I’d picked up a celery root at last week’s farmers market, a gnarly, twisted mass that looks built for nuclear winter, and had kind of forgotten about it. Then my friend Justin called with a glowing report about a creamed celery root soup he’d fixed the night before. Here is a guy who has no use for mediocrity. It’s not that I’m competitive – not me! – but now I really had to do something with the thing. I opened cookbooks, studied an Alice Waters recipe for a celery root remoulade, another for a puree buffed up with potatoes. Both looked genuinely simple.

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But then I ran out of gas. It was Friday night, already into the dinner hour, only the dogs interested in helping out around the kitchen. Better to experiment when there wasn’t such haste to get food on the table, it seemed. Better to cook on a day when things were moving at a slow putter and I could savor the kitchen smells. It’s a storage crop, anyway, and can wait another few days. So I picked two alternate recipes from Waters’ Art of Simple Food: pan-fried pork chops with a sauce of pan juices and mustard, and a potato gratin that baked ’til it was bubbling and browned. We rounded out the meal with a salad of carrots, radishes, and bell pepper. This is the first I’ve cooked from the (semi) new cookbook, and I like how it strips things down to the essentials.

Recipe: Alice Waters’ Pan-Fried Pork Chops with Mustard Sauce

salt & pepper / 2 thin pork chops, bone in /1 tsp vegetable oil / ¼ cup chicken stock / 1 tsp mustard / ½ tbls butter

Heat a heavy skillet over medium. Sprinkle salt and pepper on both sides of chops. When hot, swirl vegetable oil in pan and add chops, cooking about 4 minutes per side, until done. Remove to plate. Add stock and reduce somewhat then stir in mustard and butter, check seasonings, and pour over chops. Feeds 2.

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