6 quick ways with Chestnuts
by Chris Halpin
Chestnuts have always held a festive charm for me. Wistful thoughts of chestnuts roasting and eating them with butter and salt; all so romantic! But the truth is, if I am going to be actually cooking with them, I always go the easy route and buy a jar of boiled and peeled chestnuts. They freeze well (up to six months) and can be cut easily while still frozen. All so much more convenient, and they have the same wonderful flavour. You will find them in most Italian or German markets and some specialty food shops. In all these recipes, I am using this type of chestnuts.
Shaved Brussels Sprouts and Radicchio Salad with Chestnuts
This is a perfect winter salad – the vegetables and chestnuts have a wonderful counterpoint. To make the dressing, in a bowl whisk together 1/4 c. avocado oil and 2 T. maple syrup. Whisk in 1/4 c. white wine vinegar and 1 t. finely minced shallots and set aside. In a salad bowl, put 1/2 head cored and finely sliced radicchio, 6 Brussels sprouts, finely sliced, 4 chestnuts, roughly crumbled, and the dressing, and toss well. Add salt and pepper to taste, toss again and serve. Serves 4.
Butternut Squash and Chestnuts with Sage
The richness of the squash sits beautifully with that of the chestnuts. While the sage and onions bring out the earthiness. This is one of my favourite turkey-dinner sides. In a large skillet, over medium heat, put 2 T. butter and 1/4 c. olive oil. When the butter has melted, add 1 red onion, finely sliced, and sauté for about 2 minutes. Then add 3 c. peeled and diced butternut squash, sauté for about 1 minute. Then add 1 t. salt, 1/2 t. pepper, 1/2 t. dried sage, sauté to evenly coat and cover with a lid, then stir from time to time until the squash is softened, about 5 minutes more. Just before serving, stir in 8 chestnuts, roughly crumbled, and 4 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped, adjust the salt and pepper. Serves 4 to 6.
Cauliflower and Chestnut Soup
I have always liked the idea of cauliflower soup, but found it hard to come up with one that was full flavoured, yet not another “cheese” soup. The chestnuts add a lovely creamy quality to the soup and enhance the cauliflower in such a nice way. In a large pot, over high heat, put 3 c. chicken or vegetable stock, 2 c. chopped cauliflower, 6 chopped chestnuts, 4 minced garlic cloves, 1/4 t. nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Once this has come to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. When the cauliflower is very tender, remove from the heat and purée in a blender until smooth. Return to the pot and bring the soup back to the boil before serving. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a little bit of chopped chives. Serves 4.
Tortellini with Sausage, Chestnuts and Rapini
This is a fast and easy weekday dinner, with a little bit of “wow factor” thrown in. Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. While this is happening, place a large skillet over medium heat and add 3 spicy Italian sausages with 1/4 c. olive oil. Fry the sausages, turning from time to time, until they have cooked through. When the water is boiling, add 1 small package of cheese tortellini and boil until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove the sausages from the skillet and place on a chopping board for later. In the same skillet put 1 red onion, thinly sliced, and sauté for about 3 minutes. While this is happening, slice the sausages into 1-inch rounds and return to the skillet. Drain the tortellini and leave it in the colander until you need it. Now add 4 rapini stocks, cut into 2-inch pieces to the skillet and sauté for a minute. Then add 4 chestnuts crumbled, the tortellini, season with salt and pepper, sauté for another minute before serving. Spoon the pasta onto plates and garnish with grated parmesan. Serves 4.
Chestnut Chocolate Drop Cookies
The chestnuts, cinnamon and cocoa mix to make a flavour all their own and so delicious. Preheat your oven to 350ºF. In a bowl, sift together 1 c.
flour, 4 T. cocoa powder, 1/2 t. cinnamon and set aside. In another bowl, put 1 c. butter, at room temperature and 3/4 c. brown sugar, and with an electric beater, whip until fluffy. Add the dry ingredients and beat until smooth. To this, add 8 chestnuts, finely crumbled, and with a wooden spoon, work them into the dough. Drop teaspoon-sized balls on to a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 15 to 17 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool. Once cooled, dust with icing sugar. Make 2 dozen.
Pan-Seared Pork Tenderloin with Chestnuts and Brandy
Chestnuts, pork and brandy are all on the same flavour plain. It seems like each helps to bring out the best qualities in all. Salt and pepper 1 large pork tenderloin. In a heavy skillet, over high heat, put 2 T. butter. When the butter is sizzling, add the pork and brown on all sides. Once the pork is evenly browned, remove from the skillet and set aside. Turn the heat off, then add 3 garlic cloves, minced, 1 t. crushed fennel seeds and 1/2 c. brandy. With a wooden spoon, rub the bottom of your skillet to deglaze. Add 1 c. water, return to medium heat and bring to a boil, return the pork to the skillet and cover. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes, turning from time to time. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add 6 chestnuts, roughly crumbled, adjust the salt and pepper to taste. When the pork is cooked, remove it from the skillet to rest, while you are finishing the sauce. Make a paste with 1 T. cornstarch and 1/4 c. water, stir into the sauce and thicken. Slice the pork into medallions, arrange on plates and spoon sauce over, garnish with chopped parsley. Serves 2 to 4.
Chris Halpin has been teaching Calgarians to make fast, fun urban food since 1997 and is the owner of Manna Catering Service. mannaonline.com. Recipe photos by Chris Halpin.