Cozy Little Rich Dish…With Chestnuts

As it gets closer to Christmas, and days are more and more full of things to do, fitting them in before and after other things, it was nice to be able to pull out butternut squash risotto from the freezer in the morning (left over from Thanksgiving) and leave it to thaw in the fridge for dinner later.

chestnuts 3 12.21.13I then continued to my nearby natural foods store before going to work, where I bought, among other items I needed, about three-quarters of a pound of chestnuts from a small basket of them tucked in with the produce. A nice addition to the risotto.

After work, it was nice to know I was coming home to something practically done for dinner. And it did come together pretty easily. I did need to roast chestnuts, but there weren’t that many, and it doesn’t really take that long.

I preheated the oven to 400°, cut an X into the chestnuts. Onto a pan, and into the oven for 15 minutes. When still warm, but able to handle, peeled away the shell and the papery inner layer. Sliced the chestnuts.

I heated extra-virgin olive oil over medium-low heat, to which I added three minced garlic cloves. Added the chestnuts in as I sliced them, brought the heat up to medium. Added a little salt. And also fresh rosemary, maybe a teaspoon’s worth. Stirred it all to coat with oil, warm through.

Then into the pan, four cups of the leftover risotto and two cups of vegetable stock. Brought it to a simmer, adjusted seasoning. When it was warmed through, I added a half-cup of half and half.

chestnuts 1 12.21.13Scooped into two bowls, for my husband and me. Sprinkled grated cheese on top.

What is there to say? Creamy risotto. Mellow garlic. Soft, sweet chestnuts.

Cozy little rich dish.


Chestnuts in a Glass

I came home. The house was quiet. Late afternoon. Had done some Christmas shopping. I was on my own for the evening.

chestnuts 1 12.14.13A set of martini glasses was washed and clean and sitting on the counter, and had been since Thanksgiving, waiting for cabinet space to be rearranged and a place found for them  again.

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.