Tag Archives: chestnut

Chestnut Carbonara

3 Apr

I’m the last guy to mess with tradition. Ask anybody who has eaten in my home when I am working the line and all will tell you the same thing: The guy leans heavily towards perfecting the classics, not merely approximating or (gasp!) reinventing them.

Take Spaghetti alla Carbonara. It took me years to get this seemingly simple Roman classic right—a lot of them. When I did finally manage it (“The Best Spaghetti Carbonara“) I never looked back.

Until last night, that is. For reasons that cannot be explained I spent the entire day pondering how the addition of chestnuts—yes, chestnuts—might impact a classic carbonara.

Scratch that, actually. I spent the entire day convinced that the addition of chestnuts would make an absolutely terrific addition to this classic. So what if a Web search around midday discovered virtually no evidence that anybody else in the culinary universe had come to the same conclusion.

Whaddyagonnado?

So, this is around one-third pound of my homemade pancetta. It’s what I begin every carbonara with. You can use pancetta, or guanciale, or even thick-cut bacon.

Chop the meat into small, thick chunks, like so. (Of course, this is also a good time to get your pasta water going, as this won’t take very much time at all.)

This is around a quarter pound of cooked-and-peeled chestnuts, which should also be chopped, like so.

This is three large eggs, one egg yolk, and 1/2 cup of grated and mixed Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses.

Mix the egg and cheese together and then add a good dose of freshly grated black pepper.

In a large skillet cook the pancetta in olive oil, slowly and at a low flame, until lightly browned. Stir in the chestnuts and saute for another minute, then turn off the heat and wait for three minutes before proceeding further.

After the pan with the pancetta and chestnuts has cooled for three minutes add the egg and cheese mixture and let it stand until your pasta is cooked.

When your pasta is al dente add it to the pan and quickly incorporate. The hot pasta and slightly warmed egg and cheese mixure should provide ample heat to cook the egg to proper carbonara consistency. If not, and the egg remains very wet, carefully apply just a little flame to finish things off—but be very careful, as too much heat will scramble the eggs.

All that’s left to do now is plate the pasta (I used bucatini here, which works well with carbonara), grate some cheese over it, and serve.

I was right about this being a swell idea, by the way. But take the recipe out for a spin and let me know what you think.

Chestnut Carbonara
Recipe

1/3 pound pancetta, diced into cubes
1/4 pound cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 large eggs, plus one egg yolk
1/2 cup freshly grated mix of Pecorino Romano and Parmigiano-Reggiano
Freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. pasta (spaghetti is traditional but here I used bucatini)


Heat the oil in a large pan over low heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until lightly browned, then stir in the chestnuts and sauté another minute. Turn off the heat and let cool for 3 minutes.
Mix 3 large eggs and one egg yolk in a bowl with the grated cheese and a generous dose of black pepper. Pour the mixture into the warm pan and stir.
When the pasta is al dente add it to the pan and stir vigorously until thoroughly coated. Plate, top with grated cheese and serve.

Chestnut & ricotta tortellini

26 Jan

I almost forgot about these. They’re from the holidays, a time when good Italian chestnuts are available in abundance, even here in Maine.

It’s a pretty simple equation, really. I see nice chestnuts, I buy nice chestnuts. I worry about how to use them later on.

And so one morning, as our holiday houseguests were still sleeping in their beds, I roasted a couple pounds of chestnuts (here’s how) and got to thinking, naturally, about filled pasta.

Big surprise.

Crumble the chestnuts (this is a pound’s worth shelled) by hand and saute in a stick of butter. After a few minutes pour into a food processor and run it until the chestnuts take on a granular quality.

You can see that this isn’t completely smooth. That’s the way I like it, as it gives the filling some texture, but if you prefer it smoother just process the chestnuts longer, possibly adding a bit of cream.

To complete the filling just mix in ricotta (1/2 pound would be the minimum, a full pound max), some grated nutmeg and a touch of lemon zest. If the filling is on the stiff side add cream or milk as needed, but that’s really all there is to it.

The rest is Tortellini Making 101. Roll out your pasta sheet and spoon out the filling like so, leaving a good couple inches in between each dollop.

Cut the individual squares.

Fold diagonally in half.

And press down along the edges to seal. (If your dough is on the dry side you may need to brush the edges with egg wash before folding over.)

Then simply bring the two top edges together and press so that they join.

Cover a tray or work surface with course semolina and rest the tortellini on top until you’re ready to cook them.

You can serve these a lot of different ways (brown butter comes to mind), but I went with a simple en brodo, which means that I boiled and served the tortellini in a fresh homemade chicken stock and then topped things off with parsley and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Like I said, this all happened around a month ago now. But if memory serves no complaints were filed—and the houseguests have already scheduled their return.

Phew!

Pasta with chestnuts & bacon

10 Mar

For reasons best left unspoken, I found myself staring into the fridge Sunday evening around seven having no plan whatsoever.

As will happen when a half-pound of thick-slice, locally cured bacon is in reach an idea took shape—aided of course by the vacuum-packed chestnuts I had been eyeing earlier.

And you thought that I spent a lot of time planning the stuff I share with you here.

Dice and saute the bacon by itself for a while, then add a small onion or shallot, three or so garlic cloves and (if you like, which I do) a little hot pepper.

When the bacon is cooked and everything else is softened add at least 1/2 cup of chopped chestnuts, more if you like, and stir.

Add some chopped parsley.

Then add your cooked pasta (a half-pound here, and boiled about a minute less than to doneness), grate some Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino over it, and add maybe a ladle full of the (well-salted) pasta water to moisten.

Turn the heat up to high and incorporate, allow some of the pasta water to be absorbed and evaporate, then turn off the heat and quickly serve.

Next time I make this stuff it’ll be on purpose, I swear.

Chestnuts with butter & rosemary

30 Dec

I ate them, I didn’t make them.

My most trusted associate prepared these chestnuts last night. It isn’t often that somebody else’s work shows up in this space, but on a holiday weekend such as this an exception feels about right. Besides, there are still plenty of fresh chestnuts to be had in the stores and so now is the time you’ll want to get to work on these.

Good luck.

And Happy New Year everybody!

—MM

Buttery Roasted Chestnuts in Foil (From Bon Appetit, December 2012)

2 pounds fresh unshelled chestnuts
2-3 sprigs rosemary
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons (or more) kosher salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°. Place a large sheet of foil on a rimmed baking sheet. Place chestnuts, flat side down, on a work surface. Using a utility knife or a sharp paring knife, carefully cut through the shell on the rounded side of each chestnut to score an X. Soak in a bowl of hot water for 1 minute (this helps them steam while roasting).
Drain chestnuts and pat dry; place in a medium bowl. Add rosemary, butter, 2 teaspoons salt, and nutmeg. Season with pepper and toss to thoroughly coat. Arrange chestnuts in a single layer in center of foil (a few might overlap) and gather up edges of foil around chestnuts, leaving a large opening on top.
Roast until the peel begins to curl up and chestnuts are cooked through, 30-45 minutes, depending on size and age of nuts.
Transfer chestnuts to a platter, using a spatula to scrape in any butter and spices with them, and toss to coat. Season with more salt, if desired. Serve hot or warm.

How to roast a chestnut

21 Nov
Saturday food shopping took a decidedly holiday-like turn when I noticed that two of the local food stores that I frequent (Rosemont Market and Micucci Grocery) had gotten in fresh Italian chestnuts.
I was in the middle of making a soup with these chestnuts (note to locals: Micucci’s are a lot cheaper) when my friend Joe called. He had wanted to discuss matters relating to his business, except that as soon as he discovered what I was doing, all he wanted to talk about were chestnuts.
“I can’t get a good chestnut panettone anymore,” my friend moaned in a truly sorrowful way. “For awhile I had an outfit in Italy ship them to me, but I can’t get them to do it anymore. I just gotta find another source.”
As I know how much my friend loves his chestnuts, both in a panettone and warm out of the shell, this hurt my heart deeply. I do not like to see my friends suffering.
After several more minutes of chestnut talk he asked whether I would be blogging about the soup that I was preparing, but sounded less than enthusiastic when I said that I would.
“Nobody knows how to roast a chestnut anymore,” Joe groaned. “All they know is opening a jar or a vacuum pack.
“If it were my blog,” he went on, “I would just do that: How to roast a chestnut.”
It is helpful to have friends who are smarter than yourself, don’t you think?
The first step in roasting chestnuts is a little dangerous, so be careful and work slowly. Using a sharp knife, cut an “X” into one side of the nut.
After all the chestnuts have been scored soak them in water for about an hour. If you’re in a hurry, 30 minutes will do, but they should be soaked at least that long. At an appropriate time in the process you’ll need to preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and have a roasting pan on hand to accommodate both the chestnuts and some water.
These chestnuts roasted for 20 minutes. There are two things I’d like to bring to your attention. First, you can tell that the chestnuts are done because of the way the skin has curled up where the “X” was cut. If that doesn’t happen then they need to cook longer. Second, there is still ample water in the pan. Some people use no water, others use so little that it evaporates entirely. I find using a good quarter inch of water works well.
Here’s the soup that I wound up making, by the way. And a recipe from La Cucina Italiana should you be inspired to do so yourself.
I don’t expect Joe to make it. He’s too busy trying to track down his panettone. Poor guy.
Enjoy the Holidays.