Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Autumn Chestnut Burgers

Frittelle di Castagne, Pancetta e Cavolini di Bruxelles con Pomodorini e Zucchine
Chestnut, Bacon & Brussels Sprout Fritters with Cherry Tomatoes and Zucchini

I wanted to try a little experiment tonight... I had a bag of chestnuts that had been seeking my attention for quite a while now and tonight its time had come. I initially thought of a soup and thought that bacon would go well with it, as would thyme as a herb and Brussels sprouts as a green. But then I thought I could not post another soup, 2 nights in a row for you- I can't have you getting bored now, can I? 

Still, I thought that it would be a good combination of flavors and set out to use the same ingredients in a different way... and thus, my chestnut fritters came to be!

The chestnuts I had were of the pre-boiled, vacuum-packed variety- which are wonderful, versatile and convenient to work with. I had thought of using chestnut flour and cooking up a kind of polenta, letting it set and then frying it in olive oil with thyme and garlic. But as always- time is short in the evenings and this leads to me innovating and experimenting wherever I can. And this is how I did it...

I put the chestnuts, around 10-12 of them in all, into my blender, with some onion, parsley, thyme, garlic and cumin. I then added 2 eggs and blended everything together. I seasoned the mix with salt, pepper, nutmeg and a little cayenne and scraped it into a bowl. I then added some breadcrumbs in order to make the mix a little more stable- something similar to the consistency of a risotto or rice pudding. I thought of adding a little more breading into the mix, but decided against it as the chestnuts already have a rather "mealy" consistency to them and I wanted something a little lighter. At this point I also added the Brussels sprouts, which I cut into slices and then blanched for 2-3 minutes in boiling water. I added 7-8 of them into the mix. The mixture was still pretty soft, so I decided to spoon the dough into the pan, rather than shape it like a burger or meat ball.

As I constantly strive to cut down the fat in my dishes to a minimum, I thought of a clever way of doing that too... Rather than mix the bacon into the chestnut/egg mix, I cut it into small pieces and used it to grease my pan as well as to season the fritters. I set a couple of pieces onto the hot frying pan and then spooned some of the chestnut mixture on top and then put another couple of sliced of bacon on top. This way, the bacon starts frying and the fat it gives off helps to flavor and season the fritters- clever, huh? They should be ready to flip after 2-3 minutes- then do the same from the other side... easy!

Whilst the fritters were browning gently, I sautéed the tomatoes and zucchini,in a little butter, thyme, garlic and olive oil. So this is a pretty simple meal! But the combination of sprouts, bacon and chestnut... very Autumnal but yummy and delicious. Real "comfort food" you might say!

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