City Palate

The Harvest Issue - September October 2017

6 Quick Ways with Chestnuts
Nov/Dec 2008
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire… when in season. Or cook them in your fireplace. Or use your oven. Score a cross on the flat end of each fresh chestnut and roast them on a pan in a preheated 350°F oven until the skins curl. Remove and, when cool enough to handle, peel. Eat unadorned or use in these recipes. You can buy tinned, peeled chestnuts in water, from France by Clément Faugier, or vacuum-packed chestnuts, from Italy. Clément Faugier also makes a luscious, sweetened chestnut spread as well as unsweetened chestnut purée. Find them at specialty food stores and Italian markets.

1. Pork, Chestnuts & Beer
Cut 1 lb trimmed pork butt into small cubes and tossed in seasoned flour. Brown in oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over high heat. Add 1 chopped onion, 2 sliced carrots and 2 sliced garlic cloves. Cook until the vegetables turn a bit brown. Add a couple sprigs of fresh thyme, 1 cup beer or red wine and 1 cup beef or chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for 1 hour with lid on. Remove lid, add 8 ounces chestnuts, season with salt and pepper and simmer another hour with lid off. Serves 2.

2. Chestnut, Mushroom & Squash Pilaf
Put ½ cup rice, rinsed, into a small casserole dish with a lid. Stir in 2/3 cup chopped butternut or acorn squash, 1 cup halved cooked chestnuts, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 2 tablespoons mirin, sake or dry sherry. Lay 6 fresh shiitake mushrooms on top and pour enough hot chicken stock to cover over rice by about ¼-inch. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until rice is tender. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Serves 2.

3. Chestnut & Lentil Soup
Heat oil in a saucepan and fry some chopped onion, garlic, celery and carrot until softened and a bit browned. Add 1 cup cooked, chopped chestnuts and 1 cup brown or green lentils. Add 2 cups chicken stock and a bay leaf and simmer 30 to 45 minutes or until lentils are soft. Remove bay leaf and purée. Serve with a spoonful of sour cream or crème fraîche. Sprinkle with snipped chives. Serves 4.

4. Chestnut Ice Cream
Fold Clément Faugier’s chestnut spread into a good quality, softened vanilla ice cream, leaving chestnut streaks visible. Return to the freezer to firm. You might even want to serve this with a caramel sauce (see Sauces & Condiments).

5. Braised Fennel with Chestnuts & Shallots
(Adapted from a Martha Stewart Living Cookbook recipe.) In a large, wide saucepan, melt 1 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat Add 12 small, peeled shallots (stem end intact) and 8 ounces peeled chestnuts and cook, stirring, until browned on all sides and slightly tender. Remove and set aside. Add 3 tablespoons butter to the pan and cook 4 trimmed, quartered fennel bulbs with 2 tablespoons sugar until browned on all sides. Add shallots, chestnuts, 1 3/4 cup chicken stock and salt and pepper to taste. Scrape up any crispy bits on the bottom of the pan. Cover, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and cook until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove cover, raise heat to medium high and cook until the liquid is reduced to a glaze. Serves 6 as a delicious side dish!

6. Chocolate Chestnut Refrigerator Cake

From Nigella Bites. Beat 1 pound (500 g) sweetened chestnut purée (two tins of Clément Faugier’s chestunt spread) in a bowl with 2/3 cup soft, unsalted butter until well blended. Melt 10 ounces dark chocolate (at least 70%) and let cool slightly. Beat it into the chestnut mixture along with 3 tablespoons dark rum. Spoon the mixture into a 9” x 4” loaf pan lined with plastic wrap, making sure the mixture reaches into all the corners of the pan. Wrap overhanging plastic over the cake so that it is completely covered. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (a day or two is better). When ready to serve, remove the cake from fridge and un-mold. Cut into thin slices and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche or sour cream and crystallized violets for a shot of frill and colour. Makes 10 – 12 slices.