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!

Salmon with Chestnuts and Ginkgo Nuts

I’m rich! If only I could take my treasure, laughing, all the way to the bank: I have collected and cleaned several hundred ginkgo nuts.
What will I do with them? They certainly are on many future menus here in The Ginkgo House: I don’t think we will get tired of them. Ginkgo nuts are valued for their flavor and fortune. They are used in good luck dishes served at New Years and weddings. They are cooked in soups, stir-fries, desserts, and eaten with beer for good health.
The Chinese (later also Japanese [ginnan]) word ginkyo means “silver apricot” (gin=silver, kyo=apricot). Coincidentally, this recipe has a silver sauce (gin-an). It is a gentle dashi-based sauce thickened with cornstarch or kuzu starch (arrowroot).

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!
Besides the recipe:
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.

Salmon Steamed with Chestnuts and Ginkgo Nuts
An autumn recipe from Japan and a calla lily from my husband are too elegant to allow me to sulk about dinner for one. Calla lilies are pleasingly ingenious and simple flowers, romantic and understated. The food is also simple, with subtle flavors of chestnuts and gingkos. Steaming the fish with kombo and a little saké is as easy to make for one as it would be for a party.
The new house has moved from potential, to possible and now to probably and I am imagining the plant, among others, blooming in the gigantic front window overlooking the gingko tree in the front yard…

Chestnuts in Michigan

https://1tess.wordpress.comI’ve never seen a chestnut tree!
Nearly all of the American chestnut trees were killed by a blight (fungus) in the early 1900’s. l was surprised to learn that chestnut trees grow in Michigan. The nearest orchard is in Livingston County with 350 trees on nearly 70 acres. Last Saturday was a warm blue sky bright sun autumn day with trees bright reds and yellows. It was perfect for a drive in the country. And yes, it was beautiful! But growing chestnuts in Michigan is not easy. And I found out that chestnuts are sharp and dangerous!

Classic Rice with Chestnuts

Castanea dentata! Chestnuts! I’m in love. Like anyone in love I’m greedy, yearning for the exotic darlings from France, Spain, Italy, or China. Oh so far away. My desire led me to wonder if I could find the lovelies near-by. Who would have thought chestnuts grow in Michigan?

Oh, but wonderful: they do grow here. This classic recipe reveals chestnuts at their most enticing.

Chicken and Chestnuts

japanese-chicken_9237Chestnuts 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. 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!

Autumn Chicken and Chestnuts

chestnutchopstick.jpgPeeling chestnuts is a tedious job, but Ms. Shimbo’s method of peeling chestnuts worked very well. And Ms. Shimbo is right that freshly peeled chestnuts are much more flavorful than the shelf-stable ones I used in the chestnut rice (in November). I boiled a medium pot of water, removed it from the heat, added the chestnuts, and left them to soak for 20 minutes. I took 2 or 3 chestnuts out at a time—and they are HOT—and tried to use a small knife to cut the peel. What actually worked very well was my Joyce Chen kitchen shears with the short pointed blades. As directed, I soaked the peeled chestnuts in cold water for 15 minutes, though I don’t know if that was necessary, and they were very good in the sauce.