Braised chestnuts love our favorite holiday main dishes of standing rib roast, roast turkey or goose, baked ham, and braised venison as much as we do. Many types of peeled cooked chestnuts are available in local grocery stores. Select either dry-roasted, roasted, or steamed, whatever style appeals to you. Braising the chestnuts in a light sauce flavored with pancetta or ham and fresh rosemary is such a special way of sharing this popular holiday addition with family and friends.
Keep this dish simple, emphasizing only a few flavors, so it blends flawlessly with the other dishes you are serving. Not everyone has a bottle of dessert wine leftover from entertaining, but if you do, pour in a splash and its light sweetness makes the oil-butter sauce taste even better. Clear apple juice makes a good substitute. Serve these braised chesntuts as a side dish or topping an array of sliced meat or poultry. If you love potatoes or apples, add a few cooked pieces to the chestnuts. This is so good, it makes a wonderful meal all by itself!
4 servings as a side dish. Cooking time is 10 minutes.
3 tablespoons (44 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (1 ounce or 28 g) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (2 ounces or 56 g) finely chopped pancetta or smoked ham
Finely chopped fresh rosemary needles (1 very long rosemary stalk = 2 teaspoons or 10 ml volume)
2 cups (12 ounces or 340 g) peeled cooked chestnuts (whole and large pieces)
1/4 cup (2 ounces or 59 ml) sweet dessert wine or clear apple juice, optional
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 118 ml) chicken or vegetable broth
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Preparation: Rinse the peeled chestnuts to moisten and drain well. Commercially-prepared cooked chestnuts are perfectly cleaned usually. It is a good idea to check them anyway and remove any bits of brittle peel embedded in the crevices that were hidden previously.
1. Make the Infused Oil-Butter Sauce: In a non-stick pan over low heat, warm the oil and melt the butter. Add the pancetta or ham and saute for about 4 minutes or until the edges begin to brown to infuse the sauce. Add the chopped rosemary needles and stir for several seconds until very fragrant, but do not burn.
2. Increase to medium heat, and distribute the chestnuts across the bottom of the pan. Using a heat-resistant spatula, saute them for a minute. Expect some of the chestnuts to break apart into smaller pieces.
If adding the wine or juice, pour it in now and reduce it by half volume, then pour in the broth and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste with freshly grated nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste. Chestnuts naturally thicken sauces, so toss all ingredients together until the sauce coats the chestnuts. Remove from the heat. Serve hot, warm, or room temperature.