A week before Christmas we had spent a quiet (and slushy) afternoon at Dinosaur Barbecue, and then like we always do we walked over to Whole Foods in order to get some food to make for a relatively light dinner given that we had just eaten some wings and sliders. I’m not sure what came over me while we were shopping, but I saw that they had bags of fresh chestnuts and I decided then and there I’d make something with them for Christmas dinner. (I partially blame the addition of the Silver Spoon’s Tuscany cookbook for this inclination.) After doing a little research I decided that I could fold in chopped up chestnuts into my favorite ricotta dumpling recipe, and the only question remained was how to cook them.
I ended up taking two tacks: on the Friday before the holiday I spent part of the afternoon microwaving chestnuts after reading that famed food writer Melissa Clark’s dad liked to do it when making chestnut stuffing, and while it worked…it was a little tedious, and not all of the chestnuts came out as tender as I’d like. I had enough, though, to incorporate into the dough and so I made it, froze most of them, and boiled a few (those pictured above) to see how they would taste. Dressed in butter and chopped sage it was pretty good, and so I decided that I’d bring them to PA to see how everyone else would respond to them. On a whim I brought the rest of the chestnuts in the event that everyone was open to the possibility of eating them; otherwise, I would have done a mix of regular and chestnut-filled dumplings, because I was comfortable enough with the recipe that I could produce either fairly easily.
It turns out they were all intrigued, and for the second batch I tried boiling the chestnuts since I didn’t have the special roaster pan that apparently they require to roast them over an open fire…and they honestly came out a little better than the microwaved version. The shells leach some of their brown color in the water so that inevitably gets on the nut meat, which adds some nice color to the dumplings and reminds you what’s inside them, and they were all basically very tender and I only had to toss one or two that didn’t want to peel properly. The whole lot got tossed with a bunch of herbs (mainly rosemary and sage) and a generous amount of butter, and by the end of the meal only a handful were leftover so I felt that it was a pretty successful gambit. I may just go ahead and pick up some more chestnuts the next time I see them so that I can make another batch and freeze them for an upcoming meal when I’m in need of a fast sabor de soledad dinner.
Adapted from this recipe from The Kitchn
Serves 4 as a side dish
- 15-20 chestnuts, boiled, peeled, and chopped (see below)
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
- 2 tablespoons water (if needed) Olive oil, for drizzling
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Handful of mixed herbs (sage works PERFECTLY here) and chopped garlic, if desired
Score the large, flat end of the chestnuts with an X with a sharp, small knife, and then bring them to boil in a smaller saucepan of water and cook them for 20 minutes. Peel the chestnuts when cool, and then chop finely.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and start assembling the dumplings. Whisk together the eggs and cheese, and then stir in the chopped chestnuts. Add the salt and pepper, and then stir in the flour until a dough forms. (If necessary, add in the two tablespoons of water, but it’s OK if this dough is a bit tacky.) Dump the bowl onto a floured cutting board and roll out to about a quarter to a half-inch thickness and then cut out square shapes from the dough. Salt the boiling water and then carefully add the dumplings to the pot, and cook until they float up to the top. Drizzle a little olive oil on the dumplings to prevent them from sticking as the rest of the dumplings cook. When all are finished, dump out the water and return the pot to the stove on low heat. Melt the butter and then add the herbs, cooking for about 30 seconds before adding in the dumplings and tossing well to coat. Transfer them to a serving dish and serve immediately with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, if desired.