Autumn Chicken and Chestnuts


Chicken and chestnuts simmered in a salty sweet satisfying sauce is a favorite meal at this time of year, enjoyable for dinner guests—even folks who are not familiar with Japanese food). While a French fricassée of chicken might include olive oil, butter, garlic, herbs, and chicken stock or even some white wine, this Japanese recipe is both familiar and exotic with the flavors of saké, sweet mirin and caramelized sugar, soy sauce, and black pepper. It’s a savory party in your mouth!

Middle English chasteine, chesten chestnut tree, from Anglo-French chastein, chestain, from Latin castanea, from Greek kastanea
First Known Use: 14th century
Merriam Webster




Simmered Autumn Chicken and Chestnuts
Tori to kuri no Umani

adapted from: The Japanese Kitchen
•250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit•
by Hiroko Shimbo
page 422
serves 4

  • 30 large chestnuts I used frozen peeled 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, or chard
  • 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, spinach, or chard). Drain, and squeeze gently, or shake, 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.

April in Paris,
chestnuts in blossom,
holiday tables under the trees.

This morning I woke to see that the wet whitish skies have finally yielded to the season by dropping fluffy fat lace over bare trees. As if that would keep them warm! I saw the trees were a delicately traced arbor over the street, both whiter and greyer than the sky, as I backed out of the driveway, late for work as usual.
Once, we were in Paris in April. There was a mysterious package found in the terminal so everyone was made to go outside while authorities investigated. It was cold and grey. It was April Fools’ Day and we missed our flight to Spain…
Ah, but that song with the chestnut trees in blossom…
(much nicer than that old chestnut which shopping malls are playing now, the one about Jack-Frost nipping at your nose.)

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7 thoughts on “Autumn Chicken and Chestnuts

    • I brought leftovers for lunch at work and everyone kept saying how good it smelled. Wish there had been enough to share—I’ll have to make it again, ’cause I know my friends would enjoy.

  1. Hi Tess, I followed your blog from the forum. This dish looks delicious! I really like how you have added the photo and the song of Ella and Louis… I can imagine having it playing in the kitchen while trying out your recipe. Very nice combo!

    I hope you have a lovely Christmas/Holiday season ahead of you.

    All the best – Mús

    • Hi Mús!
      At this time of year it is especially nice not to hear the same Christmas music over and over. LOL. They started playing it in stores here right after Halloween…

  2. Pingback: Skewered Scallops « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

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