I didn’t mean to be gone so long, but this fall was a difficult one. Though I wanted nothing more than to be here, it wasn’t meant to be—one thing after another kept me away…
There were problems at work, problems that caused me much stress and angst. Complications that drove me to distraction and made it difficult to see the big picture. At times it seemed my entire professional future was in doubt.
There was a debilitating back injury, one that made both sleep and work nearly impossible. One that continues to lurk in the background, threatening constantly.
And then there was a death in the family the day after Thanksgiving. It was the result of a supposedly routine procedure. It wasn’t her time to go. There's no making sense of it. It was painful and needlessly drawn out, just heartbreaking.
So I hope you can understand why I had to be away. All I can say is that there was a lot of comfort food shared with family over the past few weeks. I saved some for you…
Home Fries with Chestnuts
6 ounces chestnuts
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and diced
½ yellow onion, diced
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.
Heat a large, heavy sauté pan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the oil and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the potatoes and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, tossing about 2 times, until crusty and brown in spots.* Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the onion, and sauté for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the chestnuts and sauté for another 20 to 22 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked through. Season to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to a bowl, and serve immediately.
Serves 2 to 4, depending on what else is for breakfast. Enjoy in the fall, when chestnuts are in season. A visit to the local chestnut orchard on a brisk day, after all the leaves have fallen from the trees, provided me a few moments of much-needed peace. Chestnuts are easiest to peel when they're hot.
*Searing the potatoes in this manner adds tons of flavor to the finished dish. For everything you ever wanted to know about searing, plus dozens of fabulous searing recipes, look for my book Seared to Perfection in stores now.