Most people who know me would be surprised to know that I have never cooked with chestnuts, or even had roasted chestnuts sold to me by a street vendor during the holidays. You know, like the song.
Chestnuts have always seemed a little strange to me, even though they grow on trees just like the more familiar nuts. Maybe because I grew up hearing horror stories about my French grandmother practically blowing up her house when she roasted chestnuts in her old-fashioned oven. But then, my grandmother was always a bit funny in a way, and probably shouldn’t have been allowed into the kitchen. She was missing parts of a few fingers, in fact, because of kitchen accidents.
Now I have used chestnut cream, thanks to discovering it in Nigella Lawson recipes. And it is fabulous. In fact, if you have never tried it, run to the store right now and get it. But that is for desserts…
Back to chestnuts – I was at a Williams-Sonoma store last week, and decided to buy a jar and play around with them. I might throw some into the Thanksgiving stuffing I make this year, but for now, I thought I’d add them to a simple braised cabbage, just to spiff up the dish.
The recipes I’ve always come across for braised cabbage are always too sweet, thanks to additions of sugar and sometimes jelly as well. I’ve toned the sweetness down significantly, because I find cabbage inherently sweet as it is. It’s sort like me refusing to put marshmallows on sweet potatoes.
So here’s what I did.
Braised Purple Cabbage with Chestnuts
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium-sized purple cabbage, thinly sliced
1/2 large purple onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons jelly, I used plum
10 or so whole, peeled, and steamed chestnuts, sliced
Heat the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until it browns.
Add the cabbage and onion and sauté it for about 5 minutes in the butter, stirring it around occasionally.
Then add the salt and wine. Give the mixture a stir, then put on the lid and braise the cabbage for about 15 minutes. I stirred everything once again about halfway through the braising process.
Add your choice of jelly, return the lid to the pot, and let the jelly melt into the cabbage. The jelly adds some sweetness but also flavor. This should just take a minute.
Then give everything a good stir. If there’s some liquid at the bottom of the pot you could always raise the heat a little and reduce it, or just make sure to use a slotted spoon to serve the cabbage.
To serve, sprinkle the cabbage with the sliced chestnuts. I served the cabbage with baked chicken, and some truffle oil-roasted carrots. Divine.
Braised cabbage is also lovely with turkey, steaks and pork chops. This really is a pretty versatile side dish.
note: If you don’t cook with wine, a little chicken broth would also do the trick.