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  • Writer's pictureTommy Centola

Celery not star, but important

Celery is not an ingredient that is the main focus of a dish. Sure, you can stuff it with fillings for an appetizer or snack. It is an important ingredient in cooking. It is often used as the foundation in many dishes. In Louisiana, it’s part of the Holy Trinity. In France, it’s the mirepoix, onions, celery and carrots.

You can find celery a few ways in the store. You can buy it by the stalk (Bunch), by the hearts (the main parts of the stalk in individual pieces and trimmed) and cut into snack sized lengths. If a recipe calls for a rib of celery, it’s one piece of the stalk.

Today’s recipes will contain celery. The first, Red Beans and Rice, uses celery with onions. For the second one, Mom’s Shrimp Remoulade, it is the main vegetable component. Pick up your celery and Let’s head to the kitchen!

Red Beans and Rice

Here is a Monday tradition in New Orleans. Monday was wash day. A pot of beans could be put on the stove so it could cook while the clothes were being cleaned. It’s great, however, any day of the week.

1 pound dried red beans, preferably Cameilla brand, rinsed and sorted over

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/4 cup chopped tasso or chopped ham hocks

1 1/2 cups onions, minced

3/4 cup celery, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

2 bay leaves

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon dried thyme

1 1/2 pounds smoked sausage or andouille, cut into 1” pieces

3 tablespoons garlic, chopped

10 cups chicken stock

4 cups cooked white rice

Place the beans in a large bowl or pot and cover with water plus 2 extra inches. Let soak for at least 8 hours. Drain and set aside. In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the tasso and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the onions and celery to the pot. Season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the bay leaves, parsley, thyme, and sausage, and cook, stirring, to brown the sausage, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans and stock, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender and start to thicken, about two hours. Should the beans become too thick and dry, add more stock, about 1/4 cup at a time. Remove from heat and with the back of a heavy spoon, mash about 1/4 of the beans against the side of the pot. Continue to cook until the beans are tender and creamy, 15-20 minutes. Serve over rice, removing the bay leaves.

Mom’s Shrimp Remoulade

This is one of the most used recipes in my family. It always makes an appearance around the holiday season. The celery adds a crunchy component to this dish.

4 tablespoons horseradish mustard

½ cup tarragon vinegar

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 tablespoons ketchup

½ cup diced celery

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup salad oil

1 tablespoon paprika

½ cup diced green onions

2 pounds shrimp, medium size, boiled, peeled & deveined

Mix vinegar, mustard, salt, cayenne pepper, paprika, ketchup, and garlic. Add oil, beating well. Add celery and green onions. Add shrimp and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve on shredded lettuce.

Next, we will explore the third component to the trinity, the bell pepper. It’s the ingredient that is different from the French mirepoix. It definitely makes its flavor known in a dish. Until next time, Keep Cooking!

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