Chicken and Chestnuts

Chestnuts are an autumn favorite in Japan. And chestnuts are now a favorite of mine; this is the third time I’ve made this special recipe and is the best.

Chestnuts The first time I made this recipe I used whole chestnuts and peeled them as instructed in Ms. Shimbo’s book. Use the link to learn how to peel chestnuts. But it was time consuming and fussy, and meant that this would be a very special once a year meal.
The second time I made this recipe, I used peeled chestnuts which came in a shelf-stable foil package, and removed the skin and bones from the chicken. Those chestnuts tasted bland and mealy; skinning and boning chicken thighs is fiddly work. Use the link if you want Ms. Shimbo’s recipe. chestnutchopstick
Frozen, peeled chestnuts are a reasonable compromise for convenience. Using skinless, boneless chicken thighs, though more expensive, are a convenience well worth the cost. To replace the extra flavor added by cooking meat on the bone, I used a cup of strong homemade chicken stock rather than the dashi. If you are concerned that this compromises the Japanese flavor, you could add a piece of kombu as the food cooks, or add shiitake. By caramelizing the sugar before adding the chicken, I could be sure that the sugar really did darken and deepen the flavor. This is now a recipe I can make more than once a year. I think we will enjoy!
Simmered Autumn Chicken and Chestnuts
Tori to kuri no Umani
serves 4
page 422

  • 30 large chestnuts
  • 1 pound chicken thighs, skinless and boneless
  • 3 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup strong homemade chicken stock
  • 3 Tablespoons sake
  • 1 Tablespoon mirin
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • a few drops of tamari
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 head of broccoli, separated into flowerets
    (I had to use a bunch of red chard, an accident of cuisine d’opportunite)
  • 1 Tablespoon minced shiso or parsley
    (none on hand)
• Thaw the chestnuts.
• Cut the chicken thighs into 2-inch pieces.
• In a skillet, heat 2 Tablespoons sesame oil. Cook the chicken several pieces at a time over medium heat, turning them, until all sides are lightly golden. Reserve.
Caramelize the sugar: Put the sugar into a heavy bottomed saucepan, and heat slowly, stirring with a whisk or a fork. The sugar will melt (liquify) and begin to turn golden. I live dangerously, so as soon as the sugar began to color, I pulled the pan off the heat, and added a Tablespoon of sesame oil. I stirred vigorously, but the caramelized sugar continued to cook and stuck to the bottom of the pan. All was well when I pour in the cold chicken broth and deglazed the pan: the hardened sugar dissolved again.
This is a very small amount of sugar to caramelize, but I think it would work easily if I had prepared a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking very quickly.
Note that this part is rather tricky and may need more technique than I know about. Try it at your own risk!
• Add the chestnuts to the saucepan. Add the sake, and mirin to the pot, and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the chicken and return to a gentle boil.
• Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, covered with a drop lid, 15 minutes, shaking the pot occasionally so the chicken does not sink to the bottom.
• Add the shoyu, turn the heat to medium-high, and cook, uncovered, until 50% of the liquid is condensed. At the end of the cooking, add a few drops of tamari and some black pepper.
• 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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7 thoughts on “Chicken and Chestnuts

    • Oh! Hey!
      Hi Joseph~

      Thanks for reminding me. Somehow I lost track of your most interesting blog. And you, a fellow fan of Ms. Shimbo!

      Yes, this is a very nice recipe featuring chestnuts in a savory meal. I’ll look forward to how you like her recipe and any variations you try!

      I read online that chestnuts are popular in Japan, but all the recipes are for cooking them with rice, or glutinous rice, or for sweets…

      I don’t have a sweet tooth, so I’m curious how you go about caramelizing the sugar—whether you like just browning the chicken in the sugar as in Ms. Shimbo’s recipe, or if you make the extra step I added. I think there are more refined techniques to brown the sugar than I used here… Or perhaps you will think it not necessary.

      your fellow cook, T

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen frozen chestnuts. Do you get them in a regular supermarket? What part of the frozen aisles are they in? I’m not a big fan of chestnuts but…

    I do love the aroma of chestnuts roasting. Vendors are on almost every corner in NY this time of year, roasting away and selling them by the small bag. it’s an olfactory memory I cherish.

    • I found the chestnuts in the little Korean store on the corner. They are seasonal, I think, because they weren’t there in the summer.

      Maybe the Japanese store here also carries them.

      Before I made this recipe, we’d buy chestnuts around Christmas and roast them in the oven because J. has fond memories of chestnut vendors in NYC and Spain. But I don’t think we roasted them properly. They were not so delicious.

      The Korean store also has peeled chestnuts in syrup, but I don’t know what to do with them. I just googled chestnuts glacé and found some recipes. Never paid attention because places like Whole Food$ have them but are pricy. hmm…

      • Now I’m curious and will look for them at that international mega-mart I mentioned. I always think of French cuisine re: chestnuts. I suppose it’s because of marrons glaces.

        I think you need flames to get that vendor taste, either a grill or a fireplace. NYC vendors definitely have “an open fire” which they probably use for souvlaki at other times. (I’m making myself hungry!)

  2. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe.
    I already cooked it twice. The first time it turned out great, the second time it wasn’t quite as good because I was cooking for 4 and as I’m not used to cooking for more than 2 persons I messed up a bit. Still, it makes for a delicious meal. Chestnuts are a staple here in Portugal, around this time of the year, and a lot of people (myself included) can’t seem to have enough of it.

    • Hi Marta,

      You are fortunate to have plenty of chestnuts. Here they are not common so I’m very happy to find them at the Korean store. I’d best hop over there soon before the season ends—there is at least one more recipe I’d like to try…

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