10 Ways Tuesday: Chestnuts

Chestnuts (c)2011 LaDomestique.com



I’ve got creative ideas for cooking with chestnuts in Autumn:

 

1.  Soup

Chestnuts combine beautifully with mushrooms in a velvety, thyme infused soup from Martha Stewart’s New Classics. Chestnuts are actually a wild food, like foraged mushrooms, which inspires this pairing. The Chestnut-Mushroom Soup  is sure to warm you through and leave you satisfied, ready for a nice, cozy nap. Anne Willan shares a recipe for Cream of Chestnut Soup in her book, The Country Cooking of France. Roasted chestnuts are left whole, cooked in veal broth and milk, for a rich and warming soup. Earthy lentils and sweet chestnuts pair beautifully in Lidia Bastianich’s Abruzzese Chestnut & Lentil Soup in Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy. It’s the perfect Italian example of what grows together goes together.

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Ingredient of the Week: Chestnuts

Chestnut (c)2011 LaDomestique.com

I’ve never seen a chestnut tree. I’ve never tasted chestnuts roasted on an open fire. Here in Boulder, Colorado, there is no street vendor selling freshly roasted chestnuts in a roll of newspaper. So how come chestnuts are the ingredient of the week here at la Domestique? With Thanksgiving fast approaching, I was looking for some seasonal inspiration. Something to get me in the mood. I came across chestnuts and my curiosity took hold. These little tree nuts have a history. To many people, especially Europeans, chestnuts are associated with the holiday season. The aroma of roasting chestnuts is powerful for people, bringing back childhood memories. Here in the U.S. chestnuts are popular as an ingredient for stuffing the turkey on Thanksgiving. I’ve never eaten chestnut stuffing- it’s a mystery to me. I suspect that unless you’re from the northeast, you don’t know much about chestnuts either.

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This Past Week at La Domestique: Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts (c)2011 LaDomestique.com

This past week at la Domestique was dedicated to cooking with Brussels sprouts, a brassica that comes into season after the first frosts of fall. The smallest buds have the sweetest, most delicate flavor. It’s important not to overcook these tiny cabbages, or they become mushy and sulfurous. Quick cooking in a sautée pan, steamer, or under the roasting heat of an oven is the best way to treat them. Throughout the week we explored flavor pairings and cooking techniques with a lot of inspiration for your Thanksgiving table.

In case you missed anything, I’ve got a recap:

Monday:  Announcing Brussels sprouts as ingredient of the week.

Tuesday:  10 Ways Tuesday! Creative ideas for cooking with Brussels sprouts in autumn.

Wednesday:  Cook in the moment with a recipe for Whole Wheat Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, Brown Butter, and Toasted Walnuts.

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Brussels Sprouts Gratin

It’s Friday and I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. This week has been a doozie, but I’ve got the perfect comforting fall recipe for you. My Brussels Sprouts Gratin is creamy, warm, and rich. Brussels sprouts are halved, then seared in butter for a nice crisp and caramelized texture. Heavy cream is added to the pan of Brussels sprouts with a bit of freshly grated nutmeg. Once the cream is reduced and thickened, the mixture is transferred into a single serving gratin dish, topped with cheese, and baked off in the oven. The cheese is Gruyére, a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese from Switzerland that’s sweet, nutty, and pungent. It melts beautifully, lending complexity and depth the the creamy gratin. Though the instructions are for a single serving, the recipe is easily doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled. Just increase the quantities, sauté all the Brussels sprouts together in a pan, then split them up amongst individual gratin dishes and bake them off in the oven. I like the idea of Brussels Sprouts Gratin for one. It’s something special that can be thrown together in minutes when you’re just too tired to cook and no one’s going to do it for you. Whether you’re cooking for one or for a group, I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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Storyboard: Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts look like tiny cabbages growing in clusters along the thick, sturdy stem of the Brassica oleracca plant which is several feet tall. According to the Deluxe Food Lover’s Companion, the name probably comes from the fact that they were cultivated in 16th century Belgium. The plant reminds me of a broccoli plant, a large and leafy brassica that takes up quite a bit of space in the garden. In the book, Chez Panisse Vegetables, Alice Waters writes that “Brussels sprouts do not develop their delicate sweet, nutty flavor until cold weather comes, especially after the first frost.”

Purchasing & Storing

Big stalks full of Brussels sprout buds can be found in markets, and these are preferable to loose packaged buds. Whatever you do, make sure and select bright green sprouts with tight heads and no wilted leaves. Avoid large buds, which can be tough and bitter. The smaller the bud the sweeter their flavor. The longer Brussels sprouts are stored, the more intense their flavors become, so it’s best to bring them home and use them within 3 days. Store Brussels sprouts in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge.

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