this really soon :)

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    1. Hi Kristi, isn't this nice? Loads of flavor! Works for me. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  28. Oh what a magic combination! I would love to be eating this dish tonight. I haven't had braised celery since I was a vego!

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    1. Hi Julie, doesn't braised celery have such nice flavor? And there are so many different ways you can braise it -- this is just one! Thanks for the comment.

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  29. This looks wonderful John! You're so right, I never think about making celery the highlight. My poor stalks always end up as lesser back ups to a meal. I can see this being a real good side dish. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Nazneen, it's so easy to ignore celery! But it's a great veggie with quite a bit of flavor. Definitely worth making an effort to feature it. Thanks for the comment.

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  30. Beautiful photo and the combination of veggies would really be a great flavorful side dish. And, you are absolutely correct on the cheese, there is a difference. I love your tips. :)

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    1. Hi Pat, isn't this a great dish? I love it! Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

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  31. Well it's not celeriac (haha) but it does look very good John. I'll remember that for next time as I tend to have celery leftovers quite a lot. I usually throw it in the soup as that is always a good way to get rid of excess veggies but this is even better!

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    1. Hi Simone, celeriac is coming up tomorrow! ;-) Celery in soup is always good, but I agree with you that this is better. Thanks for the comment.

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  32. I often take celery out of a stew just to eat it. But I've never actually used celery as the main ingredient. This looks great, John, and sounds mighty tasty!

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    1. Hi Abbe, this sounds like a dish with your name on it! ;-) You'll like. Thanks for the comment.

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  33. I'm loving the celery theme you have going on here lately! Wow ---- braised celery?! This is a completely new concept to me. It looks to interesting though and I bet it is really delicious. Thanks for the great idea!

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    1. Hi Amy, I'm having a lot of fun with this theme! And the recipes are so good! :-) Thanks for the comment.

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  34. Well now we can start to think about doing a "celery book for you!
    You certainly are covering the diversity of the celery--not just for salad anymore!

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    1. Hi Dawn, celery really isn't just for salad anymore! Tons of good stuff one can do with it. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  35. Celery is most often an overlooked vegetable more like just a trio for a starter of a soup or a stew but never the star like in this delicious recipe. I love this recipe and can't wait to give it a go. I have lots of celery in my crisper now and its time to get cooking with some of Kitchen Riff's stellar recipes!

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    1. Hi Bam, it's been kind of fun turning celery from a wall flower to the main attraction. Have fun playing with celery! Thanks for the comment.

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  36. The tomatoes and parmesan would give that celery a good flavour, I like this

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    1. Hi Raymund, they really do add a lot of flavor! This is such a tasty dish. Thanks for the comment.

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  37. Thank you for reminding me that I don't eat enough of this tasty food. I've never tried it with tomato and parmesan so it's now on my "to make" list. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Mireya, this is a great dish! I think you'll like it. Thanks for the comment.

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  38. What a brilliant idea to cook celery! I have definitely never had this but I can totally imagine how delicious it is based on the chicken version which I like a lot! Great recipe John!

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    1. Hi Yi, it's fun to do different things with familiar ingredients sometimes, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.

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  39. Your dish really opened my eyes! I had never seen or tried braised celery before. I like adding celery in meat sauce so I can imagine eating celery with tomato and cheese though. Sounds really delicious!

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    1. Hi Nami, braised celery is wonderful, and there are lots of different recipes for it. Really worth investigating, IMO. Thanks for the comment.

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