No one likes a sad salad.
Sometimes it happened before Christmas, sometimes as a New Year’s Day open house, but the buffet menu was always extensive: baked ham (I like spiral cut hams, even though I know it’s sort of cheating), small biscuits, and mustard sauce; roast turkey breast, tiny rolls, and cranberry sauce; large shrimp on ice and the usual red cocktail sauce; Moroccan eggplant in little pitas with yogurt and sprouts; a wheel of brie or Brillat Savarin; roast pork tenderloin on baguette slices spread with rosemary butter; crudités with blue cheese dip or salt cod spread; antipasto (roasted peppers, mushrooms, cured meats, cheeses); spiced almonds and cranberries; and finger-food desserts such as toffee bars, orange shortbread, and powdered sugar-dusted pecan crescents. Oh, and mulled cider, wine, beer, and mixed drinks. And music. And the house and tree decorated to the hilt. I worked on the event for weeks.
People loved it — and I did, too, for a while, but eventually we found ourselves enjoying it (and all the work it required) less and less.
Last year, we switched things up, scaling back to a twenty-person dinner party, and we’ll do the same this holiday season. I make the main course — this year, a New England version of cassoulet — and we provide the wine, a special holiday cocktail, and the decorated house. The guests bring hors d’oeuvres, salads, and finger-food desserts. It works splendidly. In fact, the party is tonight and since I have so little to do compared to years past, I found time to write this blog!
A couple of guests are bringing salads, but, being a bit of a controlling sort, I’ve made one, too. It’s a delicious French bistro specialty that goes well with my French main course, and has the advantage of being sturdy enough to sit on a buffet table without wilting.
French Grated Carrot and Celery Root Salad
The French don’t eat many vegetables in their raw state, but grated salads made with carrots, celery root (also called celeriac), or a combination of the two, are standard fare in bistros all over the country. Celery root is a gnarly, mottled, tan orb that needs quite a bit of peeling to get down to the sweet white flesh. If you can’t find it, this salad is also great made with all carrots.
Yield: About 8 buffet servings
- 7 large carrots
- 1 small, or half a large celery root
- Half a small bunch of flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
- 5 tablespoons lemon juice
- 5 tablespoons light olive oil
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Peel carrots and celery root and shred in a food processor or by hand on a box grater (or on a mandoline, if you have one). Transfer to a bowl and toss with the parsley. The vegetables can be prepared a few hours ahead and refrigerated.
- Whisk the lemon juice, oil, shallot, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper together in a small bowl. When ready to serve (or up to 2 hours ahead), toss vegetables with dressing. Serve cold.