Braised Celery Hearts

Tuesday, January 1, 1980

Adapted from Judy Rodgers, Zuni Cafe, San Francisco

Time: 60 minutes

  • 4 large heads celery
  • salt
  • 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes in juice, drained
  • 3/8 c extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 24 whole NiÁoise olives, soaked in hot water for 15 min and drained
  • Pinch of sugar (optional)
  • 16 salt packed anchovy fillets, julienned (optional)
  • 4 c toasted bread crumbs.
  1. Leaving celery root ends intact, strip off outer branches, leaving about 2 pounds tender, leafy inner stalks. Cut these into 8-inch lengths. Quarter lengthwise, place in a large mixing bowl, toss with salt, set aside.

  2. Put oven racks in top position, preheat broiler. Place tomatoes in pie plate, drizzle with one tablespoon oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Broil, stirring occasionally, until surface moisture evaporates and tomatoes are charred, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

  3. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, sautÈ until soft and golden, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Transfer onions to a shallow 3-quart gratin dish. Warm 3 tablespoons olive oil in same skillet over medium heat. Place celery flat side down in a single layer, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and sear without moving, until celery is golden brown on one side, about 4 minutes. Turn hearts with tongs, and brown second side. Transfer celery to dish with onions, arrange snugly. Add 3 tablespoons more olive oil to skillet, brown remaining celery. Arrange in gratin dish in a single layer. Slide tomatoes over celery and onions. Add wine and stock to gratin dish, drizzle vegetables with remaining oil. Shake dish gently to settle vegetables. Position black olives in low spots so they don't dry out.

  4. Adjust oven racks to middle position, and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set gratin dish over low flame, and bring to a simmer. Taste liquid, and season with salt, if necessary, or a pinch of sugar if acidic. Shake pan to distribute. Cover with foil, transfer to oven, and bake until celery is tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove foil, increase oven temperature to 475 degrees, bake until tips of vegetables are brown, 5 to 10 minutes. Garnish with julienned anchovy fillets and toasted bread crumbs, if desired.

    Yield: 6 to 8 servings.