Celery hearts braised in chicken stock is a rather old-fashioned recipe, but it's stood the test of time. This cooking technique transforms crunchy celery into a meltingly tender veggie side dish.
Glazed with a reduction of pan juices, the hearts are then gratintéed with toasted almonds and Parmesan cheese for a very satisfying side dish that's excellent alongside roast chicken or pork.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.
Prepare a large bowl of ice and water; set aide. Keeping the bunches of celery intact, trim the stem end with a vegetable peeler to remove any discolored parts, then cut them from the top to measure about 6 inches in length. Cut the two bunches in half lengthwise and rinse thoroughly.
Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water and add the celery halves. Cook for 5 minutes, then drain and immediately plunge the hearts into the ice water to stop the cooking process. When cool, remove the celery from the ice bath and drain.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.
Butter an 8x10-inch baking pan. Place the celery halves, cut side down, in the baking dish and set aside.
Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until tender and golden, about 5 minutes. Spoon the shallots and butter over the celery hearts. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then pour in the hot stock.
Cover the pan with a sheet of parchment paper (or wax paper), and then cover the whole thing tightly with aluminum foil. Bake until the celery is just tender when poked with a metal skewer, about 30 minutes. Cooking time will vary, depending on the freshness and maturity of the celery, so check periodically to avoid overcooking.
Remove the celery and turn off the oven. Set a rack about 7 inches from the broiler unit and turn the broiler to high.
Meanwhile, transfer the pan juices to a small saucepan. Leave the celery in the baking dish and set aside at room temperature. Reduce the juices over high heat until they form a syrupy glaze. Pour the glaze over the celery and sprinkle the hearts with the almonds and cheese.
Place the celery under the broiler and cook until the cheese is melted, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve hot.