I came home. The house was quiet. Late afternoon. Had done some Christmas shopping. I was on my own for the evening.
An individual-sized panettone was off to the side in its festive red packaging.
My oven was fully working again, the repair person having been by earlier in the day to install the replacement part. The oven had broken two days before Thanksgiving…a common tale, my repair person assured me. It had remained unplugged the past two weeks, so no igniter to light the gas burners on the stove top. I had become adept at lighting them with a match.
I remembered the bottle of scotch-infused pears still in the fridge, mostly pear slices now with just a little scotch in the bottom, left over from a Thanksgiving cocktail.
And that funny little package of vacuum-packed chestnuts. A curiosity. A tight little, brain-looking cluster captured in plastic.
This was the inventory I was taking as I began to putter in the kitchen wondering what I’d like to make for myself.
It was obviously not going to be dinner just yet.
Instead I thought of the flambéed chestnuts David Rocco had made in the Dolce Vita episode I referred to in my last post.
I had never flambéed anything before that I can remember, but I felt fully competent, having been manually lighting my burners for two weeks.
So into a sturdy pan, I separated the clumped and dense chestnuts, which I tossed with a tablespoon of sugar, then poured in the remaining scotch from the bottle in the fridge, which held a hint of pear in it. It equalled about a quarter cup, but I needed a little more, so I added as much from a bottle in the cabinet. Then heated it all up over a low flame for just a few minutes to warm it up. Because I found out (trial by error), that cold alcohol doesn’t light.
Turned off the heat. Lit a match and brought it carefully to the surface of the chestnuts and scotch. A quiet crackling. Sometimes a wavering of air over the surface. Sometimes the hint of a blue flame. It was a quiet effect, not the dramatic one in movies. And captivating, because it was almost invisible, but not quite.
When it faded away, I cut half the panettone into slices that I layered with chestnuts in a martini glass, and spooned some of the warmed scotch over.
To that I added one thin slice of scotch-soaked pear.
The drier texture of the panettone studded with raisins absorbed the scotch, and offered something to balance it. The nutty, soft chestnuts. All mellow together.
And then that slice of pear with its potent punch!
Fresh-roasted chestnuts would’ve been that much nicer, but for a quick, elegant little treat…this was just fine.