Friday, 27 November 2009

Brussels Sprouts Braised with Chestnuts

Here's a very classic combination. It's a bit of work peeling the chestnuts, but they can be done well in advance.

Unfortunately the chestnuts are highly unlikely to be local. Once, they could well have been. Chestnut trees were one of the most significant forest trees in eastern North America, and a major food source for the First Nations tribes throughout the area. They were reputed to be the best-tasting chestnut in existance. However, in the early 1900's, the trees were attacked by chestnut blight and within a few years the American chestnut was practically extinct.

I'm hoping to buy a few American chestnut seedlings in the spring, but don't look for any recipes made with my own chestnuts for about 10 years yet - assuming they even survive.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 1 hour prep time, 20 to 25 minutes final cooking

Brussels Sprouts Braised with Chestnuts Bake the Chestnuts:
300 grams (2/3 pound) chestnuts

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Meanwhile, cut an "x" on the flat side of each chestnut and place them on a baking tray.

Bake for 20 minutes, until the cut edges of the chestnuts begin to curl. Do NOT overbake them. Twenty minutes will do it. Remove them from the oven and let cool enought to handle, about another 20 to 30 minutes. Be prepared to lose a few chestnuts to moldiness or an absolute refusal to peel.

This can - I would almost say must - be done in advance, up to 24 hours ahead. Cover and keep cool and dry until wanted.

Finish the Dish:
500 grams (generous 1 pound) Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons butter
about 1 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Wash and trim the Brussels sprouts. Cut an "x" or a cross-cut in the bottom of each sprout, depending on size, so that they will cook through to the middle.

Heat the butter in a heavy skillet until bubbling. Add the chestnuts and the Brussels sprouts, along with enough water to cover the bottom of the pan by about 1/2". Cover and cook, stirring regularly, until the water evaporates, about 12 to 15 minutes, over medium-high heat. Add a little more water if the sprouts don't seem to be cooked enough at that point, and again cook until the water evaporates.

As the water disappears and the chestnuts and sprouts are cooking in the butter, start stirring and shaking them about. Sprinkle the sugar over, then the balsamic vinegar, and continue stirring and shaking until they are glazed and browned in spots. Serve promptly.


Joanne said...

I had chestnuts for the first time yesterday but I think we overcooked them because they were incredibly dry. I am going to have to buy some on my own and make another batch because I think I have the potential to really like them! This seems like a good recipe to make if I do!

Ferdzy said...

Yes, they are easy to overcook. They are always a bit floury in texture, but they should retain some moisture, and they should *definitely* not harden into little bricks.

Bill Adamsen said...

I found a new super easy way to cook them. Cut a large X across the top. Then put several (two or three) in the microwave and cook for one minute on high (auto cook on mine). They come out perfectly and peal with ease.

Good luck with the trees!

Ferdzy said...

Good tip, Bill, thanks!

Roadbike said...

If you're looking at growing your own, grafting them onto existing rootstock'll get you chestnuts far faster than growing a tree from scratch, and makes them more resliant to the blight. May be worth thinking about, and/or doing also in order to offset the wait time and the possible failure of the tree due to nasty diseases.

Ferdzy said...

Well we didn't get any this year because the nursery was sold out, but we will probably get a couple of grafted trees and a couple of seedlings. We'll see. Space, as ever, is an issue.