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The Chicken and Chestnuts Cleanse

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I’m really not into the idea of long-lasting juice cleanses, and I’m fairly certain they do more harm than help. I do believe in the idea that your body cleanses itself and that fiber is the most important nutrient when trying to rid of your body of toxins; not to mention, a healthy balanced meal is far more enjoyable that glass after glass of green juice.

Every January Bon Appetit features a two-week ‘Food Lover’s Cleanse‘ to kick off the New Year. Each day includes breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, side and dessert and the recipes are made up of whole, nutrient-rich ingredients. Some of these ingredients can be hard to find (and quite expensive), so I usually pick out a few recipes to work into my meal plan. One such recipe was Braised Chicken with Mustard and Chestnuts, which I made with Miriam last week. She had a whole bunch of chicken legs, so we swapped the thighs out for those. I also incorporated some farro into the dish to soak up the sauce. It was my first time cooking chestnuts, which is somewhat time-consuming but worth the effort.

Braised Chicken Legs with Mustard and Chestnuts (serves 4)

  • 1 lb chestnutsleeks
  • 8 small chicken legs, bone in (skin can be left on or taken off if you’re trying to cut some fat)
  • kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 2 leeks, sliced
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth, plus 2 TB
  • 2 TB whole grain mustard
  • 1/4 cup uncooked farro

Start by cooking the chestnuts. Since I had never cooked chestnuts before, I googled “how to roast chestnuts” and found these handy instructions by Tori Avey:

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Hold one between your thumb and your pointer finger and carefully make a long slice across the rounded top of the chestnut with a sharp serrated knife. Be sure to cut all the way through the shell. Once all of your chestnuts have been cut, place them into a small saucepan and cover with water, then bring to a simmer. Once the water begins to simmer, remove the chestnuts using a mesh strainer and transfer them to a baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes, or until the shells begin to peel back where you cut into them. Remove the chestnuts from the oven and place them into a bowl, then cover with a towel for 15 minutes. Allowing them to steam a bit will make them easier to peel; simply pull on the shell and slip the chestnut out. Some will be easier to peel than others. Both the outer shell and the tough brown skin around the chestnuts should be peeled off. If you run into any nuts that seem gooey or disintegrated inside, it means that they have spoiled. Chestnuts tend to have a short shelf life, spoiled nuts should be tossed.

roasted chestnuts

Take 1 cup of the chestnuts and quarter them and set aside (reserve the rest of the whole chestnuts for a healthy snack). Generously apply salt and pepper to the chicken legs, then heat olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over a medium-high flame. Add chicken legs and cook for 5 minutes per side, or until browned. Remove from pan and transfer to a plate.


braised chicken

Reduce heat to medium and add leeks to the skillet, seasoning lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until beginning to soften – about 3 minutes. Add 2 TB of chicken stock and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet. Stir in the chestnuts and remaining stock, then return chicken to skillet. Simmer, covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 10–15 minutes. Stir mustard into sauce and season with taste for seasoning, adjusting if necessary.

Meanwhile, prepare farro. Add farro and 3/4 cups water to the same saucepan used for the chestnuts. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork; keep covered until serving. To plate, spoon farro into a deep dish, then top with two chicken legs and chestnut-leek sauce.

chicken and chestnuts

I loved the texture of the chestnuts, and the tangy mustard. And even though the portions are small, the meal is very filling because of the protein-rich nuts and chicken. It was even better as leftovers the next day because the flavors had time to meld, and the farro soaked in the delicious sauce.

Miriam and I paired with a 2007 JAQK Cellars 22 Black Cabernet Sauvignon from my library. The pairing worked well because the tannins have softened over time and the acidity has brightened, making a good match to the sweet chestnuts and spicy mustard. If in the mood for white, try pairing with a bright yet oak-integrated Chardonnay, such as Pine Ridge Dijon Clones.

About Kelsey

Kelsey is a food and wine lover residing in Napa, California, where she does marketing for a boutique wine collective. She previously lived in San Francisco for over six years, where her blogging journey began. She loves to cook seasonal meals and experiment with new wine pairings. She has been drinking and learning about wine with her father since she was 14, and cooking in the kitchen with her mother since she was 6. Both of her parents taught her well about seasoning and flavors, and she continues to learn more with every meal that is made.

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