Why Celtuce Is The Most Underrated Ingredient, According To EJ Lagasse - Exclusive

In a world where ingredients are becoming more and more available, it is almost surprising to find an overlooked ingredient. But when you find those secret items, it can transform the way you cook. EJ Lagasse always has interesting foods on his menu at Emeril's in New Orleans, so we asked him in an exclusive interview if he could think of an underrated ingredient. 

"Yes — celtuce," was the chef's response. Many people in the United States have never had celtuce, so Legasse explains, "It's basically the root of celery. It's very similar to that." Officially, celtuce is a type of lettuce that combines the uses of celery and lettuce, hence the name. However, while this is a leafy green, it is typically cultivated for its long stalk, which is almost like a broccoli stalk. "It's got that fibrous texture to it as well," says Lagasse. "It's fantastic. It's one of the great vegetables that you don't really see a lot of. It has the flavor like the hearts of lettuce ... It's really nice when it's cooked in a pan or anything like that."

The stem of the celtuce is often sliced up and stir-fried or used in salads in Chinese-style dishes. It can be eaten raw or cooked.

Sourcing celtuce locally

Of course, Lagasse also has a commitment to sustainable practices and prefers to get his produce from local suppliers. The chef explains that, "Nobody loses in the situation ... I get the best produce, and the local farmers, genuinely from a monetary standpoint, from a business standpoint, are supported." Lagasse works with several small, local farmers. While the produce is high quality, working with local producers can limit what he can buy for his restaurant. 

Not to be deterred, Lagasse is planning ahead, "We're working on having some of our local farmers grow some [celtuce] for us now, so I can use it in the spring." If things work out well, there is a chance we will see celtuce on the menu, and if not, hopefully, more exposure and availability will lead to celtuce gaining the traction it deserves.

Emeril's New Orleans is now open for dining. For reservations and additional information, please visit Emeril's restaurant website.