It’s that time of year where family traditions take center stage, especially when it comes to food.  Whether it your Grandmothers stuffing recipe or Aunt Peggy’s green bean casserole, everyone has that special dish that the family looks forward to every year.  For me, roasted chestnuts scream “Happy Holidays!”  I love them roasted as a snack as well as incorporated into dishes for great texture.

Chestnuts are enclosed in a prickly case, most of which hold three separate small nuts.  Each nut contains a cream colored kernel that is covered by a thin brown skin and protected by a hard, inedible shell.  At the grocery store you will find the chestnuts in their hard brown shell usually in the produce or bulk section.  Chestnuts are a great source of vitamin C.  They are also one of the only nuts that are low in fat with a high level of protein.  When buying chestnuts in the store, you want to look for a glossy brown shell.  At home, keep them refrigerated in a bag for up to two weeks.

There are many preparations for chestnuts.  They can be roasted, boiled or ground into chestnut flour. The interesting thing about chestnut flour is that it is gluten free.  Chestnuts are great in stuffings, added to soups or even candied for desserts.  The trick with chestnuts is to make a small “X” on the flat side of the chestnut to prevent bursting while cooking.  Once they are roasted or boiled, there is some work involved in getting those nuts out of their shell.  They need to be still warm to get the nut out of the shell and the thin brown skin off.  I suggest using two towels to not burn your hands and the skin will rub off much easier.  In the end, it will be worth it.

For this week’s recipe, I chose a ragout of onions, chestnuts, mushrooms and thyme.  This would be a hearty side dish to go along with any roast or turkey.  The savory flavors will pretty much complement any holiday meal.  Bon Appétit!

Chestnut Ragout

1 pound chestnuts
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup chicken stock
2 pounds mixed mushrooms (chanterelles, porcinis, or oyster mushrooms would be great)
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut an “X” on the flat side of the chestnut and put on a sheet pan.  Roast for 20 minutes.  Meanwhile heat butter and 2 tablespoons oil in a saucepan and sauté garlic.  Add onion and sauté on medium low until caramelized.  Season with salt and pepper. When chestnuts are done, peel and set aside.  Once onions are caramelized, remove and set aside.  Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté mushrooms until soft.  Do not salt mushrooms until they have released all their liquid.  Once mushrooms are tender, add chestnuts, onions, thyme and 3-4 tablespoons chicken stock.  Let this reduce for about 5 minutes.  If it needs a little more liquid, add more chicken stock until it is creamy and everything is tender.

Servings – 6
Prep time – 10 minutes
Cook time – 30 minutes

Have you ever tried chestnuts as a side dish?

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