Chicken with Chestnuts

Sweet, salty, and smooth describe this seasonal dish from Japan. Sugar, sake, mirin, and soy sauce are the usual flavors of Japanese cuisine, but by some alchemy in this recipe they are transformed to a unique flavor. I was very generous to only watch as Mr. Tess finished the leftovers for lunch the next day!
Japanese Chicken with Chestnuts
This is a favorite recipe of mine. In the original recipe Ms. Shimbo has a lovely story about her mother taking the trouble to use fresh chestnuts; she also specifies chicken thighs with skin and bones. In my opinion, using frozen peeled chestnuts and boneless thighs makes this recipe is easy to make without sacrificing its flavor. The pictures below link to my other posts about this recipe, including the original recipe and information about preparing fresh chestnuts.

Simmered Autumn Chicken
and Chestnuts

Tori to kuri no Umani
The Japanese Kitchen
•250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit•
by Hiroko Shimbo
page 422
serves 4

  • 30 large chestnuts
  • 1 pound chicken thighs, skinless and boneless
  • 3 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup dashi
  • 3 Tablespoons sake
  • 1 Tablespoon mirin
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • a few drops of tamari
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Serve with:

  • 1 head of broccoli, separated into flowerets
  • or spinach or brussel sprouts
  • 1 Tablespoon minced shiso or parsley
  • (none on hand)
  • white or brown rice or mashed potatoes

• 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.
• 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.

The moving story, illustrated: even with only some of my kitchen things moved to the new house, we seem to have a talent for making clutter. Of course, in making dinner, one can’t help but make a mess. I’d like to be one of those catalog people, you know, the ones whose kitchens are picture perfect at all times? And the dish towels are new and clean and have a perfect place to hang.
We are, however, working toward Ikea-like perfection. Mr. Tess is installing steel tracks to the lovely big drawers so they will slide in and out, even when filled with cooking tools. My nice work-table can be rolled into the center of the kitchen (where almost everyone who has visited has commented that a table belongs), or rolled to the side. In my opinion, a table in the middle of a kitchen is only a flat surface attracting junk, thus rendering it useless. As it is, we can use it for laptops and morning coffee, cookbooks and a cooking work surface, with the Cuisinart, Kitchen Aid, and large copper pots stored on its easily accessible shelves. When we need a broom, the table slides away from the cool little closet, where it hides as cleverly as any self-respecting catalog person could hope for.

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