Dark Days Challenge Week 1

The Dark Days of Winter Eat Local Challenge officially kicked off last week. I finally had a chance to peruse the list of other blogs in the Upper Midwest group that will be joining me from November 27 to Saturday March 31 in planning some special local meals. Each week the individual bloggers will be writing about their own challenges and successes in creating a SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) meal. There’s some Minnesota faces and some blogs I can’t believe I was missing out on in my group, led by Xan at Mahlzeit. I spent the better part of Saturday morning tucked in bed skimming through Google Reader. Not only am I going to get some great new local meals, I’m willing to bet there’ll be some new friendships too.

For my first Dark Days meal, I tried one of the homeliest vegetables you’ll ever find at the farmers’ market:

This knobbly ball is celery root or celeriac. It’s understated among its vegetable friends, but is the perfect addition to a winter of local eating. Here’s what I knew about celery root when I bought it last week:
1) It’s a root.
2) It’s edible. (maybe?)

I took to the cookbooks and found some guidance in Nigel Slater’s Tender His suggestions to treat it like a potato had me leaning towards a hearty pot roast (pork from Grass Run Farms in Dorchester, IA) served with mashed celeriac. Here’s what I know about celeriac root now:

1) It’s the root from a special variety of celery that produces a firm root that can readily withstand months in the root cellar. (Season extender!)
2) It is definitely edible, both raw and cooked. Raw in salads with mayo or a vinaigrette. Cooked in all the same ways as a potato including roasted, baked, fried, soup, mashed, etc.
3) If this is what “Dark Days” means for our table, I think we’re in for a pretty bright winter season!

Pork with Mashed Celeriac Root

Inspired by Nigel Slater’s Tender 


2-3 lb. pork butt roast
1 Tbsp. sunflower oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 C. apple cider
1 Tbsp. mustard seed
4. C. beef stock (to make a homemade organic stock, check out this recipe)
(If you are not making this for a 100% local, Dark Days meal: salt and pepper to taste)

2 medium-sized celeriac roots
1 Tbsp. butter
Fresh parsley & parmesan for garnish

1. Place pork roast in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-low heat and boil for 5 minutes. Remove roast from pot and drain liquid. Set roast aside.
2. Return pot to medium-low heat, drizzling oil in bottom. Add onion and garlic and cook until just tender. Reduce heat, adding apple cider, mustard seed and any other seasonings as desired. Gently lower in roast. Add stock and cover pot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a gentle simmer.
3. Let cook for 45 minutes on one side and flip over so the other side is now in the broth. Continue cooking another 30-45 minutes or until meat reaches internal temperature of 145°F.
4. When the meat is turned to the second side, scrub and peel the celeriac root. Chop into 2-3″ chunks and place in a medium pot. Cover with water and boil 20-25 minutes or until fork tender. Drain cooking liquid (reserving 2-3 Tbsp) and place celeriac in food processor bowl. Add butter and pulse 1-2 minutes until it forms a thick, smooth purée. You may add cooking liquid 1 Tbsp. at a time to thin purée if desired.
5. Serving Instructions: Place a heaping scoop of purée into a shallow bowl. Carve pork roast, placing several slices on mashed celeriac. Cover with 1/2 C. of cooking stock. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and parmesan.


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