Los Angeles Times food writer Russ Parsons samples tasty, chewy chestnuts and shares some dishes. Parsons, author of How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table, recently wrote about the return of the American chestnut in a Times.
Brussels sprouts braised with bacon and chestnuts
Note: Quartering the Brussels sprouts after they're cooked ensures that their centers stay slightly crisp.
Servings: 4 to 6
1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts
4 strips bacon, chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 cup peeled and coarsely chopped chestnuts (about 1/2 lb nuts in their shell)
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp sherry vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Cut an X in the stem end of each Brussels sprout and remove any outer leaves that are discolored or loose. In a covered pot, steam the sprouts over rapidly boiling water until they are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cut each sprout into lengthwise quarters and set aside. (The Brussels sprouts can be prepared up to this point 8 hours in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered.)
2. Render the bacon in a dry skillet over medium heat until it softens and releases its fat, about 5 minutes. Add the minced shallot and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chestnuts and chicken broth to the pan, cover and simmer until the chestnuts are quite tender and sweet, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the vinegar and Brussels sprouts and cook, letting the flavors marry, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add a little more vinegar, if necessary, to brighten the flavors.
Chestnut-celery root purée
Servings: 6 to 8
3 cups peeled and coarsely chopped chestnuts (about 1 1/2 lbs nuts in their shells)
1/2 lb celery root, peeled and cut in 1/2" dice
1 shallot, sliced
1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tablespoon salt
1/4 cup butter, cut into small pieces
1. Combine the chestnuts, celery root and shallot in a large saucepan. Add the chicken broth and 1 1/4 cups water. There should be enough liquid to just cover the chestnuts and celery root, but if necessary add a little more water. Stir in the salt.
2. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook until the chestnuts and celery root are tender enough to crush against the side of the pan, about 20 minutes.
3. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked chestnuts and celery root to a food processor and purée. Scrape down the sides of the work bowl, add the butter and purée until smooth. Serve immediately. This makes about 3 cups purée.
Music break: Blue by Euphoria