Brussels Sprout Chestnut Rice
Brussels Sprouts and chestnuts, tossed in cooked rice, for a festive and delicious winter side dish. Perfect on a holiday table!
When I was in college, I came home for my first Christmas break, and went into mid-town Manhattan to finish my shopping, and see the lights and decorated windows. (Remember – I lived in Manhattan… this was coming home, for me.) And suddenly, walking down the streets, I thought “Now it feels like New York at Christmas!” It took me a minute to figure out what had just happened, and then I realized. I smelled chestnuts. When I was young, all winter, there were hot chestnut vendors on every street corner in the business and shopping districts, and the smell of the chestnuts told me I was home.
The irony is that I never ate those chestnuts… I rarely ate from street vendors, growing up… and I never did eat chestnuts, much. They were infrequently available in stores, quality varied when they were, they’re a bit fussy (I burned the last batch, though I think that was just my ignorance) and they were just never really on my radar, so to speak. Here, people usually eat them roasted as a snack, and I just don’t really snack much. I’d used puree once, though, in a souffle, and I knew there are soup recipes, and that Chestnut Rice is a favorite Fall and Winter dish in Japan, and kept thinking I should try them again.
Then, we were doing some shopping last week, and Rich said “Look! There’s a bag of roasted chestnuts!” Roasted, peeled, shelf stable, easy to use… Yes, I’m the one who buys fresh and cooks from scratch – but the idea of being able to experiment with a flavor I don’t normally cook with without first roasting and peeling was just too tempting. So I got it. (For the record – we found them at Costco, no affiliation, I get nothing for telling you about this, refrigerate after you open the sealed bag.)
So then I poked around my fine collection of cookbooks to find ways to use them. I tried some in plain rice, and liked them. (I may try freezing them to use later…) And I found a couple of recipes with Brussels sprouts, and I do still have Brussels sprouts. The recipes I found, though, had you cooking everything to death (which could be the reason so many people hated Brussels sprouts…) so I wasn’t going to use them – but I did think it would be a good combination.
And there is this rather annoying need this week to serve meals that are Fast, Easy, and Festive. Which can be a tricky combination. But I had an idea. See, if you already have cooked rice…
I chopped a small onion (don’t all my savory recipes seem to start that way?) and sauteed it in a pan, then added trimmed Brussels Sprouts, the larger ones cut in half for plenty of surface, the smaller ones left whole. Sauteed them in the hot pan until they started to brown, then added chestnuts. (I left them whole for this – pretty pictures and all that – but you may want to cut them in half or smaller. A whole chestnut in a forkful of rice can overwhelm the other flavors, instead of complementing them.) Sauteed all that a bit more, added some water, which promptly boiled up in the hot pan, to finish cooking the sprouts.
Then, while there was still some liquid, I added cooked rice, and stirred it all together to heat. I used brown rice, which is simply my default rice, but which I also specifically recommend for this recipe, as I think the nutty flavor of the rice works well. (I don’t think I would use basmati, or any of the delicate scented rices – feature the chestnut flavor.)
And there I had it. This could even work as a side dish on a holiday table – delicious, pretty, a little unusual. Trimming the sprouts does take some effort. (If you use frozen, I’d just drop them into the hot pan to brown, then proceed quickly, just enough to thaw.) And if I did start with raw chestnuts, that of course would be a little more time and effort… But I think, now, that the next time I buy them, I’ll just roast a whole batch, snack on some right away, but put the rest aside, peeled, to use later. I forget how sweet and rich chestnuts are! They definitely need to become a winter tradition around here…
Brussels Sprout Chestnut Rice
- 1 small onion
- 1 c Brussels Sprouts
- oil for pan
- 1/2 c roasted and peeled chestnuts
- 2 c cooked brown rice
- pinch salt
- Chop the onion. Wash and trim sprouts, cut larger ones in half (or quarters, if very large.)
- Heat oil in pan. Saute onion in pan until soft. Add sprouts to hot pan, and let brown, stirring occasionally. Add chestnuts, stir. Add 1/4 c water and let it simmer to finish cooking the sprouts.
- Stir in cooked rice, add a pinch of salt, and heat through.