You just don’t think to make something of substance with celery. We think of celery as nothing more than an aromatic, a flavoring ingredient, always in the background, and often removed from sight before the main dish event. At the very most, celery has been a utensil to scoop up hummus or blue cheese dressing.
But in Tender, Nigel Slater dedicates an entire chapter to the vegetable in its own right. Of course, there is a dish that involves blue cheese (a soup), but also two side dishes, one a buttery, bready casserole and the other a gentle braise in chicken stock. We singled out the Simple Sauté of Chicken and Celery.
It’s a simple recipe and the technique on the chicken is familiar, but it’s what happens to the celery over the course of 25 or so minutes in the pan with olive oil, butter and rendered chicken fat and juices. The celery becomes tender with subtle natural sweetness, and accessorizes itself with little sticky bits of caramelized deliciousness from the chicken and garlic.
Simple Pan Roasted Chicken and Celery
Nigel Slater’s original recipe calls this dish a “Sauté,” but since it didn’t require that much attention at the stove, we’re referring to it as a “pan roast.” All of the recipes in the book are “loose,” so we’re including the measurements we used, as exactly as we can remember.
serves 2 or 3
6 chicken pieces (thighs, drumsticks, whatever) – we used all leg quarters
4 tablespoons butter (we used half of this amount and substituted with the same amount of olive oil)
2 tablespoons olive oil (we doubled this amount, see above)
3 cloves garlic, peeled (we doubled this)
half a head of celery
small bunch parsley
glass of Noilly Prat or other white vermouth (we used a white Burgundy wine)
Season the chicken all over with salt and black pepper. Melt the butter in a shallow pan and pour in the olive oil. Put the chicken in skin-side down and allow to color lightly, then turn over. Keeping the heat moderate, add the whole peeled garlic cloves and cover. Let cook for about 45 minutes, checking regularly.
Break the celery into ribs and cut into short lengths. Once the chicken has been cooking for 20 minutes, add the celery. Continue cooking until everything is tender. Chop the parsley leaves; you will need a good handful.
Remove the chicken and celery to a warm place. Pour the vermouth (white wine) into the pan and let it boil, scraping away at the sticky goodness at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula and stirring it into the bubbling vermouth. Let cook over high heat to bubble down a bit. It will never thicken, but will become slightly syrupy. Whisk in a thick slice of butter and the chopped parsley. Freshen with a squirt of lemon juice if it needs it. Return the chicken and celery to the pan, continue for a couple of minutes until all is hot, and serve.