The Big Idea: Like last time, I picked a recipe out of Simple to Spectacular, but this one was on the fancy end of the spectrum. The recipe title was actually “Steak with Four Celery Flavors and Eggless Bearnaise Sauce,” but I think the fourth celery flavor was a celery leaf garnish, and my celery came leafless. Also, based on my own knowledge levels, I’m not confident that my readers, however sophisticated, are sufficiently familiar with Bearnaise Sauce to instantly picture it eggless. I know I wasn’t. I had to look it up. (Clearly, I’m not even familiar enough with the sauce to know how to manipulate my keyboard to produce the proper accent marks in its name.)
However, despite re-titling the dish, to Triple Celery with Shallot Relish, I made no major changes to the concept: pan cooked steak with homemade celery salt and roasted celery root wedges. After I was rewarded with a tasty sauce for letting my faith in the recipe conquer my skepticism of its garlic quantities in Steak #13’s, I even followed this recipe’s suggestion of plating the steak with some slightly cooked celery stalks. It was kind of a complicated one, but lots of fun and quite tasty.
The Celery Salt: The instructions said to let a little celery root peel dry out for a day, then pulse it in a coffee grinder, add salt, and let it sit. My coffee grinder didn’t chop it up very small on the first go, so I added some kosher salt and pulsed it some more. That was effective in grinding the salt up to the consistency of powdered sugar, but the celery root peel remained in fairly large pieces. I decided to just let it sit, and by the time I put it on the steak the next day it had developed a nice celery flavor.
The Steak: I towel dried the steak and let it rest with the powdered celery salt. After about a half hour, I heated the pan and put the steak in. I went flipped it every minute on the minute to try to preserve some of the celery salt flavor, but the finely ground salt melted and stuck to the pan in a crust. Oh well.
The steak also didn’t char very well – I noticed that despite my initial towel drying that the steak was in a pool of liquid on its resting plate by the time it was ready for the pan. Perhaps the super-fine salt drew out more moisture than the regular stuff?
To its (and my) credit, though, this steak turned out just as done as I wanted it. I’ve been trying to finish closer to rare than to medium, and nailed that with flipping and poking.
The Sauce: The sauce was a couple sauteed shallots, tarragon, salt, pepper, and white wine vinegar cooked down ’til almost dry. It was was even sharper and more flavorful than I anticipated, and even than I would have gone for had I not followed a recipe, but it was great. I ate every bite. It really brought out the sweetness of the rest of the meal. If asked, I think I could have told you beforehand that celery root was a little sweet, but I have never before really appreciated how sweet beef is. Who knew?
I think that statement right there is probably the best thing you can say about a sauce – that it brought out something you never knew about the thing you put it on.
The Side: Basically, celery root fries. I baked them tented with foil at first, then finished them without it. The flavor was a good complement to the relish and steak, but the texture was pretty unexciting. Perhaps I should broil these next time, like those jicama fries I made?
The Garnish: The recipe suggested parboiling two celery stalks and serving them on the side, sort of like a garnish. I was skeptical, because celery is kind of boring, and not even a particularly attractive garnish. It turned out to be great, though. The stalks were still fairly crunchy, and went great with the sauce. This may sound strange, but the taste of the sauce was like the texture of the celery – both had some resistance to them.
The Verdict: A great meal! I guess this is what I get for following the recommendations of professionals in putting the meal together, not just putting one of the items together. The relish was definitely the highlight, because it highlighted everything else so well. The steak was deliciously rare.
The unexpected celery stalk garnish ended up being a more satisfying side than the celery root wedges (I think I could have cooked those better, somehow.) A very pleasant experience, overall.
Notes for Next Time:
- Homemade celery salt seems very worthwhile, now that I know not to pulverize the salt!
- I’m glad to have tried the relish – this is a good kind of sauce to have in the repertoire.
- It was fun to follow a menu of recipes, rather than piecing the dishes together, but it’s also fun to experiment with combinations. I think I should try this again, though, because I never would have discovered that relish on my own.
- I’m really excited about the taste of that relish and the crunch of those celery stalks, however strange they seemed at first. What are some other texture-flavor paralells?
- Do you think the powdered celery salt may have drawn more liquid out of the steak than coarse salt?