This chicken, simmered with chestnuts, darkly sweet and caramelized, and savory with soy sauce, is a comfortable autumn dish. As little as two years ago, chestnuts were nearly impossible to find in southern Michigan stores. Back then, for a luxurious price, I could find marrons glacés, or marrons confits in heavy syrup, or chestnut puree (which I believe was very sweet). If we were lucky if we’d find a few fresh chestnuts at Christmas-time. These days most of the Korean, Chinese, Japanese, pan-Asian stores in my area carry peeled frozen chestnuts, and refrigerated chestnuts in syrup, and chestnuts in those shiny shelf-stable packages all year ’round. There is even more good news: people are growing chestnuts in Michigan,
and I’m thinking it would be fun to visit one of the farms…
Simmered Autumn Chicken
Tori to kuri no Umani
The Japanese Kitchen
•250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit•
by Hiroko Shimbo
- 60 large chestnuts
- 2 ½ pounds chicken thighs,
- skinless and boneless
unless you are eating with family
or very close friends
- 3 Tablespoons sesame oil
- 5 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 ½ cup strong homemade chicken stock
- 6 Tablespoons sake
- 2 Tablespoons mirin
- 4 Tablespoons soy sauce
- a few drops of tamari
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
On the side:
- 1 head of broccoli, separated into flowerets
- we had brussel sprouts in need of consuming
- 1 Tablespoon minced shiso (or parsley)
- Yukon gold potatoes for four (or your favorites for mashed potatoes)
- or rice
• Thaw the chestnuts.
• Cut the chicken thighs into 2-inch pieces. I used to cut them bone and all, but I dislike the errant bone fragments in my teeth (no matter how careful you are!), so I cook them whole or bone them.
• 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.
Note that this part is rather tricky and you must watch carefully so as not to burn the sugar. But be bold—you are going for the gold!
• Add the sake, and mirin to the pot, and bring the mixture to a boil. Add the chestnuts to the saucepan. 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 (halved brussels sprouts) for 1 to 2 minutes. Drain, and squeeze gently to remove excess water.
• Serve the hot chicken bathed in its sauce with your green vegetable side by side, garnished with shiso or parsley, accompanied by plain white or brown rice, or mashed potatoes. Do try the mashed potatoes. You won’t regret it. tradition or no!