I can’t believe I was finally back in Melbourne at chestnut harvest time, and I still missed the pick up at Greta’s place in Beechworth.
Purely life getting in the way, no real excuses. Isn’t it silly how we all let that happen? After 10 years in Dubai and never getting to see a real autumn, I’d been hungering for the sunset colours of the vineyards and orchards Victorian High Country. Mixed up with some honest labour, air touched with woodsmoke and the aroma of roasting chestnuts, perhaps a little Rutherglen Tokay to whet the whistle, and something hot and chocolatey… oh here we go, I’m lost. And that experience is likewise lost until I can get myself together – but I’ll have to wait another year.
Luckily, I have another lovely friend who has a few chestnut trees up at Mount Macedon. And, although I also missed out on harvest, last time we caught up she came bearing a brown paper bag filled with these buttery little nuggets – the only nut my youngest son will actually eat. I’d just got a slab of speck from Meatsmith, and some lactose free cream (IBS-struck husband can’t eat regular dairy so I was very excited to find this is available in Melbourne – it wasn’t in Dubai), and so that started off this little inspiration.
- 800g chicken breast fillets*, quartered
- 250g chestnuts, peeled
- 150g streaky bacon, diced
- 2 onions, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 celery stalks, finely diced
- 60ml Brandy
- 500ml chicken stock
- fresh thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- 200ml cooking cream
- 100g butter
- 1 tbsp flour
- dash of olive oil
Preheat oven to 160°C.
In a casserole, gently fry off the bacon in olive oil and half the butter, then add the onion, celery and garlic and saute on low until caramelized.
Add the chestnuts and deglaze the pan with the brandy, allowing alcohol to burn off, then season with salt and pepper and add the chicken stock. Check the celery and onions are soft, and continue to simmer with the lid on if they are not. When done, add the chicken. Top up with water if necessary so chicken is just covered. Replace the lid and cook in the oven for 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
Remove from the oven and strain off as much liquid as you can into a saucepan and set onto a low heat on the stove. Combine remaining butter and flour into a paste, then add to the sauce, whisking continuously until it boils and thickens. Add cream and season to taste.
Bring the sauce and chicken back together, and heat through, then serve with toasted sourdough and seasonal veggies.
* I made this with breast fillets because my kids are weird and don’t like meat with bones. It would be absolutely wonderful with drumsticks or maryland, just panfry in a little salted butter and olive oil to brown the skin before adding it to the liquid. Then add some extra time in the oven – about 15-25 minutes, but this will depend on the size of your pieces – check the flesh near the bone to make sure it’s cooked through, but there’s less chance of overcooking meat on the bone, so don’t worry if you overdo it a little.