Ottolenghi’s Brussel Sprouts with Grapes & Chestnut

The pandemic Thanksgiving needs to be special; hence the miniature cruciferous veggie gets an Ottolenghi treatment. The sweetness of lightly cooked grapes pop in your mouth and is very refreshing. And, chestnuts never disappoint! This is a multi-thread recipe and takes some prepping and planning with a multitude of ingredients, but ends up stealing the show. Enjoy.

Special tools:

None.

Ingredients

  • Thread 1: 4 cups Brussel sprouts (trimmed & halved) + salt + EVOO
  • Thread 2: 7 tbsp oil + 5 peeled garlic pod, whole + 5 medium shallots peeled and halved
    + 1 tbsp maple syrup + 6 tbsp rice wine (Shaoxing) + 5 bay leaves
    + 2 cups cooked chestnuts + 2 cups seedless grapes
  • Thread 3 (topping) : 2 jalapeno peppers, finely sliced + 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar + 1 tsp sugar + 1/2 tsp salt.
  • Garnish: parsley leaves

Method

The three threads can be done in parallel. Thread 1: Roast the Brussel sprouts at 450 F for 20 mins or until cooked. Thread 2: Mix all the ingredients, except grapes, in a thick bottomed pot. Cover and cook on very low heat for 20 mins. Then mix in the grapes and cook for another 5 mins and turn off the heat. Thread 3: Mix all ingredients and let pickle for the duration of the roasting of Thread 1.

Mix all the results of Thread 1 and 2 and let the flavors develop for 30 minutes or more. Serve at room temperature topped with Thread 3 and garnish.

Notes, hints, tips:
  1. Ottolenghi’s recipes are elaborate but always turn out fantastic! I am a big fan. I adapted his recipe here splitting it into thread 1 and 2 and doing them in parallel.
  2. You can add Rice wine (1-2 tbsp) and soy sauce (1-2 tbsp) to the final mix.
  3. Chestnut is versatile. In Clermont-Ferrand (France) I was introduced to chestnut ice cream. The stores even sell chestnut cream in a tube (ala Italian tomato paste). But here it gets a savory application.
    There are many ways to prepare fresh chestnuts, but store bought prepared chestnuts work equally well in recipes.
    • Prepping: In every method, slit each chestnut on the flat side, with the tip of a sharf knife.
    • Boiling: Slit and soak the chestnuts overnight in plenty of water. Next day, simmer in plenty of water for 30-40 mins until cooked through. Drain and cool.
    • Steam-Toasting: I discovered this method that toasts the shells to give the heady aroma, redolent of the Holidays, while the steam softens the shells.
      1. Slit and soak the chestnuts overnight in plenty of water, to get a head start on the shell softening. But if you are in a rush, a few hours to none is OK– you may just need more iterations in Step 3 below.
      2. Heat a heavy bottomed iron skillet on medium-high. Add the nuts to the hot pan with 2 oz water.
      3. Every 10 mins, remove cover and splash 2 oz water and cover immediately. It sizzles and steams up. Iterate this 3-4 times (30-40 mins) until done. Use your timer in 10-min repeat mode for convenience.
    • Shelling: Press the nut vertically, between your thumb and forefinger until the shell cracks and gently retrieve the whole flesh.