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Talking over chestnut with Alain Dutournier
Talking over chestnut with Alain Dutournier
Alain Dutournier, Carré des Feuillants, Paris
Alain Dutournier, Carré des Feuillants, Paris

All about chesnuts > Talking over chestnut with Alain Dutournier

In the southern Adour region of France, chestnut trees were very plentiful. Their wood was used to make casks for red wine and the fruit was used in every course from soup through dessert, as well as for flour. During the first cold days of autumn, they would warm our schoolboy pockets and at recess it was a great treat to bite down on them to release the soft tasty centers. The Gascon name for chestnut tree, castanhé, even gave rise to regional family names such as Castagnet, Castagnède, Castagnos, Chastanet…

Chestnuts 101
Chestnuts cannot be simply cooked in water. They have to prepared and seasoned; otherwise even the best chestnuts will end up being heavy and starchy.

Chestnuts are pretty dreary in their raw state. They require some intervention on the part of the cook.

When you use chestnuts, use them sparingly, in small quantities. Personally, I find turkey stuffed with chestnuts very stodgy, but if you prepare a casserole of saddle of young rabbit with some pear wedges and one or two chestnuts, and cook it covered in its own juices, it will be delicious. Chestnuts should be an element that plays a supporting role. They adapt to savoury, sweet and bitter, but shouldn't serve as the main ingredient of a dish except in pastry making.

Chestnuts should become a revelation. Whether with anise, rum or aged chartreuse, with lemon or green cardamom, you have to win them over as you would people - by charming them!

My Chestnut Recipes

Chestnuts Cooked with Fig Leaves and Anise

Chestnut Velouté with White Alba Truffle - pheasant bouillon thickened with chestnuts, with grated truffle

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