CHESTNUTS! CHESTNUTS! IT’S RAINING CHESTNUTS!
Posted by Zel Allen's nutgourmet on October 13, 2009
Well, chestnut season is here at last and I couldn’t be happier—I love them passionately and hope to pass on a few gems that might help you fall in love with chestnuts, too. I must confess, though, that cooking and peeling them could be considered a labor of love.
Because they’re somewhat labor intensive, they tend to discourage frequent use. All it takes is a little fortitude and a spirit of adventure to plunge right in and decide you’ll give these awesome delicacies a try. With the boiling method, cooking takes about 25 to 35 minutes. Peeling might take about the same time, too.
If you’ve never eaten a chestnut, you’re in for a treat. While they’re considered nuts, they are totally different in texture, flavor, and nutritional quality from other nuts like almonds and walnuts. Chestnuts can be eaten raw, but they taste much better cooked. Unlike other nuts, chestnuts are starchy and have a texture closer to a potato than to a nut. They also have a natural delicate sweetness that could be compared to the sweetness of a Japanese yellow sweet potato.
Buy a couple of pounds of chestnuts next time you’re at the grocery store or order them from Allen Creek Farms, Empire Chestnut Company, or Girolami Farms all listed in the Blogroll. And check out the instructions for Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts on a previous posting of this blog.
Ever taste a dish that had such a pleasing blend of flavors you just wanted to keep on eating and eating? This irresistible risotto is worth waiting a whole year for fresh chestnuts to appear in the markets. The ultra seasonal creation is blessed with the creamy sweetness of chestnuts and paired with the earthy flavors of a trio of herbs that make the shiitake and cremini mushrooms melt in the mouth. Rather than using the familiar Arborio rice, I prefer the healthier brown rice. Just make sure to buy the SHORT GRAIN brown rice, sometimes labeled “sweet brown rice.”
CHESTNUT AND WILD MUSHROOM RISOTTO
Yield: 6 servings
3 large tomatoes, chopped
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
½ cup diced carrots
1 stalk celery, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced, stems discarded
(or use cremini mushrooms, sliced)
1 pound button mushrooms, sliced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 to 1 1/4 cups short grain brown rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 to 4 cups water
1 1/2 cups cooked, peeled chestnuts, quartered
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley or chives
1. Combine the tomatoes and minced garlic in a large saucepan or skillet. Cook and stir over high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes until the tomatoes have begun to break down. Set them aside to add at the end.
2. Combine the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, water, and olive oil in a large, deep skillet or 8 to 10-quart stockpot. Cook and stir over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften.
3. Add the mushrooms, thyme, sage, and rosemary and cook about 2 minutes more, adding as much as a cup of water if needed.
4. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the brown rice, salt, and 1 cup of the water. Keep the pan simmering and add the water, 1/2 cup at a time, as the liquid is absorbed. The process of cooking down and adding water may take 30 to 40 minutes. Taste the rice for tenderness after 30 minutes. You may not need to use all of the water.
5. When the rice is tender, add the cooked tomatoes and the chestnuts and cook 3 to 5 minutes longer to create a pleasing flavor union. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To finish, spoon the risotto into shallow bowls and sprinkle with a pinch or two of herbs.
Note: For a delicious Wild Rice, Chestnut and Wild Mushroom Risotto, substitute 1 cup of wild rice for the brown rice, but plan on at least 20 minutes longer cooking to soften the wild rice.