Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts

Roast vegetable season, at least oven roasted, is nearing an end. Once I clean the grill and check the propane, grilled vegetables will begin with roast asparagus. (Gas, I know, but during the week it is incredibly convenient.) However good they are, I’m getting a little tired of roasted root vegetables, even Brussels sprouts.

We used to steam them but for me they were always overcooked and sulphurous. Sarah and I would have endless “discussions” about the topic. She likes her food generally more well done than I do and, well, it can be a trial. However, once I started roasting Brussels sprouts, that particular argument was over. There is no better way to cook them.

The technique is pretty simple: wash a pound of Brussels sprouts and let them drain well. You want them as dry as possible. I cut off of the root end and slice them lengthwise down the middle. Unlike roast potatoes, you don’t need a heavy pan for them, so I usually put some tinfoil on a baking sheet. Preheat the oven to 425.

Put the sprouts in the baking pan and mix them with a little olive oil—2 or 3 tablespoons. I try to keep them face down to start. Don’t worry about the leaves that fall off. Leave them in the pan. They will crisp up as the sprouts cook and become an incredible delicacy. Put the pan in the oven and cook for 30 minutes. Turn the sprouts after 15 minutes or so. If necessary, let them cook five minutes longer. If the rest of the dinner isn’t ready, you can turn off the oven and leave the pan inside for up to 15 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with a good fleur de sel. The leaves, which will look almost burnt, have a caramelized taste and crisp texture that is irresistible.

Chestnuts? Well, for this New York boy, the smell of roasting chestnuts is always Autumn in New York. Pretty much every Thanksgiving, I buy a pound, use my patented Lamsonsharp chestnut knife to cut a circle around each nut and bake them for 40 minutes or so alongside the turkey. If I am smoking a turkey, as I usually am, I sometimes put them on a tinfoil tray in the Weber and let them go there for a couple of hours.

Then, of course, you have to dragoon everyone who is hanging around the kitchen stealing scraps to help you peel them while they are hot. You have to get the brown membrane off as well and that is usually stuck in the brain-like folds of the chestnut. Pretty much everyone is exhausted by the third nut and I am left to do the rest. They don’t mind eating them, of course, but peeling, that’s another story.

I tried Italian dried chestnuts, but they are not quite the same thing. Ok in stuffing perhaps, but you never get that sweet cooked taste of a roasted chestnut. Marrons glaces? Well yes always, but they are a sweet snack. (However, if your girlfriend sends you for them in the middle of the opera, well, you know it’s over. )

So, when I recently got a box of Roland products for me to test, I made sure that it included a jar of chestnuts. Mostly, I knew Roland for its canned mini-shrimp and other Chinese style cans and jars of sauces. But they seem to be making a big push to expand into other areas and part of that includes giving me some free samples to play with.

So I did. Sarah insisted on keeping the chestnuts separate last Thanksgiving, just in case the jarred products tasted foul. I sautéed them in butter and let people add them to the Brussels sprouts. It wasn’t particularly successful, though I confirmed that the chestnuts themselves tasted fine. No off tastes, good texture, good flavor.

So when I got some more just recently, I had no qualms about adding them directly to the Brussels sprouts. I cut about half the jar, about 4 oz., into quarters and added them to the sprouts when I mixed them with the olive oil. Wow. Great roasted flavor without the peeling. Some of the pieces ended up pretty well done, so the next time, I’ll add them about 10 minutes in.

And I’ve got half a jar to play with. I’m thinking to put them on a tinfoil tray over indirect heat in the grill for about 20 minutes and adding the chopped chestnuts to a grilled asparagus primavera. Autumn and Spring. I’ll let you know.


Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts — 1 Comment

  1. Since posting this, I have been thinking sel gris might be a better finishing salt. Or even a smoked salt to complement the roasted flavor. So many choices.

    I’ve also been reminded that in addition to its website, Roland Foods has a Facebook page. You might want to take a look.

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