Buenos Aires – Sometimes you just get an urge for something. For me, this morning, it was celery. I don’t know, maybe my body was craving fiber. Regardless, I popped down to the corner and bought myself a nice head of celery. (I have to work on my quantity words, I thought I asked for a whole “bunch,” but initially my vegetable seller looked at me strangely and then calmly wrapped up a single stalk that she’d broken off of the head. What would I have paid for it, a penny or two?) A little protein was needed, and I walked around the block to the fish market. The stock was a little low, and my choices sort of came down to squid tentacles, small octopi, something called pollo de mar (chicken of the sea), which I think is Bonito Tuna, and one plump fillet of Brótola, or cod. I opted for the cod, it was just, so, plump.
Apologies to Mrs. Beeton, author of the 1861 Book of Household Management, but her recipe for celery sauce sounded way too heavy – involving butter, cream, raw flour, and an odd option for mushroom ketchup. But it did give me a base to work from, and other than the heavy part, I was able to incorporate most of her flavors. I sauteed the cod simply in olive oil with just a dab of butter to allow better browning, and then served it with the celery sauce. Total yum!
1 stalk of celery, peeled and diced finely
leaves from the stalk, finely chopped
1 cup of vegetable stock
2 blades of mace
½ teaspoon of dried tarragon leaves
½ teaspoon of dried basil leaves
½ teaspoon of dried marjoram leaves
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
juice of half a lemon
Put the diced celery in a pan with water to cover and a bit of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the celery is tender – 15-20 minutes. Strain and reserve the celery. Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil with the herbs and spice, reduce heat, and simmer, letting it reduce a little, but not to much – roughly 10-15 minutes. Melt the butter in a pan, add the flour, and cook, stirring steadily, for 3-4 minutes, just to get the raw taste out of the flour, not enough to brown it. Add the celery, the chopped celery leaves, and strain the stock right into the pan. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring continuously, until thickened. Add the lemon juice at the last minute just to brighten the sauce.
Serve on fish, chicken, veal. Makes roughly 1 cup of sauce.
Mrs. Beeton’s original recipe:
387. INGREDIENTS – 6 heads of celery, 1 pint of white stock, No. 107, 2 blades of mace, 1 small bunch of savoury herbs; thickening of butter and flour, or arrowroot, 1/2 pint of cream, lemon-juice.
Mode – Boil the celery in salt and water, until tender, and cut it into pieces 2 inches long. Put the stock into a stewpan with the mace and herbs, and let it simmer for 1/2 hour to extract their flavour. Then strain the liquor, add the celery and a thickening of butter kneaded with flour, or, what is still better, with arrowroot; just before serving, put in the cream, boil it up and squeeze in a little lemon-juice. If necessary, add a seasoning of salt and white pepper.
Time – 25 minutes to boil the celery.
Average cost, 1s. 3d.
Sufficient, this quantity, for a boiled turkey.
This sauce may be made brown by using gravy instead of white stock, and flavouring it with mushroom ketchup or Harvey’s sauce.