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November 16, 2009

Apple, horseradish, celery juice and leaves

For years, I've really, really loathed three things for their dental floss-like texture: rhubarb, celery, and frisee.  I got over my frisee issues by being fed a really nice, non-floss-like frisee salad (with poached egg, lardons, red onion, and black truffle at Central.  Thanks to one of the dishes in The French Laundry Cookbook, I don't hate rhubarb anymore, either.  Not that I ever crave it, but I have warmer, more gentle, less squicky feelings about it.

But celery?

I just don't get celery.  I don't get it at all.  It's like stalky, watery dental floss.  When I was little, my mom would fill the channel of a celery stalk with peanut butter, and give it to us as a snack.  I'd lick the peanut butter right out and leave the celery.  Celery on a vegetable tray at a party?  Makes me mad.  Vegetable trays, in general, make me mad because they're usually pretty gross and tasteless, but the added insult of having celery on there just makes it that much worse.  And there's only one good way to ruin a Bloody Mary -- and that's plonking a stalk of celery in it.  Like I wanna gouge my eye out when drinking what otherwise is a lovely, lovely beverage.

Cooking my way through The French Laundry Cookbook and now the Alinea cookbook is supposed to be about not just trying new things, but also about second (or third or fourth) chances for some foods.  It's about being open to different preparations and flavorful combinations.  But again with the celery?  Alright, FINE.  I'll give it a(nother) shot.  I mean, what's not to love about apples and horseradish?  Maybe I wouldn't even taste the celery at all!!  A girl can dream...

The first thing I needed to make was the apple juice for the apple spheres.  I juiced three Granny Smith apples in my juicer:



I brought the juice to a boil, and skimmed all the brownish scum that rose to the top:



I strained the juice through a chinois into a bowl nesting inside a larger bowl filled with ice:


I stirred in simple syrup, salt, and citric acid, stirred to dissolve, and poured the apple liquid into a squeeze bottle so that I could more easily fill the spherical molds:


The book suggests that you might want to make up to twenty apple spheres because they're fragile and therefore prone to breaking apart when you pin them and dip them in a horseradish mixture later on.  So, I did what I was told and made extra ones -- 18 of them -- 9 in each mold.  And then I freaked out that all 18 would fall apart and I'd be left with just CELERY JUICE to drink at the end of this, and I might possibly have cursed under my breath.  Or out loud.  Yeah, definitely out loud.

DSC_0035The darker blue ice cube tray is actually deeper and more rounded on the top than it looks, so they'll be 3/4 of a sphere.

I put the apple liquid-filled molds in the freezer and let them harden overnight.

The next morning, I made the horseradish liquid for the outer shell coating.  I peeled and diced horseradish root and put it in a Ziploc bag with some salt, cocoa butter powder, and white chocolate.  I sealed the bag and put it in a large stockpot of boiling water, and let it cook for 20 minutes.



I strained the contents of the bag into a small bowl, and stirred in the white wine vinegar with my immersion blender.



I used a turkey-lacing pin to hold each apple sphere and dunk them, one by one, into the horseradish liquid:


They looked nice and frozen to me, but they were delicate and had the potential to break apart, I could tell.  They were kinda crystal-y and looked like little frozen mini shards of ice in a compact little ball.  But, I must gloat for just a second: not one single sphere of mine broke or splintered or fell apart.  Wooo-hooo!!!!!!  Every single one got poked with a pin, dunked in the liquid, and put back on the mold to go back in the fridge so that the apple could melt now that it was encased in a quickly hardened horseradish shell.





Ladies, I know it looks like the Brazilian room at the day spa blew up on that tray, but trust me: most of the spheres were nice and smooth.  Only a few had some extra drizzles and bumps on them.

The apple spheres needed to be in the fridge for about five hours so that the frozen apple sphere could melt within the hardened shell, so the only thing I had left to do was make the celery juice.

Gah.  I can't even stand looking at the stuff.  It's just so... so... celeryish.


I resentfully and loathingly cleaned all 20 stalks and cut them into 2" pieces, and blanched them for about 30 seconds:


I juiced and strained every last bit of that stalky dental floss, which resulted in the most lovely green liquid:


DSC_0015 Ooooooo, pretty...

Hhmmmmm..... maybe it wouldn't be that bad.

I stored the liquid in the refrigerator until the five-hour mark was up, and the apple spheres were all liquidy inside.  I whisked in some salt and simple syrup, and filled six shot glasses about halfway with the juice.  Then, I gently placed an apple-horseradish sphere inside, and topped that with a few flakes of sea salt and a small celery leaf:



Bottoms up!

The horseradish-apple sphere broke apart in my mouth quite easily, and the combination of tart apple liquid with the sharp heat of the horseradish was intense.  It made my cheeks flush!  The celery juice buffered it a bit, but I actually like how confidently those flavors slammed my palate. 

I thought I might have issues with the texture of the horseradish shell as it disintegrated, what with the cocoa butter powder and white chocolate in there, but I barely noticed it at all.  It wasn't slimy or silky or slippery, like I thought it might be.

And the celery juice?  I actually kind of liked it.  Seriously!  It was smooth and fresh, and really complemented all the other flavors that were slammin' around.

NOW what food am I gonna be mad at?  HUH!?!?!?!

Up Next: Peanut, five other flavors

Resources: Apples, horseradish, and celery from HMart; David's kosher salt; citric acid from L'Epicerie; cocoa butter powder from InstaWares; El Rey Icoa white chocolate; Domaine Des Vignes white wine vinegar; Maldon sea salt.

Music to Cook By: Elvis Costello; Best of.  'Cause sometimes, I just need to hear him sing one of my favorite songs.  

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The final product looks delicious, and attractive! I would have mistaken the celery juice for Midori.. but I guess they don't taste alike!

I'm guessing that celery leaves aren't poisonous after all?

This sounds delicious... I hated celery for a while as well, however, I can now say that I enjoy in a few forms. What I don't understand is your watery critique of celery...You like cucumber? ugghhh. Cucumber is like a water-logged, water-flavored, green sick stick. I hate it, I just hate it

Natalie: YES! It does look like Midori. And now I'm having some really unpleasant college morning-after flashbacks. ;) As for the toxic celery leaf question, I'd never even heard that before. I found this link (http://www.seattlepi.com/food/188047_ask27.html) so, no, they're not poisonous.

Bradley: Yeah, I can't explain it. I actually like cucumbers, but I totally get why you'd hate it. It is waaaay more watery than celery, but for some odd reason, I loathed celery. To each his own, I guess! :)

If you're looking for a food to be mad at, you could do worse than Huitlacoche. It's corn that has been allowed to be contaminated by a black fungus.

It's safe to be mad at it for a couple of reasons: One of its alternate names is "corn smut," and who wouldn't hate a food with "smut" in the name; it looks utterly revolting (http://www.foodsubs.com/Photos/huitlacoche5.jpg); and, best of all, it's extremely uncommon, so you will be very unlikely ever to encounter it and be forced to discover that it's actually pretty tasty. ;)

Ninja: I was *just* thinking about huitlacoche this weekend and how much I love it. Sorry.

I love celery. YOU CAN STOP GAGGING NOW. I do! Well, not raw. Celery in raw form is just okay in my book. But in a stir-fry or a roast? Yum, don't mind if I do.

This looks gorgeous. The color is almost unreal. I long for color like that right now. I miss spring!

Frankly, I was hoping you'd add Huitlacoche to the Mad list so there'd be less competition for it. Bummer for me (and props for you). :)

I totally agree with you. Celery sucks. I never understood it. The only time I buy/use/eat it is in things like soup where it's just mushy.

Great post. Keep it up!

Love the trick for encasing the juice! Here is an apple-celery sorbet if anyone would like to try an easier recipe that shares some of those flavors.

I agree with you; the texture of celery is quite objectionable (even with the strings peeled away with a vegetable peeler). I will toss a couple of ribs in 3-4" pieces into a soup or stew, then discard them before serving, or I will cook it to death and puree it, but I won't eat it in pieces at all.

@Natalie: that's RHUBARB leaves that are poisonous (they have high concentrations of oxalic acid, I believe), not celery.

Let's forget for a moment the wet-strawish texture of the celery and focus on the waxy-candleishness of the white chocolate. Blurgh, that right there is enough to put me off of this one, but add the horseradish in the mix, and no thank you.

It's pretty, though. It has that going for it, at least.

Great post.

You can still be mad at rosemary.

Ditto on the celery loathing. This little bite looks so beautiful!

When I read this recipe in the book, I was really grossed out because it seemed like it would be waxy or gross in that way that white chocolate can be gross. I'm glad it wasn't. So colorful, and so pretty... glad it tasted great, too.

There's just something so sexy about horseradish. I don't know what it is, but that flavor just amps up other flavors in ways nothing else can. Love your blog!

TOTALLY think you should still hate rosemary. It's like gnawing on a Christmas tree -- I hate that stuff. But good on ya for facing down your celery issues and giving it another shot. Glad this dish worked out for you, though I'm sure the post would've been just as good (if not better) had it been a kerfuffle, of sorts.

Good call on the Costello, his body of good work more than makes up for his periods of crap.

For the cucumber haters out there... :-)

maybe this is not going to turn you into a cucumber lover, but I find that slicing it, salting it slightly, waiting for 10 min or so and gently rinsing, does miracles for the texture and taste. It is the only way I can have cucumbers. In the regular kind, the seeds have to be removed, but those English ones can be just sliced and salted.

Rosemary, though - I love the taste but it is indeed like biting a Christmas tree (not that I ever done it! :-)

Great post. But, I must disagree with your dislike of celery in bloody marys. I can think of no finer use of celery.

i still hate frisee no matter what anyone says, if only bc i always get my blouse splattered with salad dressing stains from trying to eat it. frisee hates clothes. particularly expensive ones that you feel chic and invincible in. i do heart celery - it's bittery flavor always appealed. but i do think that "celeryish" should become a word! this looks amazing and tasty - awhile ago I had an apple celery sorbet at Wallse in the West Village - it was topped with shredded horseradish and sea salt and it was magical.

I'm new to the comment section of this blog, but I must share this with people who understand my love for food. Today I was accepted into the Le Cordon Bleu program at the Texas Culinary Academy so woot!

Carol- long time reader- first time poster at your table. I usually read you over lunch and can't post at work but enjoy reading and learning!

I could not help but respond to your celery comments........celery is not really a vegatable- it's part of the plywood family and is used primarily to transport the dip from the bowl to your mouth!!!


Where'd you get the ice cube trays? I can't find them locally or on amazon. Thanks.... and great site!

I must have totally different taste buds to the rest of the world. I can't get enough celery, especially when my doc told me it can help lower cholesterol and lower my blood pressure. I eat it raw every day, but also add it to soups and stews instead of seasoning for that salty / garlic flavour. Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention that it's also contains natural pheromones that mimic the best a human can get ;-)

I actually like celery, but for years it was a similar gag-inducing food for me. Heh. Frisee, on the other hand, can bite me.

These are so pretty! I'm glad they turned out as well as they did.

So I made this recipe recently (not very easy), and I really liked the flavor combinations. It was good, but I felt like it called for too much salt. Did I mess up my measurements, or is it supposed to be really salty?

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