Monday, December 28, 2009

A New Use For Chestnuts

Last night, I made dinner for my dear friends Matteo and Mary who were in NYC visiting. I decided to make braised short ribs (grass-fed, from Grazin' Angus Acres) to celebrate winter, Mary's birthday, and their visit. I had bought some dried chestnuts at the farmers market around Thanksgiving, but hadn't yet decided how to use them. Thinking that their starchy, nutty sweetness would pair well with the short ribs, I started to brainstorm.

To use dried chestnuts, they must first be reconstituted in simmering water. After about an 45 minutes, they were soft and delicious. I've seen mashed chestnuts on menus, so went at them with a potato masher. They didn't react as I expected. The chestnuts became lumpy and meal-like, almost like a very dry pasta dough. I then put them through the food processor and the effect was magnified. As polenta is a natural pairing with short ribs, I decided to go out on a limb and treat the meal like cornmeal polenta.

I decided take a mainly traditional approach (such as Mark Bittman's "Polenta Without Fear") with slightly less liquid, plus freshly ground nutmeg, black pepper, sea salt, and fresh thyme. It took a little longer to come together than polenta usually would, but once it did, the results were outstanding. Creamy, nutty, sweet, savory, and a perfect accompaniment to the slightly-spicy chipotle-spiked braising liquid sauce from the ribs. Didn't take pictures, unfortunately, but this was one of my best inventions to date.

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