Braised Celery

Occasionally, I like to pull a few cookbooks off the shelf and browse through them in search of things I might want to cook. That’s how I discovered a recipe for braised celery, in the San Angelo Junior League’s cookbook, submitted by a Mrs. Evrard Ricci.

Now, I’m familiar with celery. I use it in all the usual ways that Americans use celery—soups, salads, stuffing, snack. But until I saw this recipe, it had never occurred to me that cooked celery could be the main ingredient of its own dish.

Clearly, it went on the list.

Then I looked for variations on the theme. Braised celery, to my surprise, is A Thing. Alton Brown has a basic recipe, which is pretty similar to the one in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything—and both are riffs on the method for “celery in butter” given in the original Larousse Gastronomique. They’re all pretty sparse, and would work best with really fresh, flavorful celery. Alexa Weibel has a much more elaborate version at NYT Cooking, which I plan to try next holiday season. Julia Child apparently has a recipe, but I don’t (yet) own a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, so I couldn’t check it.

I do, however, have a copy of Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, which has three recipes for celery: braised and gratinéed with parmesan; braised with potatoes in olive oil and lemon juice; and braised with onion, pancetta, and tomato. That’s the one I ended up making (in our electric skillet, because our gas range died).

Start by sautéing a thinly-sliced onion in oil until lightly golden. Add pancetta, also cut into thin strips (I actually used soppressata, which is what I had on hand). Once the fat on the meat starts to render, add a can of tomatoes (the recipe calls for whole plum tomatoes, chopped coarsely, but I just used diced) along with the celery, cut into chunks on the bias, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and let cook until celery reaches desired tenderness.

It was … fine? The celery by itself didn’t really taste like anything, but the sauce was good. Ultimately, the celery I used was mediocre—it was a package of celery hearts from Sam’s that had been in our fridge for more than a week, and had partially frozen in places (our second fridge has some really cold spots). With better celery, I hope for better results; this is definitely a method I plan to try again.

The leftovers got added to a stew with part of a pot of beans (Rancho Gordo’s alubia blancas, to which I added chopped parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme) and some sautéed smoked sausage. Both the beans and the celery seemed happier the second time around.

Have any of y’all eaten or made braised celery? Let us know in the comments below.

12 thoughts on “Braised Celery

  1. I have not made braised celery. Maybe the next time we get fresh celery. Is it just me, or did celery used to stay nice for a longer period of time?
    I’m glad you found a way to use up the leftovers in a nice way. I am just cooking for 2 most of the time these days.


    • I honestly don’t know whether celery stayed fresh longer in the past, but I’ve certainly had bunches go limp on me more frequently lately. I forget where I learned this, but cutting it into chunks and storing it submerged in water keeps it fresher longer, and will revitalize celery that’s gone floppy. You could probably also cut off the base and store whole stalks in a vase.


  2. I could enjoy Braised celery. Now the other person would not. I would get the “What’s this”, look. When I have that Hummm what will I do with this (not the best fresh vegetable) I do the go to answer my X son-in-law Chef showed me. Make it into soup base. Celery normally gets chopped, frozen or not, and then really freeze. I take those packs out and drop them into soup. Carrots I peel and chop and bag up. Mushrooms same thing. You get where I’m going here. Or just cook them and freeze for that not so cold TX day. Thanks for sharing your find. V


    • That’s a great use for produce that’s nearing the end of its freshness! My freezer isn’t always organized enough to make that work, unfortunately. Usually that kind of veggie gets added to my collection of scraps for broth (I’m actually due to make a batch—maybe I’ll blog about it).


  3. Does everyone know that celery is healthier than we used to think it was? It adds a great amount of much needed fiber so that the microbiome in the gut functions optimally. The fiber acts like surf boards, allowing the health producing bacteria to move around and reproduce, ultimately creating better absorbtion of nutrients that build health and prevent disease.

    Yes, I’ve been making 2 celery side dishes since the 1970’s. One is from the Time-Life books Foods of the World: ” American Cooking: Southern Style.” It’s a side dish for roasted fowl. It takes longer to read than to make! The list is 2 bunches celery, parsley, bay leaf, 2 cups chicken stock, 1 teaspon salt (added at different times) 1/8 t. white pepper, 3T butter, 3T all purpose flour, 1/2 cup heavy cream (I’ve used half and half or whole milk with very good results) and 1/4 of slivered almonds, lightly toasted in the oven or on the stove top if your are careful not to burn them and 3T minced flat leaf Italian parsley for garnish. Save the celery leaves and stalky tough parts to flavor the chicken broth along with the bay leaf and parsley. Cut the cleaned celery stalks however you like them, in straight 1″ lengths or at a 45 degree angle in 1″ lengths. I like the angled slicing. Cook in a pan with the leaves, broth, pepper, and 1/2 the salt. Taste after reducing the broth and then correct the salt. Cook all this until tender, at least 15 minutes. Take out the leaves and discard. Next, take out the celery slices and set aside on an open platter so they don’t cool and collect juice. Now, reduce the broth and taste. When it begins to taste nice the way you like it, remove all but 1 cup, adjust salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add the half and half or cream to the broth and set aside. Get out a large skillet and make gravy! To make the roux, melt the butter on low heat and sprinkle the flour and cook until the flour is a pale golden and more importantly until it tasted nicely cooked not starch and raw. Once you like the taste, pour the combined warm broth and dairy into the pan while whisking, until smooth and incorporated. Tip the celery from the platter into the skillet and warm gently. Take up and sprinkle with minced parsley then slivered almonds. This is a tradtional recipe and so uses heavy cream and only 1/8 t. white pepper. We like flavor around here, so I add at least 1/2 t. white pepper and taste and add more if needed. I also add freshly grated nutmeg at the end of cooking the roux. Its oils need to heat up and smell fragrant.

    The other recipe is super simple. It involves a whole wok full of match stick cut celery stalks and 1 chicken breast cut a similar size. It is a simple white Chinese dish, seasoned with 5 Powder Spice. It’s a nice break from stronger flavors — from soy sauce and ginger and garlic and onions. It is very easy except for the cutting, which is time consuming. Heat a neutral high heat tolerant oil like sunflower or grape seed in your large skillet or wok. Throw in the celery. As soon as it turns a brighter shade of green, sprinkle with salt to taste. This preserves the lovely green color. Add the 5 Powder Spice to the top of the celery and let it steam there a second. Careful not to burn it. Anise, pepper and cinnamon burn quickly. Push the celery up the sides, add a little oil to the bare center, then add the match stick sliced chicken to the oil. Stir fry with long chop sticks or a long wooden spoon. The chicken can be rubbed with a little flour & salt to keep it juicy if you want to. Cook until just done and toss with celery and serve with hot rice. I add minced parsley to the hot rice.


    • I just that cookbook a few weeks ago, and I’m really excited to dig into it! I know that Italian cooking is way more than just pasta, but also I love pasta, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


  4. I love celery so will try this. As for the stove … in California they are halting any new installs of gas appliances…. Bad for health and the environment. I put a two burner induction on top of my gas stove to try out. I really like it! FAST heat up like gas and cooks just fine depending on your pan. Good luck in your search


  5. Years ago, my Oregon neighbor from Alabama served steamed chunks of celery with our dinner. It was the first time for me and delicious. I occasionally will steam celery as a side dish. Thank you for sharing this interesting blog.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.