I took over Christmas dinner from my Mom in 1996. She is one of seven children, and every year Mom prepared two back-to-back meals: one for our immediate family of five on the 25th, and another for our extended family of 35 on the 26th. I asked her if the holidays might be more fun with one less meal to cook. Christmas dinner has been my annual gift to our family ever since.
That very first year I cracked open a copy of Sarah Leah Chase’s Cold Weather Cooking that had been passed down to me by Kathy Bugbee, the mother of my best friend from college. I cooked my way through nine different recipes, including her brussels sprouts and chestnuts in a maple glaze. My family loved it and it is the one recipe that continues to make an appearance every single year (although the others reappear often) and now shows up at Thanksgiving as well.
I haven’t looked at the recipe in almost a decade, but this is probably pretty close to the original. Thank you Sarah; and Mom, kick back and enjoy the day. It is the least I can do for everything you do for me.
- 12-15 brussels sprouts, trimmed and scored on the bottom with an X
- 12-15 chestnuts, cooked and peeled *
- 2 cups cup chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 slices thick-cut bacon
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1 tbs minced fresh thyme or rosemary
- Steam brussels sprouts until crisp tender. Remove to a bowl of ice water to stop cooking. When cool enough to handle, cut each in quarters. Make sure part of the core remains with each quarter so that leaves do not separate.
- Simmer roasted and peeled chestnuts in stock for 15-20 minutes to soften. Remove and reserve stock for the sauté.
- Sauté bacon over medium heat until lightly browned. Remove to paper towels.
- Sauté sprouts in bacon fat until tender. Add chestnuts and warm through, 2-3 minutes.
- Add maple syrup and fresh herbs with a 1/4 cup of stock. Cook until liquid reduces to a glaze.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper, nutmeg and cardamom.
- Top with chopped bacon.
- Microwave: Place the scored chestnuts on a paper plate and microwave them for 2 minutes on high. Cook for an additional 20-30 seconds at a time until done. They are done when the shell peels back at the X and the shells and skins peel easily.
- Roasting: Place scored nuts in a 350 degree over for about 30 minutes. They are ready when shells peel back and can be easily shelled and skinned. Peel as soon as they are cool enough to handle. Warm nuts will be easier to peel.
- Boiling: Soak chestnuts overnight. The next day, boil them for an hour to an hour and a half. Remove a few at a time from the water and peel while warm.
- Somebody else: The easiest way to get the job done is to buy the chestnuts cooked and peeled in a foil bag or jar. You don’t get the same rich, roasted flavor, but they’ll do in a pinch.