Monday, November 21, 2011
Are chestnuts a part of your holiday celebrations?
For the first time, they'll be a part of ours. That's because on our last trip to the Hood River Valley the hubby and I discovered a lovely little chestnut orchard.
Bernardo, the orchard owner, was so welcoming and generous I became a fan instantly.
I don't know why we never realized the orchard was there before, and I don't know why I never cooked with chestnuts before, but I guess better late than never…
So I've been experimenting with different ways to roast chestnuts. I've tried open fire, I've tried the oven, and I've even tried the microwave (which until now had been relegated to melting butter and reheating leftovers), all with fine results. And with every batch, I've been noticing that the chestnuts are getting better with age—they've changed from crisp to fluffy and sweet over the two weeks since we got them. Apparently, keeping them in a paper bag in the crisper section of the refrigerator works wonders.
While chestnuts are popular in sweets and desserts, to my taste they're more suited to savories and for snacking. They make me think of sweetened Russet potatoes, so they feel like a natural addition to any number of Thanksgiving side dishes. Hence my combination of chestnuts, Brussels sprouts, and bacon.
Side note: For more Thanksgiving recipe inspiration, check out the cool mosaics on Pasplore. Somewhere in there you'll find a few of my Thanksgiving recipes.
May your Thanksgiving be happy, healthy, and delicious!
Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts, Shallots & Bacon
6 ounces chestnuts
3 slices bacon, diced
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
6 small shallots, quartered
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Using a chestnut knife, cut an X in the cheek of each chestnut. Arrange the chestnuts in a single layer on a baking tray and bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until tender. Let rest for about 5 minutes, or until just cool enough to handle. Peel and dice.
Meanwhile, heat a large, heavy sauté pan over medium-low heat until hot but not smoking. Add the bacon and fry, tossing frequently, for 7 to 8 minutes, or until rendered. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a small bowl. Add the butter to the pan and heat until it melts, bubbles, and the foam subsides. Add the Brussels sprouts, shallots, and chestnuts and toss to coat with the butter. Season generously with salt and pepper. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 20 to 22 minutes, or until the Brussels sprouts are tender and golden brown. Toss in the bacon, transfer to a bowl, and serve immediately.
Serves 6. Enjoy in the fall, when both Brussels sprouts and chestnuts are in season. Chestnuts are easiest to peel when they're hot. For the best results, be sure not to overcrowd the pan.