My copy of Vegetables By 40 Great French Chefs arrived while I was traveling and only yesterday did I get a chance to open it up. The book is about vegetables. It is quite interesting to see the variety of approaches chefs take to vegetables, some making stars of the ingredients others using them as a mere component of a dish. I have yet to sit down and read the book, but several dishes already piqued my interest. The first was by Pascal Barbot of L'Astrance, a dish of young carrots with a carrot cake sauce. The other dish which was simple and clever was by Alain Passard chef at restaurant Arpege. His dish was a celery root souffle baked in a whole celery root. Funnily enough, Barbot worked with Passard before making his own destiny several years ago at L'Astrance.
Both of these dishes sparked my idea. Today we made a salt crust with vanilla salt, cocoa nibs and coffee beans to encrust celery root. The root is whole roasted and is perfumed and flavored with the aromatic salt crust. Once the celery root is cooked, the crust is cracked, the root is removed and portioned to be the star component of a warm salad. The warm celery root is dressed with raw celery, kaffir lime honey mustard, cocoa nibs and torn celery leaves.
My only contention with the dish is in the roasting of the root itself. Next time I will use the heat proof Fata paper to wrap the salt encrusted celery root to make a giant softball of aromatic salt which can then be cracked open tableside for a fun presentation and a means to share the intense aroma of roasted celery root and the perfumes of coffee, cocoa and vanilla. Next time it will be better.