Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day here in the US and Joan and Dave (my bosses) very kindly invited round to their house for the feast (check out Joan’s blog here). As it is was my first ever Thanksgiving dinner I was very excited about the fayre that would be there to feast upon. I was not disappointed: roast turkey and cranberries I knew would feature, but there was also loads of other New World things too: mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes plus exciting stuffings and good old Brussels sprouts. In fact it wasn’t that far removed from the British Christmas Dinner, so I was on reasonably familiar territory. The only exception being the mashed sweet potato with melted marshmallows on the top: I am not used to this merging of the sweet and savory in such brazen fashion!
Attending the dinner gave me the perfect excuse to cook some of the vegetable sides from the Vegetable chapter; not something I often do when I’m cooking a meal from the book as they are sometimes complicated and add rather a lot more stress to the occasion.
Chestnuts as a Vegetable seemed the appropriate choice for the time of year, plus I could make it in advance the night before. Griggers doesn’t mention anything about the recipe: just a list of ingredients and a method. I assume it is there because we don’t use them as a vegetable anymore and expect she wants us to start doing it again. But should we?
You will need a pound of chestnuts for this recipe. Begin by nicking each chestnut end to end and plunge them into boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain them and quickly peel them by holding one in a dishcloth or oven glove and using your other hand, remove the shell and skin with a small knife. This is easier said than done; the skin came off just where skin meets back-of-thumbnail. It hurt. I would take Joan’s advice and buy chestnuts that have already been peeled. Anyways, next gently fry a chopped onion and a finely chopped clove of garlic in two ounces of butter, cover the pan and cook until they are soft and transparent. Meanwhile, cut two ounces of bacon rashers cut into strips – use any bacon you like; I used maple-smoked. Also, peel, core and chop two Cox’s pippin apples (these are not around in the US, so I used Granny Smiths as they seemed appropriately tart). Try to not allow anything to burn or brown. Turn up the heat in the pan and add the bacon, a couple of minutes later add the apple. Fry until they soften. Finally chop the chestnuts into chunky pieces and add them along with a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Cook until the mixture begins to meld together.
You don’t have to serve this with just turkey – it will go well with pork, salt pork or veal.
#262 Chestnuts as a Vegetable. I wasn’t sure about this at first, but I decided in the end that I liked it. I was unsure because I tasted it on its own. However, when it was eaten with some turkey and gravy etc, it really worked. We may not use them as a vegetable anymore, I suspect because the preparation is so tricky, time-consuming and sore! But now that tinned or vacuum-packed chestnuts are easy to get, they really should be brought back – they are part of our food heritage after all. Sweet chestnuts have been actively cultivated since Roman times and can be found not just peeled, but candied and ground into flour. They are absolutely delicious roasted under the grill or by the fire, but let’s try something different this year, hm? 7.5/10