|Chestnuts on the tree. (Photo by Kenton Smith at http://www.imagenary.co.uk/ )|
Chestnuts are a seasonal pleasure. Appearing just in time for the November 1 holiday of Todos Los Santos, when families visit cemeteries to pay respect to the dead, chestnuts are sold by vendors outside the cemetery gates.
Chestnut trees grow in northern Spain and in mountainous regions of the south, such as the Serranía de Ronda, Sierra de Aracena and the Alpujarra.
I heard from my friend Ann Larson in Yunquera, in the Serranía de Ronda, that it has been a bad year for chestnuts in southern Spain. “The chestnut crop in our whole area was awful!” she wrote. “We are harvesting ours this week, but only expect to get 50 kilos or so, if we're lucky. Due to the lack of rain at critical growing times, the chestnuts are few, and small. Of course, as the crop is poor, the price is high! Ah, the life of the farmer.” (Read more about Ann’s farm here.)
Looking for a different way to prepare chestnuts, I went to a Galician cookbook, as Galicia (northwest Spain) is real chestnut country. The classic book, Cocina Gallega, by Álvaro Cunqueiro (I mistakenly bought the book in the Galego language, different enough from castellano, Castillian Spanish, that I had to buy a dictionary in order to use it), lists 17 different chestnut recipes, about half sweet and half savory.
In this recipe for pork ribs, the chestnuts take the place of potatoes alongside the meat.
|Juicy ribs and toasty chestnuts for a warming fall meal.|
Roast Pork Ribs with Chestnuts
Costelar de Porco con Castañas
|Raw chestnuts, shells removed.|
This adobo is an aromatic rub for the pork ribs.
|Herb-rubbed ribs roast until tender.|
1 teaspoon salt
4 cloves garlic
2-3 crushed bay leaves
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon sweet pimentón (paprika), preferably smoked
Pinch of fennel seeds
5 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup white wine
1 ½ pounds fresh chestnuts
Butter and/or olive oil
Place the ribs in a pan large enough to hold them. In a mortar or blender, grind together the salt, garlic, bay, thyme, pepper, pimentón and fennel. If using a blender, add the olive oil with the spices. If using a mortar, stir the oil into the spice blend.
Spread this mixture on all sides of the ribs. Allow to stand at room temperature for 1 hour or, covered and refrigerated, up to 8 hours. Bring to room temperature before proceeding.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place the ribs on a rack in a roasting pan or on a broiler pan. Mix the wine with ½ cup of water and pour into the bottom of the roaster. While meat is roasting, add more water from time to time so that there is always enough liquid to cover the bottom of the roasting pan. Roast until ribs are tender, about 1 ½ hours.
While meat is roasting, shell the chestnuts. Cook them in boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain. While still warm, remove the brown skin. Shortly before serving, heat the butter and/or oil in a skillet and brown the chestnuts.
Remove ribs to a cutting board and slice them. Serve on a platter with the browned chestnuts. Pour over any pan juices.
|Tender ribs and chestnuts.|
|Browned chestnuts substitute for potatoes alongside roast meat.|