Celery Victor has been served as a side dish at every Thanksgiving dinner that I can remember.
It’s a refreshing salad, obviously made of celery, which has been poached in chicken broth and then marinated in French dressing. It’s easy to make and can be prepared several days ahead of time.
I never really gave it much thought but recently wondered if Celery Victor is something my mother created. With a bit of research, I learned that famous French chef Victor Hirtzler invented the dish in 1910.
Reading a little further, I found that Mr. Hirtzler had quite a career. He trained at the Grand Hotel in Paris, served as cook and food taster under Czar Nicholas II of Russia and then chef for Carlos I of Portugal.
After leaving Europe, he came to New York to cook at Sherry’s, a famous restaurant of its time and then to the Waldorf Astoria, only to move on to San Francisco and become head chef at the St. Francis Hotel. There, he created Celery Victor. Mr. Hirtzler also gets credit for another well-known dish, Crab Louie, which I’ll save for a later column.
While a change of pace for salad, Celery Victor makes an elegant first course for a dinner party. I hope you’ll enjoy my mother’s version.
4 hearts of celery
1 cup of French dressing
½ teaspoon of dry mustard
½ teaspoon of paprika
¾ teaspoon of salt
¼ teaspoon of ground pepper
Pinch of sugar
1/3 cup of cider vinegar
2/3 cup of Wesson oil (not olive oil)
Clean the celery, trimming off a small amount off the bottom and 4 inches off the tops. This will leave approximately 6-inch sections. Cut the hearts in half lengthwise and place in a soup pot and cover with chicken broth. Bring to a gentle boil and cook until just tender, 15 to 20 minutes or until the celery is a pale green. Let the broth cool and then drain and arrange the celery in a serving dish and pour the French dressing over the celery. Cover and let marinate over night. This can be served plain or over a bed of watercress or salad greens.
Whisk all of the dry ingredients into the vinegar and when well mixed add the oil and whisk until well blended.
Celery hearts are the more tender stalks and usually sold in packages of three. If these are unavailable, use the larger celery but remove the outer stalks. The pieces trimmed away can be saved for later use in soups or salads.