It’s time for the debut of yet another ingredient…enter: the chestnut.  Up until today, it was foreign to my cooking. If it’s not foreign to you, I hope at least this is a unique use.

My first thought when I hear the word “chestnut” is Johnny Mathis crooning “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose…”  Ah, Johnny Mathis, the very voice of Christmas. But daydreaming aside, in this vision of mine the chestnuts are getting all crisp and toasty like any other nut would over a fire, when in truth in truth, the chestnut has the consistency of a baked potato, and twice the starch!

If you’re the curious sort, Vegetarians in Paradise will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the chestnut, but all you really need to know is that they’re fantastic plain, stewed, or in naturally, in creamed spinach.  They possess the capability to transform this otherwise unrememberable side dish into  a hearty vegetarian meal.

In order to give credit where it’s due I should mention my rendition is based on a recipe I picked up at the Giant Eagle Market District in Pittsburgh.  They have a brilliant chef there who always creates the most wonderful samples that revolve around whatever unusual ingredient the store is promoting at the time.  It’s kind of a unique grocery store.

Creamed Spinach with Chestnuts

1 cup roasted chestnuts

2 tbsp margarine

½ large onion chopped

2 cloves garlic minced

½ cup chopped parsley

10-12 oz fresh or frozen spinach

1.5 cups lite coconut milk

Salt and pepper

Secret ingredient: fish sauce

Boil the chestnuts 10-15 minutes to soften.  Drain and chop into small pieces.  Heat butter in a large pan and sauté chestnuts, onions, and garlic over medium heat until onions are translucent.

Add parsley and spinach. If using fresh spinach, add it in batches as it will be quite a lot.

Look how pretty and green!

When the spinach has wilted enough so it’s all in the pan, add coconut milk, a whole lot of salt and pepper, and if you’re not vegetarian…a few drops fish sauce. You have to trust me on the fish sauce. It definitely wasn’t in the original recipe, but then again, the original recipe calls for heavy cream. Something about the coconut milk just begs for a small dose of Thai.

Keep simmering until most of the water is evaporated and everything is thick and creamy. It takes a while, especially if you use fresh spinach. But if you’re considering using frozen…look up!  Pretty!  Greeeeeeeen.

All done!  If you want to turn this into a meal I suggest serving it with large slices of toasted French bread.

Cheers to new things!