Celery Root and Apple Pureé

This is one of the most surprisingly good recipes I've ever tasted. I thought it would be good, which is why I made it in the first place, but I had no idea how savory and complex it would be! This pureé is restaurant-quality. I never knew you could cook with the root of celery before coming across this. The recipe comes from Ina Garten's "Back to Basics" cookbook. In this cookbook, she talks about key spices and ingredients to use in order to really bring out the flavors of certain foods without overpowering them. The combination of fragrant fennel with celery root and the addition of tangy apple cider and apples make this pureé worthy of taking the place of mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving. And I think mashed potatoes are pretty amazing, so you know that this recipe must be great!

There is quite a bit of peeling and chopping involved with this recipe, so it's better to make it with someone else to help share the work. I used Earth Balance, which is an all natural trans-fat free margarine, instead of the butter, and I used almost 3/4 cup instead of the full 1 cup. I also used low-fat milk instead of heavy cream. The potatoes in this dish make it thick and creamy enough without justifying the extra fat in heavy cream. With those two lower-fat changes, this is a comfort food you can eat more often than just holiday dinners.

Celery Root and Apple Pureé
Makes 4-6 servings

about 3/4 cup Earth Balance
1 cup large-diced fennel bulb, tops and core removed
2 pounds celery root, peeled and diced
8 ounces (about 1 cup) Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, diced
1/2 cup apple cider
1/4 cup low-fat milk
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Add fennel, celery root, potatoes, apples, salt, and pepper, and saute until the vegetables begin to soften, about 4 or 5 minutes. Add cider, tightly cover the pot, and simmer over low heat for about 30-40 minutes until the vegetables are very soft. When the vegetables are cooked, add the milk and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and pulse until the mixture is blended but still a little chunky. If you like, sprinkle some fennel fronds on top for a garnish.