11.10.2012

Chestnuts

If you are British, or have lived in Great Britain, a chestnut might be an old joke - one you have heard countless times. “Did you hear the one about the ...” or “A man walked into a pub and…”

For musicians, a chestnut might be a piece of music played way too many times; it has become hackneyed. The Overtures such to William Tell and The Barber of Seville come to mind, as does pretty much anything you’ve heard in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

To a New Yorker, a chestnut might be more a scent than a thing. There are few aromas as distinct as chestnuts being roasted on the streets of the city.

As a cook, chestnuts are simply much too much work. You need to score them, boil or roast them, then peel them.... and, after all that, they are often mealy and dry. I repeat, they are much too much work.

Rather, they were too much work. Last winter, Trader Joe changed my mind. He delivered cooked, peeled, cleaned, vacuum-packed chestnuts to my grocery cart. It was a miracle. I know they were available before I found them at Trader Joe's, but they just weren't available where I shopped.

Upon finding them, a plethora of recipes became possibilities: creamy chestnut soup; mushroom and chestnut stuffing; mont blanc (monte bianco); and this recipe - minimally adjusted from one in La Cucina Italiana - for pork loin with chestnuts.

This recipe is amazing - a way to cook a pork loin that keeps the pork moist and gives you a gravy that includes Marsala and chestnuts. What's not to like? Last year, after simultaneously discovering the chestnuts and this recipe, I made it three times within two weeks. We were hooked!

I think you will be, too.

~ David

Braised Pork Loin with Chestnuts

1 (2-pound) boneless pork loin roast
sea salt
2 slices salt pork, cut into 1/4-inch-thick batons (about 24)
4-6 fresh bay leaves
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/4 cups dry Marsala wine
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 cup beef broth
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup vacuum-packed chestnuts


Heat oven to 325ºF with rack in middle.


Season pork all over with salt. With a paring knife, make about 24 incisions all over pork and fill with salt pork strips. Tie loin at 1-inch intervals with string; tuck bay leaves under string on the top of the roast.


Place 1/4 cup flour on a baking sheet; roll pork in flour to coat.


Heat oil in a 5- to 7-quart Dutch oven or wide heavy pot with lid over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Brown pork on all sides, 10 to 15 minutes total. Remove from heat.


In a large saucepan, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup flour and wine over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook, whisking often, until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Add milk, broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Gently simmer, whisking occasionally, until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 5 to 7 minutes.


Transfer sauce to pan with pork and add chestnuts. Cover pan tightly with aluminum foil and lid. Roast, basting pork once halfway through, recovering with foil and lid for 1 hour.


Remove pork from oven and let rest, covered, in pan 15 minutes before serving.


Serves 6-8.

7 comments:

  1. Wow, I've never seen chestnuts in this way! With those bay leaves it must smell amazing. And thank god for good ole' Trader Joe's for always making our lives easier and a little more tasty :)

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  2. My first thought upon reading the title was the same as when I find a quince post: too much work! I can completely understand your happiness upon finding them ready-to-use. I really like them and that pork looks moist and creamy, soooo good! Wonderful recipe David!

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  3. Looks just gorgeous. I think I need to look into trying some of those imported vac-packed chestnuts next time I have the urge. It seriously is a pain in the glutes when it involves scoring and roasting. Love your recipe!

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  4. We stopped at Trader Joe's on our way home from the Adirondacks and got three packages of their chestnuts. Can't wait to try this, once, twice and three times!

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  5. Ahu - I was worried your didn't have TJs in New York - glad to hear I was wrong!

    Paula - even if you can't find the chestnuts in this way, I have imagined making this with walnuts, too...

    John - I hope you can find the chestnuts Down Under. Have wondered if using jarred ones would work. Might have to try for science's sake...

    Cathy and Heather - am on my way to TJs right now to get some to make this for dinner tonight. Also making spätzle and roasted root veggies... Hope you like it!

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  6. I love chestnuts and I'm one of the few people who don't consider them to be a hassle. I almost always buy them fresh. Vacuum-packed are great as well when you're pressed for time.
    This is a stunning dish, David. You know what? This may be the dish I prepare for one of my Christmas gatherings this year!
    xoxo

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  7. Magda - you are definitely more patient than I! And I am sure the results are worth it, too. I agree - this dish would be beautiful for a holiday table.

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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