Celery is Niko Romito's favorite ingredient. The chef from Abruzzo reveals the techniques and the recipe for his Celeriac and chestnuts, entrusted to the student Gaia Giordano
Sometimes a broth is enough to understand the (known) size of a chef and the (unknown) size of a product. Let's talk about Celery, carrot, onion: the Reale route opens in Castel di Sangro, in a nutshell one of the best Italian restaurants (the best for Gambero Rosso) and in the top 50 in the world (29th for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants) and it is probably the first broth in the history of Italian cuisine to become a signature dish – called Assoluto and we'll see why – that every gourmet knows (and appreciates). Ultimately, we know almost everything about carrot and onion. Less celery and that's why we decided to let the author of the dish tell us about it, Niko Romito. «I like it a lot, I use it in my kitchen both as a supporting ingredient in dishes loved by the public and as a flavor enhancer. Contains a very high percentage of sodium: dried and pulverized, it completely replaces the salt, also giving a fragrant, fresh and persistent aroma that lends itself to enhancing the preparations. I am thinking of tortelli with chicken and celery, for example ”, explains the chef from Abruzzo.
The history of the Absolute
Let's go back to the Absolute, this is how it was born. "At the beginning I made classic broths, applying the notions we all know: we start with a base of cold water and add a vegetable and possibly animal part to extract flavors and moods in order to transfer them to the liquid. Then low heat and long cooking until it reaches a barely visible boil: it is clarified – using egg white – and filtered to remove impurities and make the liquid clear, but at the risk of weakening the flavor. As my taste evolved and sought purity, I changed my approach and thus the work onextraction from cooked vegetable, or the concept of "absolute". I could no longer call it "broth" because it didn't start from water, even if by eliminating the pulp – of celery in this specific case – and keeping only the juice I obtained a liquid with the same density as the broth".
The three varieties
Obviously there is celery and celery, it being understood that it must be good. This is Romito's vision: «I use the green celery as an ingredient in broths, such as the Absolute, or for flavor. As a raw ingredient I prefer the white celery, equally fragrant, but less fibrous, perfect for marinating or centrifuged, while as the protagonist of a dish I use the celeriac which has a more complex and layered structure and aromas than the classic one. Of this, from the aromatic point of view, it maintains the freshness and flavor, but also has sweet and earthy notes, a much more intense flavor. The structure is completely different, classifiable between a turnip and a potato, and this allows it to be used as the main ingredient with various cooking techniques: grilled, direct, steamed in liquid, centrifuged, raw and marinated .
To be used entirely
Having said that celery is part of traditional Italian cuisine (in sautéed, broths, stews and roasts), Romito offers us the final advice. «Use it in its entirety, both raw and cooked. The part of the coast has a more delicate aroma, the part of the leaves has a more intense and fresh scent. If centrifuged, it is an excellent 'absolute', to be consumed raw as a drink, to be used cooked as the main ingredient in a sauce for pasta or as a base for a meat stew ". And the final gift is there Celeriac and chestnuts recipe, that his student Gaia Giordano proposes to Spazio Milano, the bistro created by Niko in Piazza Duomo.
Celeriac and chestnuts
Ingredients for 4 people and procedure
For the celery
400 g celery
extra virgin olive oil
White wine vinegar
Remove the peel and keep it aside. Cut into 2 cm cubes, season with the other ingredients and steam for about an hour. Cool down.
For the filling
200 g capon of the day before cut into cubes
100 g mascarpone
50 g Grana Padano Riserva
50 g nutmeg
2 egg yolks
Mix everything arranging with the salt and prepare the ravioli.
For the sauce
500 g of water
Toast the celeriac peels with the rosemary in a saucepan. Add the water and let it go over low heat until the broth is reduced by half.
For the chestnuts
300 g of boiled chestnuts
500 g of soy milk
Put the chestnuts in a saucepan with the soy milk and cook until the milk is completely absorbed by the chestnuts. Sift.
Put the celeriac cubes in a pan with a little extra virgin olive oil. Toast and add the sauce. Let it go until the sauce has lacquered the celery cubes. Put the chestnut cream on a flat plate, add the celeriac cubes. Finish with extra virgin olive oil and a few drops of bay leaf extract.