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Tasting Notes

With layers of spicy gingersnap crumbs piled over layers of earthy celery root and sweet apples, this slow-baked side dish is Michael Mina's lesson in layered flavors.

The celery root’s anise and floral notes echo the herbaceous, honeyed flavor of the perfectly poached apples. As the savory gratin bakes, the layers of flavors meld together. Overall, this is a rich and mellow dish – perfect for a chilly fall day – but the gingersnaps give it an unexpected kick.

Tips & Techniques

  1. Keep it cool. Use chilled, unsalted butter to dab the celery root and apple layers. Warm or room temperature butter will separate and become greasy during the cooking process. By using unsalted butter when you cook or bake, you are able to control the amount of salt in the finished dish.
  2. Use your knife skills. The celery root and apples must be cut into neat, evenly sized slices to promote even cooking. Otherwise, the thick slices will end up undercooked while the thin slices will be overcooked and mushy.
  3. Pile high. Layer your ingredients high above the rim of the dish before you put it in the oven. During the 45-minute cooking time, water will evaporate from the celery root and apples, causing the gratin to bake down. When baking is complete, it will be well below the rim of the dish. With this simple technique, you get concentrated flavors without extended hands-on cooking time.

Toolbox

These tools are the ones we find especially helpful when making this dish.

  1. Mandolin. Instead of cutting through food with a knife, a mandolin works by running a piece of food along an inclined plane and into a blade. This isn’t quite as dangerous as it sounds, as the food is held in a carrier to protect your fingers. This hand-operated device makes quick work of slicing the celery root into precise and uniform pieces.
  2. Cocotte. This round, oval or circular-shaped casserole dish comes with a tight-fitting lid and often has two handles on the side for easy removal from a hot oven. It can be large or sized for individual servings. As cute as this word sounds, don’t go calling anybody your “little cocotte” – in France, “cocotte” could refer to either a casserole or a prostitute!

The list below includes all the equipment you’ll want to make this dish.

Mandolin
4 cocottes (circular-shaped casserole dish), (3.75 inches x 2 inches)
Knife
Cutting board

Cake tester


Ingredients
  • 4 poached apples (see Poached Apples & Glaze recipe)
  • 4 small celery roots, peeled
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter, cut into tiny pieces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups crushed gingersnaps
  • Additional butter for greasing the pans
  • Reserved glaze from apple poaching

Serves: 4

Total time: 50 minutes

Active time: 10 minutes

Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 275°F. Butter the inside of 4 individual gratin casserole dishes or 1 ten-inch baking dish with a pastry brush.
  2. Cut the ends off the apples, cut into quarters and remove core. Slice crosswise into ¼ inch slices with a sharp knife.
  3. Slice celery root into ⅛ inch slices using a mandolin. If you don’t have a mandolin, a knife will work. Be careful not to slice thicker than ⅛ inch or the pieces will take longer to cook.
  4. Crush gingersnaps by placing in a plastic bag and rolling over with a rolling pin.
  5. Place slices of the poached apple to cover the bottom of the dish and spread out the pieces fanned out (it does not need to be in a tight fan). Follow with a layer of celery root slices, shingling and layering in the same way. Repeat twice. After the third layer of each, season lightly with salt and pepper, dot with butter, sprinkle with gingersnap crumbs and drizzle with a tiny bit of apple glaze.
  6. Continue layering, seasoning and adding butter and gingersnap crumbs after every third layer of the apple and celery root. The layers should come up slightly higher than the top of the dish.
  7. Finish with salt and pepper, butter and gingersnap crumbs.
  8. Cover the top with a lid, or tinfoil if you do not have a lid, and place on a baking sheet.
  9. Bake in the oven approximately 30 to 45 minutes or until the apple and celery root has cooked down to ½ an inch below the top of the dish and a golden brown crust has formed. Test for doneness using a cake tester to probe for a lack of resistance from the celery root.
  10. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before tasting.
  11. Glaze with reduced apple poaching liquid immediately before serving.

Here is a great way to turn this dish into a meal

Grilled chicken apple sausage with celery root gratin & endive salad

This apple and celery root gratin is the perfect side to grilled chicken apple sausage and an endive salad.

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