Makes:6 to 8 servings
Today celery is thought of as a supporting-role vegetable, but in the early 1900s, Chef Victor Hirtzler of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco developed this dish, which gave it the spotlight. Cleaned, trimmed celery is briefly braised and cooled in chicken broth, leaving it cooked through but still crisp, with a softened flavor. It’s served with a thickly emulsified tarragon vinaigrette and a garnish of celery leaves. It is an elegant, and unexpected, first course.
Remove and separate the outer stalks from the tender smaller inner stalks. Wash the outer stalks and, using a vegetable peeler, peel and discard the outer stringy layer from each stalk. Trim and cut the stalks on the bias into 6-inch lengths; set aside.
Remove the leaves from the tender inner stalks (you should have about 3/4 cup). Reserve the inner stalks for another use. Rinse the leaves, place in a small bowl, cover with a damp piece of paper towel, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Place the chicken broth, onion, parsley, tarragon, and salt in a large straight-sided frying pan or Dutch oven, season with pepper, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the celery in 2 flat layers and bring to a simmer (the liquid should just cover the celery). Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the celery is just tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Transfer the celery to an 8-by-8-inch square heatproof dish and pour the cooking liquid through a fine-mesh strainer over the stalks. Refrigerate uncovered until the celery is chilled, about 2 1/2 hours.
For the dressing:
Place the anchovies and vinegar in a blender and season with salt and pepper. Turn the blender on high, remove the small cap from the blender lid, and slowly pour in the oils. Add the tarragon and blend until combined. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed; set aside until ready to serve.
Evenly divide the chilled celery stalks among 6 to 8 plates. Drizzle each plate with 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of the dressing and garnish with the reserved celery leaves.