Chestnuts arrive in the stores in late autumn or early winter here in the U.S. in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas. From my reading, it seems chestnuts are more popular around the world than here in the States, where they are part of the dressing for holiday turkey. Chestnuts available here are almost always imported from Italy, because a blight killed most of our native American chestnut trees by the 1940’s.
This Japanese recipe is a delicious way to feature chestnuts in a savoy home-cooked dish. When I made it last December I did not post a recipe, so here it is with notes about my alterations. I removed the bones from the chicken, but simmered them with the chicken and chestnuts—I just don’t like the bone fragments from hacking the chicken apart. I also removed the skin and made schmaltz and grebenes; I don’t like soggy chicken skin so I added a bit of the schmaltz to the browning chicken pieces, and topped the finished dish with crispy grebenes. I like the chicken pieces cut small enough to eat with chopsticks. I’ve noted the quantity changes in parenthesis below.
Simmered Autumn Chicken and Chestnuts
Tori to Kuri no Umani
serves 3 to 4
- 20 large chestnuts, in their shells
- 10 ounces chicken thighs, with bones and skin(1 pound)
- 3 Tablespoons sesame oil
- 3 1/2 Tablespoons sugar, divided(I used 2 Tbs. only in the caramelizing step)
- 1 cup dashi
- 2 Tablespoons sake (rice wine)
- 1 Tablespoon mirin (sweet wine)
- 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
- A few drops of tamari
- Fresh-ground black pepper
- 1 head of broccoli, separated into small flowerets, reserving stems for other use
- shiso or parsley for garnish
• In a medium pot, bring plenty of water to a boil. Remove the pot from the heat and add the chestnuts, and soak them for 20 minutes. (I had to repeat the soaking for some of the tougher nuts.) • With a small, sharp knife, shell the chestnuts, and remove their thin skins. Soak the skinned chestnuts in cold water for 15 minutes. Drain the chestnuts, and set them aside. • With a cleaver, hack the chicken thighs on the bone into 2-inch pieces. (see my notes above the recipe) • In a medium pot, heat the sesame oil. Cook the chicken several pieces at a time over medium heat, turning them, until all sides are golden. • Put all the browned chicken into the pot, and add 1 1/2 Tablespoons sugar. Cook the chicken, stirring, until the sugar caramelizes. • Add the dashi, sake, and mirin to the pot, and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons sugar, (I left out this sugar because when I made the recipe before it was too sweet for my taste) and cook the mixture over medium-low heat, covered with a drop lid, 10 minutes, shaking the pot occasionally so the chicken does not sink to the bottom. (I cooked it for 20 minutes to soften the chestnuts.) • Add the shoyu, turn the heat to medium-high, and cook, uncovered, until 80% of the liquid is absorbed. At the end of the cooking, add a few drops of tamari and some black pepper. (In the pictures, you can see that I cooked away too much of the liquid this time.) • In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the broccoli for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain, and squeeze gently to remove excess water. • Serve the hot chicken and broccoli side by side, garnished with shiso or parsley, accompanied by plain white or brown rice, or mashed potatoes.
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