A traditional part of any Christmas menu in France is stewed chestnuts or les marrons which are served in a velvety sweet sauce. My first taste of this particular side dish was over the holidays this year. On Christmas Day, we sat down to a main course of roasted rooster stuffed with Foie Gras and smothered with the creamy nectar of chestnuts. I couldn’t get enough.
I had never thought of stewing chestnuts before. In fact, I had never even tried a chestnut until I came to France and bought a sack of roasted ones from a street vendor.
Normally, chestnuts are to be served with wild game meat – venison, duck, rooster, pheasant, hare and the like. But this past weekend, my husband and I made ourselves an early Valentine’s dinner and he prepared a medium-rare steak layered with a slice of Foie Gras and drizzled with a warm peppercorn sauce which made the Foie Gras melt in our mouths. It was delicious.
I was in charge of the sides, so I decided to try the stewed chestnut recipe, even if steak isn’t quite a game meat. I also braised some veggies to go along with our cooking à deux Valentine’s evening-early.
If you’d like to give chestnuts a go, here is the recipe and a how-to slideshow.
- 24 whole chestnuts, shelled, peeled
- 4 tbsp salted butter
- 1 tbsp corn starch or corn flour
- 2 cups brown stock (chicken or beef bouillon)
- water, if needed to cover chestnuts
In a large fireproof baking dish, place the chestnuts all along the bottom in one layer. Bring your bouillon or stock to a boil in a pot. Once boiling, add the corn starch. Blend well. Pour over the chestnuts so that the liquid completely covers the chestnuts. Add a little water if you need. Cut the butter into three sections and place it evenly on top of the liquid. Cover the baking dish and place in oven at 250ºF or 120ºC for an hour.
It is best to make this dish the day before you’d like to serve it and reheat in a sauce pan on the stove before serving. If you don’t have that kind of time, you may need to reduce the liquid once the hour of oven cooking is over by placing the mixture on the stove on medium-high until it turns into a thick creamy sauce. (This is what I do at the end of the pictures).