Monday, December 08, 2008

Celery Victor (Page 532)


  • Date: Tuesday, November 26, 2008 -- 8pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companion: Matty
  • Recipe Rating: C+

You know how there are some actors who never get cast as the leading man? You know, the guy who makes the perfect sidekick, or the serious colleague, or the dysfunctional brother. There are some great actors who are always cast in those supporting roles. And it works. They are able to complement the actors around them, to improve the performance of the leading man. But they themselves are never cast in that leading role. Perhaps it is frustrating to be that kind of actor -- I don't know. But those roles are important to a movie, and those actors are often equally or more talented than their leading man counterparts.

If a dish were a movie, celery should be such an actor. I like celery. I fully appreciate its uses: its place in a standard mirepoix is foundational for building sauces and stocks. It provides delicious crunch to many salads. And I wouldn't dare make my mother's tuna casserole without it. But celery, I think, is not meant to be the leading man. Why is it not enough for celery to play a supporting role, which it does brilliantly? Why must there be dishes like this one where celery is the star?

That's not to say that this dish was terrible -- it wasn't. But why would you ever do this? Celery ribs were boiled in chicken stock until tender and then chilled until cold. They were then topped with a dressing of mustard, sugar, chicken stock, canola oil, salt, pepper, and chives. Finally, the dish was sprinkled with celery leaves. My problem with this recipe wasn't one of execution of concept -- I had more of a conceptual problem with it. Why would you want to eat cold, cooked celery? If you were going to eat that, this is probably the best way to do it. The dressing was very tasty, and went just fine with the celery. But the texture of boiled celery is completely unappealing. My special gentleman suggested that the dish would have been better had the celery been raw, and I think he was right. And while celery is delicious as a complement to other flavors, a whole dish of celery was, well, a bit too much celery. The Book tells me that this dish was created in 1916 in San Francisco. It's a famous dish apparently. The fact that I have never eaten it before may reflect that it has gone out of fashion. Perhaps many modern palates agree with my assessment: Why would you do this?

I won't be making this one again. I am happy to leave celery in the supporting actor category, and look for leading men elsewhere.

Here is the recipe.


Cristina said...

When I make Celery Victor as the original recipe, I cook the celery, chill it then top it with slices of tomatoes, anchovies and sliced hard boiled eggs then use just a plain vinaigrette. It isn't a main course but a great salad IMO. Try it again this way, you may just like it.

Teena said...

I think I would like it better with eggs and tomatoes -- then it wouldn't just be all celery!