Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Les Châtaignes

When a journalist called me a couple of weeks ago asking me about chestnuts in my kitchen notebook, I was up to my elbows in them. Last night I saw that I was featured along with a recipe for my favorite way to serve chestnuts at the holiday table in the Washington Post! Thank you so much!

This year we collected a lot of wild chestnuts during our walks in the woods. I prepared my puree from the raw chestnuts by slow simmering them in my regular mixed duck and guinea hen stock. This goes into the freezer after a cream enrichment, and when the time comes, it will be mixed with the best smoked bacon we know and brown in a gratin dish as a Thanksgiving side. Heaven knows that these little nuggets embody all that I am thankful for.

When I look back at the ideas I've already gathered on the plethora of things to do with chestnuts and expand to consider all of the mentions of chestnuts in my kitchen notebook, I am reminded of their ever present quality in Lyonnais cooking. It would be a shame not to incorporate them somehow in my class about Cooking in Burgundy Clay this winter. Along with pumpkin, chestnuts definitely are one of my favorite elements in Lyonnais cold weather dishes.

It would be so nice to have some of those luscious gold wrapped slow sugar confit chestnuts for the holidays, but of my own making. This year my personal project is to perfect my own documentation of this city's special sugar confit method to include on the 13 desserts table at the holidays.

Will chestnuts make an appearance at your table this winter? How do you like to use them?


Blogger racheld said...

Your evocative writing is almost a plump mouthful in itself, and the waiting-in-the-freezer preparation takes on the aura of a treasure hidden for a glorious LATER.

I have never tasted a chestnut, though I've always longed to. Just the descriptions of those hot, crackly morsels in a sidewalk brazier, or the plump, juicy marrons glacees---what an elegant thought!!

I think perhaps I'm holding out for my first taste to be a true Mont Blanc---seen and coveted in a long-ago Bon Appetit---a great mound of piped-out swirls of the rosy chestnut puree, with a towering crown of similarly-piped whipped cream. Oh, My.

2:17 PM, November 03, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the suggestion of using kitchen tongs - in the past I have tried gardening gloves but they only provided limited protection. On future foraging trips in the autumn I will take a pair along with the knife I carry for collecting mushrooms. Now the only trouble is if I am stopped by the police, they'll do me for "going equipped".

2:23 PM, November 03, 2010  
Anonymous Rachel @ tamingthetart said...

Congrats to you on the feature! I had no idea chestnuts started out so wooly.

3:30 PM, November 03, 2010  
Blogger Alanna Kellogg said...

Congrats on the Washington Post story!

I have bought chestnuts three or four times in the last ten years ... and each time, about February, I pitched them into the rubbish.

Must.Change.Such.Bad.Behavior. :-)

4:19 PM, November 03, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have used them (instead of pistachios) in goose or duck ballottine. But frankly,considering the harshness of the work on my hands and the fact that they were a bit too sweet to completely integrate with the flavors; saw me returning to pistachios. If they were an improvement, I would have persevered!


5:49 PM, November 03, 2010  
Blogger janetmow said...

"My regular mixed duck and guinea hen stock." This I can only imagine coming from a cook in France! Thank you for making me smile.

4:33 AM, November 04, 2010  
Anonymous Trish said...

I would like to incorporate chestnuts into my cooking more. I will turn to your blog when the time comes. Congrats on the WP feature.

5:46 AM, November 04, 2010  
Anonymous Erica said...

I would much prefer to find chestnuts in the forests nearby me than mushrooms (Pacific Northwest, USA). I've only had roasted chestnuts - a great excuse for a fire outside (if it's not raining). Otherwise I roast them in foil in the oven. Very American.

11:45 PM, November 04, 2010  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Chestnuts are one of my favorite autumn flavors. I love making chestnut soup or simply snacking on roasted chestnuts.

6:25 AM, November 05, 2010  
Blogger L Vanel said...

Thank you all for such nice comments. I will be on the lookout for some different ways to use them this winter.

8:50 AM, November 05, 2010  
Anonymous Jo said...

I confess I buy them ready peeled after burning and blistering my fingertips last year! But I like to use them in a spicy butternut/chestnut soup. Silky and smooth with a hint of chili and spice. Great callout in the WP Lucy!

9:18 AM, November 05, 2010  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Congratulations on being featured.

I am commenting only to say how much I have enjoyed your blog since I stumbled across it not long ago. When I have a few minutes to spare, I love to look back into your archives. So many delicious and wonderfully simple recipes!
I have been enjoying your beautiful photography and writing as well. Thank you so much for sharing so much with your readers. You are an inspiration.

11:06 AM, November 05, 2010  
Anonymous Claiborne @ Buttered Bread said...

How lovely to see them in their husks like that! I fell hard for chestnuts while living in France. In the U.S., where chestnut trees have had a sad history, I haven't had such great luck finding good, fresh ones. If I do, I will make a creamy chestnut and apple soup.

5:20 PM, November 05, 2010  
Blogger MiniLover said...

I love chestnuts and one of my fondest memories is walking in Arles and having them fall on my head. I filled my sweater with them and brought them back to the US to use in my turkey stuffing (with apricots). Yum.

Please publish your recipe using bacon and chestnuts--two favorite foods!


11:30 PM, November 05, 2010  
Blogger SmitoniusAndSonata said...

I only like chestnuts that have been roasted in a brazier in lamplit city squares .
But those roasted on a shovel poked into a log fire will do in an emergency .

8:48 AM, November 07, 2010  
Blogger 365 sonrisas said...

I love your blpg! Simply beautiful!!!

12:37 AM, November 09, 2010  
Anonymous Cynthia Bertelsen said...

I finally found some chestnut puree the other day and now, fueled by your post on chestnuts, am looking forward to finding a decent "home" (recipe) for it!

2:45 AM, November 12, 2010  
Anonymous emiglia said...

That gratin sounds absolutely incredible! So far I've just been using them to make soups with lentils and mushrooms.

12:29 AM, November 18, 2010  
Anonymous Stephanie Quilao said...

I LOVE Chestnuts! Could eat them often. I've never seen wild chestnuts before. Those pics were really educational.

8:18 PM, November 30, 2010  

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