Update 12/8/09: I'm excited to be a featured blogger on Oprah.com for Oprah.com's Holiday 2009 blow-out ~ come see our favorite holiday recipes!
Japanese home cooking is all about cooking with what's in season. Chestnuts are widely used in Japan when in season in a variety of ways. They even show up in a Japanese folk tale. When I bought my pork butt roast to make kalua pig, I happened to pass a big basket of beautiful chestnuts and so I decided to buy a bagful and make kurigohan (Japanese chestnut rice). This rice dish is so easy to make and pairs wonderful with the kalua pig. The chestnuts are steamed with the rice which adds tons of flavor to the rice and also maximizes the sweetness of the chestnuts.
First you soften the shells of the chestnuts so that you can peel them, by putting them in some water, bringing the water to a boil, and then turning the heat off and letting the chestnuts sit in the hot water for a while.
Then you carefully peel the chestnuts with a knife.
I like to then put the peeled chestnuts in a ziploc bag, sprinkled them with some granulated sugar, and then massage the sugar into the chestnuts.
Then I seal up the bag and put it in the freezer for a few hours. This helps to preserve the beautiful color of the chestnuts when you cook them.
When you are ready to use the chestnuts, you take them out of the freezer, and rinse off the sugar in some water. Then you put your rice, water, mirin, soy sauce, and salt into your pot or rice cooker, add the chestnuts, and then place a piece of konbu on top of everything.
Then you cook everything! As it cooks you'll start to smell a heavenly nutty aroma and you'll start to understand why this dish is such a popular dish during chestnut season in Japan.
Makes approximately 6 servings
25 to 30 chestnuts (raw, still in their shells)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 cups short grain white rice
3 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons mirin
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
1 5-inch long piece of konbu (optional)
1. Place the raw chestnuts in a pot and add enough water to cover them. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring the water to a boil. When the water comes to a rolling voil, turn off the heat and leave the chestnuts in the hot water for 30 minutes. This softens the shell so that you can peel them.
2. With a knife, being careful not to cut yourself, crack open the chestnuts and discard the shells.
3. To preserve the bright color of the chestnuts, place the chestnuts in a ziploc bag and sprinkle them with the granulated sugar. Massage the sugar into the chestnuts, seal the bag, and then put it in the freezer for 3 to 4 hours. When you are ready to cook the rice, take the chestnuts out of the freezer and rinse off the sugar with some water.
4. Wash the rice well. Put the rice, water, mirin, soy sauce, and salt into your pot or rice cooker, add the chestnuts, and then place a piece of kombu on top of everything. Cook the rice as you would white rice.
To cook in a rice cooker: After all the ingredients have been placed in the cooker, close the lid firmly, and press the button to start the cooker. Once it has finished cooking, let the it sit for an additional 10 minutes before opening the cooker, to allow any excess moisture to be absorbed. Then open the cooker, remove the konbu, turn the rice over gently with a rice paddle or a wooden spoon, and serve.
To cook on the stove top: After all the ingredients have been placed in a pot, cover the pot and sit it on the stove over high heat. Bring the water to a rolling boil (listen for bubbling noises, but do not open the pot or you will lose helpful steam) and then reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook for about 5 minutes. Once all the water is fully absorved, turn the heat off and let the rice sit covered for at least 10 minutes. Remove the konbu, turn the rice over gently with a rice oaddle or a wooden spoon, and serve.