GOTTA HAVE STUFFING FOR THANKSGIVING!

StuffingSAVORY CHESTNUT AND FRUIT STUFFING

Without fail, Thanksgiving brings out our most nostalgic memories. Often those treasured times call to mind remembrances of the delicious stuffing our mothers and grandmothers brought to the table at holiday time.

Those flavors we remember so fondly may have been savory, sage-infused, and earthy, or perhaps they were sweet, fruity, and spicy. Each year I debate whether to prepare a savory stuffing or one more focused on the fruity side.

This year I’ve settled my own conundrum by uniting both sides of the sweet-savory debateChestnuts roasting and adding one of my very favorite foods of the autumn season–CHESTNUTS! Here’s a quick recipe for roasting chestnuts. If you prefer to boil the chestnuts, a method I turn to most often, here’s my post on Cooking and Peeling Chestnuts with step-by-step directions:

https://veganfortheholidays.wordpress.com/2014/08/18/cooking-peeling-chestnuts-illustrated/

If you don’t have the time to cook and peel fresh chestnuts, you can find them already prepared in jars and vacuum-sealed packages. Avoid the canned chestnuts packed in water–they simply don’t have the alluring taste and texture of vacuum-packed chestnuts.

This scrumptious stuffing, replete with chestnuts, is so fruity and ravishing, it makes a delicious meal by itself. Enjoy it as a side dish or use it to stuff acorn, butternut, or delicata squash.

For convenience, prepare the stuffing a day ahead, and warm it for 10 to 15 minutes in a preheated 350-degree F. oven before serving. If you use fresh chestnuts in the shell, cook and peel them in advance also, to bring this recipe together more easily.

This tasty stuffing recipe is very copious so there will most likely be leftovers that can easily be covered with aluminum foil and reheated. For a small family gathering, you might want to cut the recipe in half.

Vegan Holidays lowresOh, and by the way, this delicious recipe is from my Vegan for the Holidays Cookbook!

SAVORY CHESTNUT AND FRUIT STUFFING

 

 

Yield: 12 to 15 hearty servings

2 cups water

2/3 cup pearl barley

1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided

8 cups whole wheat bread cubes

2 1/2 cups vegetable broth

3 large sweet onions, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 large apples, cored and chopped

1 1/4 cups chopped cooked and peeled chestnuts, or pecans, or walnuts

1 cup golden raisins

3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries

3/4 cup chopped dried apricots (preferably Turkish)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

2 tablespoons white miso

Garnishes

1/4 bunch parsley

3 tangerine wedges or Fuyu persimmon slices

3 fresh cranberries

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

1/4 cup chopped parsley

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  1. Combine the water, barley, and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the barley is tender and all the water is absorbed.
  1. Meanwhile, place the bread cubes on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until dry. Transfer the bread cubes to an extra-large bowl.
  1. Add the vegetable broth to the bread cubes and mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until the bread cubes are broken down into a coarse meal. Set aside.
  1. Combine the onions and celery in a large, deep skillet and add 2 or 3 tablespoons of water. Cook and stir for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the onions are very soft and translucent. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to cook the vegetables and prevent burning. Transfer the onion mixture to the bowl with the bread cubes.
  1. Add the apples, chestnuts, raisins, cranberries, apricots, cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, cooked barley, and the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and mix well.
  1. Thin the miso with about 3 tablespoons of water, add it to the stuffing mixture and combine well to distribute it evenly. Adjust the seasonings.
  1. Spoon the stuffing into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes. Remove the foil and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, or until a light crust forms on the top.
  1. To serve, garnish one corner of the pan with the parsley and artfully nestle the tangerine wedges and cranberries into the parsley. Sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over the top, along with the chopped parsley.

Cooking & Peeling Chestnuts, Illustrated

COOKING & PEELING FRESH CHESTNUTS

If you’ve visited my NutGourmet blog, then you may be aware I have an insatiable passion for chestnuts. Fresh chestnuts are top of the list of special seasonal foods during the holidays. Part of what makes them so special is that they’re available for such a short season. They’re harvested in September and by Christmas they will be a rarity in the grocery store, except for the Asian markets that import chestnuts from China.

Chestnuts offer delicate sweetness and potato-like texture

So what is it about chestnuts that makes some of us fall passionately in love them? It’s a complex question, because chestnuts have so many wonderful qualities. There’s nothing like them on the planet! Their appearance, flavor, and texture are not like any familiar nuts like almonds or walnuts, yet they’re classified as tree nuts. For me, it’s their divine sweetness–not the kind of sweetness sugar or other sweeteners offer. They’re not as sweet as dates or even a ripe apple or pear. Yet, chestnuts have a distinct sweetness that could be considered somewhat delicate, yet deliciously definitive.

Chestnuts inNout mesh bagThey also have a texture unlike any other nut we’re familiar with. Instead of being firm and crunchy like almonds or softer like pine nuts, chestnuts are starchy with a texture that could be compared to a cooked potato. Yet, they’re able to retain their firm shape when cooked and can be eaten whole or chopped. They can be mashed into a puree and incorporated into sauces, puddings, beverages, or included in baked desserts.

Unlike other nuts, chestnuts are practically fat free and contain only 2% fat compared to almonds, which are about 80% fat. Chestnuts also contain vitamin C, while other nuts do not. Chestnuts can be eaten raw but deliver far better flavor and texture with cooking. You can incorporate cooked chestnuts into beverages, soups, salads, stir-fries, casseroles, puddings, pies, baked goods, and desserts of all kinds.

If this is the first time you’ve considered buying fresh chestnuts, think of it as the perfect time to jump in and give these wonderful nuts an opportunity to show their stuff in a delicious dish. Many years ago, chestnuts totally won me over. Give them a try—I’ll bet you’ll get hooked on them, too.

So many people feel intimidated by chestnuts and haven’t the faintest idea how to cook them, peel them, or even incorporate them into a recipe. With this step-by-step guide that follows, you’ll see how easy it is to work with them and store them until you’re ready to add them to a tasty recipe.

Chestnut Cooking and Peeling Step-by Step Guide

Tools: All you really need is a paring knife with a firm, short blade and a good point. The blade should be no longer than 2 or 3 inches long. If you have a chestnut knife, all the better, but it’s really not essential.

Firm paring knife    Chestnut knife 2

 

 

 

A chestnut knife has a blade only 1 1/4 inches long with a curved tip. The blade is very firm, making it easy to grip the chestnut peel and pull it off.  You can do the same thing with a firm paring knife, but if you would like to buy a special chestnut knife, you won’t find it in the average kitchen shop. You can order one directly from some of the chestnut growers in the resources section below.

American Grown vs. Asian Imported Chestnuts: American grown chestnuts can be purchased online. They’re considerably smaller and more expensive than those imported from other countries. I think they’re also much sweeter. The quality I like best about American grown chestnuts is that they’re far easier to peel than the ones imported from China or Italy. If I run out of the chestnuts I’ve ordered, then I turn to the imported ones I find in the grocery store. And I sigh resentfully as I peel every last one of them, muttering under my breath, “These are such a bitch to peel!” The one advantage of imported chestnuts is that they’re often available through March.

Step 1: Make a criss-cross cut into each chestnut to help it release steam. SomeCriss-cross cut 2 people make the cut only on one side, but I find chestnuts much easier to peel with criss-cross cuts on both sides. To make the cuts, put a chestnut on a cutting board, hold it firmly with one hand, and make the cuts with the other. Don’t be timid. Poke the tip of the knife right into the chestnut shell, about 1/4-inch to 3/8-inch deep.

Alternatively, make a horizontal cut through the shell, all the way around the center portion of the chestnut, as if you were drawing the equator with your knife . This kind of cut makes it very easy to peel the chestnut after cooking.

Step 2 Cooking the Chestnuts:

Pot on stoveMethod 1 Boiling (preferred): Put the prepared chestnuts in a saucepan and add enough water to cover the nuts by about three inches. For 1 pound of chestnuts, I use a 4-quart saucepan. Cover the pot and bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the chestnuts, covered, for 25 to 35 minutes. TimerThen, turn off the heat. The shorter time will result in firm, fully cooked chestnuts. Longer cooking will make them softer to use in puddings and creamy recipes. Some varieties of chestnuts cook more quickly, while others take a few minutes longer. After 25 minutes of cooking, take one out of the pot, peel it, and give a taste test. If it’s done, turn off the heat.

Method 2 Roasting: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Pile the prepared chestnuts onto a baking sheet and roast them 15 to 20 minutes. Cool them slightly and peel away. Some chestnut aficionados suggest soaking the chestnuts for about 20 minutes before roasting, claiming it makes them easier to peel.

Method 3 Stir-frying: Put the prepared chestnuts into a large, deep skillet with a small amount of oil, about one tablespoon for each pound of chestnuts in the shell. Use high heat and cook the chestnuts for about 10 minutes, tossing them continuously with a wooden spoon or shaking the pan to prevent the direct heat from burning them.

I prefer the boiling method because I’ve experienced uneven results with the roasting and stove-top methods. Quite often the chestnuts also need to be boiled to soften them enough for most recipes.

Step 3: Use a slotted spoon to remove only a few chestnuts at a time from the Removing from pot 2pot, about 4 or 5, and put them into a small bowl. The nuts will peel much easier when they’re quite warm. Have ready a bowl for the discarded nut shells and another bowl for the peeled chestnuts.

Step 4: Now you’re ready to peel. You can use the firm paring knife or a chestnut knife. Fix yourself a nice cup of tea, turn on some of Cup of teayour favorite music, and prepare for a relaxed peeling session that might take 20 to 30 minutes, depending on how many chestnuts you’ve cooked. Poke the point of the knife into the criss-cross cut and pull up on the peel.

Step 5: Chestnuts have a firm outer shell and and a soft inner skin called the pellicle. Sometimes both the outer shell and inner skin will come off together, but frequently they’ll have to be peeled away separately. Imported chestnuts cling fiercely to their pellicle (the skin) and do not release them without a tug of war.Peeling chestnut 2

Peeling shell 4

Peeling pellicle 4If you notice the chestnuts becoming difficult to peel, they’re probably quite cool. Don’t fight with them. Just put them back into the pot. Make sure there is enough water to cover the chestnuts and bring them to a boil again. Turn off the heat and return to the zen of peeling.

Peeled chestnuts jd3I hope you’ve rewarded yourself and tasted a few tidbits of broken chestnuts during the peeling session. The cooked and peeled chestnuts are now ready for incorporating into a recipe.

Family Tradition: I’ve become very fond of chestnut peeling and have convinced my family to join me in a peeling session the night before Thanksgiving. It’s actually become a cherished family ritual with everyone sitting around the kitchen table, knives in hand, and peeling away. it certainly makes quick work of the task with the American grown chestnuts. If I’ve saddled them with imported chestnuts, they swear just like I do and often leave me to finish the job. I really can’t blame them.

Storing the Chestnuts: If you plan to use the chestnuts within 3 or 4 days, coverCooked, peeled, & bagged them with plastic wrap and store them in the coldest part of the refrigerator. For longer storage, put them into a heavy-duty plastic bag and freeze them. Allow several hours to defrost them at room temperature before using. Defrosting chestnuts in the refrigerator will result in mushy nuts.

Well, you’ve just finished one of the most challenging task of the season. Now you’re ready to add those tasty nuggets of freshly cooked chestnuts to a delicious recipe.

Below are online resources for ordering fresh American-grown chestnuts.

Chestnut Resources:

Girolami Farms

11502 East Eight Mile Road

Stockton CA 95212

209.931.0158

 

Croft LLC,

121 E Front St., Suite 100

Traverse City, MI 49684

231-633-1277

 

Correia Farms

Phone: 866-492-4769

 

Allen Creek Farm

29112 NW 41st Ave.

Ridgefield, WA 98642

PO Box 841, Ridgefield, WA 98642

360-887-3669

Pattycake, Pattycake, Bring Me Some Chestnuts

CHESTNUT PATTYCAKES

Chestnut PattycakesCroquettes and patties fall into that wonderful zone of ordinary comfort foods we tend to rely on when we’ve collected a few leftovers in the fridge. But patties generously packed with bits of chestnuts, carrots, and onions are anything but pedestrian, even with the leftovers. It’s those precious little chestnuts, with their mystical sweetness, that brings these little cakes to life. Save those scanty leftovers of cooked rice and potatoes—they’re just what these little pattycakes need to hold them together.

These irresistible little patties are just right for a small family meal. If you plan on having an extra guest or two, double the recipe so no one will leave hungry.

Because these delicious patties are fried, I consider them an indulgent treat and save them for a special occasion–and there’s always a special occasion during the holidays. Because chestnuts are available for only a short season (October through December or January) they become one of the tasty treasures of the holiday season.

Cooking a peeling fresh chestnuts is a bit time consuming, so if you don’t want to bother cooking and peeling them, you can buy them already cooked and peeled in vacuum-sealed packages or jars. Avoid the ones that come water-packed in cans. They’re simply awful–they’re mushy and tasteless.

I may be a glutton for punishment, but to my mind, there’s nothing that quite takes the place of fresh chestnuts, and I’m a willing sucker for the laborious task. It actually becomes a seasonal ritual I’ve come to love. If you do want to take the time to cook and peel them yourself, you can order fresh chestnuts directly from the grower. Here’s a link to the post that has all the contact information for several growers in the U.S. Go to the websites and ask to be added to the mailing list. That way, they’ll let you know as soon as the fresh chestnuts are harvested and ready for sale in late September or October. Place your order soon, because they may be sold out by Thanksgiving.

One last comment, these little pattycakes are so tasty on their own, they really don’t need any kind of sauce to jazz them up. But if you’re a diehard sauce enthusiast, try a little vegan mayo, a dab of Hoisin, or a dollop of vegan sour cream.

CHESTNUT PATTYCAKES

Yield: 6 pattycakes

1 cup diced cooked and peeled chestnuts

1 medium carrot, coarsely shredded

 

3/4 cup cooked short-grain brown rice

1/2 cup chopped sweet onions

1 medium white or red rose potato, boiled and coarsely chopped

 

2 tablespoons waterChestnut Pattycakes

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

 

1/2 to 2/3 cup almond meal

1/4 cup canola oil, divided

  1. Combine the chestnuts and carrots in a large mixing bowl and set them aside.
  2. Combine the rice, onions, and potato in the food processor and process until they are completely pureed. You may have to scrape down the sides of the work bowl, redistribute the ingredients, and process again.
  3. Spoon the rice mixture into the bowl with the chestnuts and add the water, salt, and pepper. Stir the mixture thoroughly with a fork to incorporate all the ingredients and distribute them evenly.
  4. Pour the almond meal onto a flat dish. Form the chestnut mixture into 6 patties, two inches in diameter, and dip both sides into the almond meal to coat them completely.
  5. Pour half the canola oil into a 10-inch non-stick skillet over high heat. The oil is ready when a drop of water makes it sizzle. Cook the patties about two minutes on each side, or until they are golden brown, and transfer them to a serving dish lined with a double layer of paper towels to drain.
  6. Transfer the patties to a serving plate and sprinkle them lightly with salt and pepper.