Friday, November 28, 2008

Penne with chestnuts, apples and cream

A week or two ago, while dragging the younger kid on a grocery shopping trip, he found a bucket of chestnuts, became fascinated, and insisted that we buy some. Since the first rule of Getting Kids to Try New Foods is to purchase anything they show even remote interest in in the grocery store, I did. Last Sunday I roasted them (in the oven — no open fires in Vermont this time of year), and everyone ate a few as appetizers, but we ended up with some leftovers.

This dish could also be made with chestnuts from a jar — in fact, I recommend it. Cooking chestnuts yourself is kind of a pain in the ass unless you have children and/or a non-cooking spouse who you can put to work doing the peeling (they need to be peeled while still hot).

The recipe (serves 2)

1/2 lb penne
1 TBSP butter
1 medium onion, diced
1 medium apple, cut into smallish chunks
1-2 tsp dried rubbed sage (or 1-2 TBSP fresh, minced)
pinch of cloves
1/2 cup cooked chestnuts, cut or broken into smallish pieces
splash of white wine or vermouth
good glug of cream (I think I used about 1/4 c.)
salt to taste

1. Put some heavily salted water on the boil for the pasta. Meanwhile, dice or chop all the other ingredients.

2. When the water is looking like it might boil fairly soon (small bubbles), melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.

3. Once butter is melted, add onions, stir to coat, and cook for several minutes.

4. While onions are cooking, your water should boil. Add the pasta.

5. A few minutes after the pasta has been cooking, add the apples, sage and cloves. Cook for several minutes.

6. Add the chestnuts, cook for another minute or two.

7. Add the white wine, scrape up any browned bits if you're using a non-non-stick pan, boil until wine is almost gone. Add a bit of the pasta water and the cream to make a saucy consistency, not too thick.

8. Drain the pasta, reserving some of the pasta cooking water. Add pasta to pan with sauce and toss to coat. Add a little of reserved pasta water if sauce is too thick.

* * *

Meanwhile, the kids (since they wouldn't come anywhere near anything with sage and onions) were assigned to make their own leftover plates. The younger one found some leftover plain penne in the fridge, and somewhat over-microwaved it, creating an edible fused pasta hanging sculpture:

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