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Cook this: Braised celery for Easter from Jubilee


Our cookbook of the week is Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking by James Beard Award-winning journalist Toni Tipton-Martin. Over the next three days, we’ll feature more recipes from the book and an interview with the author.

Toni Tipton-Martin created this braised celery dish on an Easter Sunday, using the drippings from a roast leg of lamb. She took her inspiration from a rich tradition of African American dishes, including S. Thomas Bivens’s stewed celery, which appeared in his 1912 tome of 600-plus recipes, The Southern Cookbook . It in itself was a take on Celery Victor, a marinated salad created by chef Victor Hirtzler at San Francisco’s St. Francis Hotel in 1910.

“Braised celery is one of those examples of terminology, or the confusion over terminology, in that African Americans have talked about smothering dishes or making gravy from the beginning of time. And yet, in other cultures and professional kitchens, those techniques are considered part of the classic canon: sauce-making, the mother sauces, using beurre manié,” says Tipton-Martin.

Here, she uses the French technique beurre manié (equal parts butter and flour rubbed together) to thicken the dish just prior to serving. The method, she adds, while akin to the practice of smothering vegetables in a roux-based gravy — which is well-represented in African American cookbooks — results in a lighter dish.

“It was really lovely to discover the coincidence of it appearing on the menus of caterers whose guests and customers would have been exposed to celery like this in restaurants,” says Tipton-Martin. “This is a great example of the understanding of African American caterers, their understanding and integrating popular dishes into their menus.”

BRAISED CELERY

1 tbsp (15 mL) reserved meat drippings or olive oil
2 small bunches celery (about 2 lb/900 g) trimmed and cut into 3-inch (8-cm) pieces
1/2 cup (125 mL) coarsely chopped onion
2 cups (500 mL) chicken stock
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp (5 mL) salt, plus more to taste
Pinch of ground or freshly grated nutmeg (optional)
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter, cut into small dice
1 tbsp (15 mL) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 mL) heavy whipping cream
Black pepper

Step 1

In a Dutch oven, heat the meat drippings or olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add the celery and onion and sauté 10 to 12 minutes, until softened. Add the chicken stock, red pepper flakes, salt and nutmeg (if using). Simmer until the celery is tender, about 30 minutes.

Step 2

Meanwhile, on a work surface, use the side of a knife or your fingertips to rub together the butter and flour until well mixed, resembling a smooth, thick paste.

Step 3

Whisk the butter-flour mixture into the celery, whisking until completely dissolved. Stir in the cream. Simmer, uncovered, until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes more. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and serve.

Serves: 4 to 8

Reprinted with permission from Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking by Toni Tipton-Martin, copyright © 2019. Photographs by Jerrelle Guy. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, Inc.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020

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