Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sauteed Grouper with Saffron Celery Root Puree and Tomato Porcini Relish

Sanford (Sandy) d'Amato is a James Beard award-winning local chef who writes a wonderful, humorous column for our newspaper's food section every Sunday. If you are ever in Milwaukee and want an outstanding dining experience, his restaurant is called Sanford and his chef de cuisine is in the running for a 2011 James Beard award also.

Last week's recipe really caught my eye! I'm a big fan of pureed celery root and his recipe called for the addition of saffron and star anise which sounded delicious. (If you among the uninitiated or can't quite wrap yourself around pure celery root puree, try a combination of half celery root and half potato.) 

The relish/sauce sounded wonderful also with porcini mushrooms and tomatoes.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find the called-for striped bass in the fish counter at my store but was able to find some beautiful grouper fillets which I hoped would be a good substitute. I was really excited for all the flavors to come together for this meal!

I was not disappointed!  It was the best celery root puree recipe I've tried and the tomato-mushroom relish was rich and flavorful with the fish.  A side of sauteed haricot verts with shallots was a perfect with it. I think this relish would also taste wonderful with salmon.

Sauteed Grouper with Saffron Celery Root Puree and Tomato Porcini Relish

Adapted from a recipe from Sandy d'Amato, Chef, Restaurant Owner and James Beard Award Winner
Printable Recipe

Makes 2 servings

1 celery root (about 1 pound), peeled to yield 12 to 14 ounces
Tomato porcini essence (see recipe)
4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
1 cup whole milk
½ bay leaf
1 star anise
¼ teaspoon loose-pack saffron
1 sprig fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 grouper or skinless striped bass fillets (7-8 ounces each and about 1 inch thick)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Instant-blend flour (such as Wondra) to dust bass fillets

Cut one-third of the celery root into small dice and reserve to use when making tomato porcini. Cut remaining two-thirds into large dice.

Make tomato porcini essence. Set aside.

To make puree: In a small saucepan, place large dice of celery root, 1 tablespoon olive oil, the milk, bay leaf, anise, saffron, thyme, the ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a simmer and let simmer, covered, 15 minutes or until celery root is tender. Remove thyme sprig, bay leaf and anise and discard. Puree mixture in a food processor until fine and smooth; taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary. Reserve warm.

Place a sauté pan large enough to hold both bass fillets over medium-high heat. Season fillets with salt and pepper and dust lightly with flour, patting off excess. Add remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil to pan. When oil is hot, sauté fillets about 3 minutes per side until fish is just cooked.

To serve: Divide reserved puree between two large plates or bowls, place fish on puree, and place tomato porcini essence on and around the fish.

Tomato porcini essence:

½ ounce dried sliced porcini mushrooms
1 cup chicken stock
4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
1 small shallot, diced fine (divided)
½ cup dry white wine
Reserved small dice celery root from above
1 clove garlic, chopped fine
12 cherry tomatoes, halved (I used regular tomatoes cut into 1/2 pieces)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Cut mushrooms into small pieces. Place mushrooms in stock and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and remove mushrooms, gently shaking so as to leave any dirt or sand in stock. Strain stock slowly through four layers of cheesecloth to make sure any debris is left behind. Set mushrooms and stock aside.

Place a small saucepot over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons of the oil, then add half the shallots and sauté 30 seconds. Add reserved mushrooms and sauté 1 minute. Add wine and cook until reduced to dry, 5 to 7 minutes. Add strained chicken stock and cook until reduced to half, about 4 minutes. Set aside.

Place a sauté pan over medium heat. Add another 1 teaspoon oil and, when hot, add reserved celery root. Season lightly with salt and pepper and sauté 4 minutes or until light golden. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to same pan and, when hot, add remaining shallots and the garlic and sauté 5 seconds. Add tomatoes and simmer until mixture is dry and just starting to stick to pan, about 2 minutes. Add reserved celery root and porcini mixtures to pan. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.


  1. I enjoy these kind of dinners, but usually only at restaurants. It is lovely to think we can make something of this caliber at home in our own kitchens.

  2. There are a lot of complimentary flavors and ingredients in this dish ~ looks like something my family would enjoy!

  3. This is a restaurant quality meal. Oh my I would love to make this. Thank you for presenting us with such a spectacular recipe.

  4. Looks amazing, Susan! I've never had celery root, your dish makes me want to try it! You amaze me, your dishes look like YOU are a professional chef! Everything always looks delicious and beautiful, a perfect combination!

  5. Very, very yummy! And a beautiful dish too!

  6. Wow! This looks delicious! I love most white fish and I'll be giving this recipe a try!

  7. This looks like something that would be served at a five star restaurant. Stunning.

  8. I love celery root! The entire meal...quite appetizing! Susan what was your wine choice? Luv-Loretta

  9. Very gourmet, if I may say! I would have felt like I was dining in a fancy 5-star restaurant. Love it!

  10. It looks good! I know all those fish in the waters here on LI and I don't like any of them!

  11. I have never cooked with celery root. Love how you incorporated it with fish. Looks wonderful

  12. I know celery root goes well with fish only from what I read on the internet. I have never cooked it my self. That is a very elegant plate of food!

  13. It looks wonderful S!!

    The thought of Celery root takes me back to my childhood ~ my grandfather made the most wonderful celery root salad with a special vinaigrette.

    I would love this! Your photos are dazzling, as ever... and your presentation gorgeous. Very nice.

  14. Sounds entirely delicious. The whole star anise is so beautiful too, I absolutely love that photograph.

  15. I am such a chicken about cooking fish except on the grill. I love to eat it and order it often at the restaurant. This one sounds fantastic and I just need to go ahead and make it!

    Loved your comment about using the kid's bedrooms when they move out. I haven't resorted to that yet!

  16. Wow, this looks delicious! Love the ingredients, celery is definitely one of my favourite veggies. Garoupa is a good choice. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Wow Susan che piatto raffinato e invitante!!!sempre bravissima!un abbraccio!

  18. This recipe makes me homesick this morning. When we lived in Charleston, I could actually purchase grouper fresh from the deep sea fishermen when they came into the harbor. It's a huge fish! It's also a fish that can stand up to and show off a number of sauces and the celery root puree sounds delicious! I'm putting this restaurant in my address book for the next time we are visiting up your way.


  19. Perfect best company dish..I love celery root..Susan..this looks wonderful!

  20. Oh, how I've missed visiting you site. Glad to be back!

  21. A very fancy dinner Susan! I'd love to try the celery root puree, but I'll be having chicken with Kathleen:@) Don't know why I didn't grow up eating fish, my G-Mom-B was from Boston. Happy Weekend!

  22. Grouper has always been a top favourite of mine, and I love that you used celery root puree as a bed. Very elegant.

  23. I love celery root in so many things and that spicing is fab... never tried it that way. This chef looks like a keeper. I so rarely see grouper but love it ever so much.. it's a sweet lovely fish and the tomato and porcini would be so good with the saffron and star anise (one of my favorite flavors). I just put this on the list!

  24. This is beautiful. The pureed celery root is really standing out in this meal. Love it.


  25. Looks amazing ,it's new for me, Susan! "Tres chic"!!! A warm hug...

  26. What a meal!!!
    It as the Tomato Porcini Relish that caught my eye and I will definitely be making it with my garden tomatoes this summer. I love porcini!
    I have been neck deep in the throws of planning a local food conference here within slow food and have not posted for three weeks. Important work. Time well spent: BUT...I have not read, written, cooked and I miss my life and reading YOU!
    I am catching up slowly!

  27. What a great dinner Susan! I've never used celery root and will have to try it. Lucky you on finding the grouper! I've never seen it in the markets around here and the same goes for striped bass. So, salmon will work for me. Thanks for the great recipe!

  28. Thank you, all!

    Loretta, my wine of choice with seafood is always Chardonnay but that's just my personal preference. Thanks for asking!

  29. This is my kind of dinner. Lots of great flavor. Thanks for sharing!

  30. Wonderful combination of flavors- I love celery root! :)

  31. This is SUCH an impressive dish! Something I would expect to see in a gourmet restaurant and photographed just beautifully!

  32. I really enjoy the flavor of celery root, and and this recipe will go to the top of my list as soon as our fish man starts his Thursday visits to our area again.

  33. Everything looks cooked to perfection!

    And I love celery root purée, although, I've never thought of adding star anise to the mash, but I will try it next time.
    This is a spectacular dish, one I would enjoy often.

  34. I wish Randy ate fish. I'd love to experiment like this with seafood. I've only recently eaten celery root and I was pleasantly surprise. Next time it comes in my veggie box I'll have to try a puree.


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