It’s been quite a while since I released a side dish recipe, so I thought I would grace the holiday season with one! In case you didn’t already know, chestnuts are freaking deliciously full of flavor, low fat and decently equipped with some nutrients! They are easy to roast in the oven, and produce a mildly sweet, almost caramel flavor. The texture is soft, similar to soaked cashew. I find that they are easy to find around the holiday season, especially at Trader Joe’s.
The fennel in this recipe is roasted, because I’m not a fan of that strong anisette flavor. I find that caramelizing fennel makes it much more palatable and satisfyingly sweet!
I like to use fresh thyme in this recipe, but if you are using dried thyme, ensure that you reduce the measurements down by a third.
Set oven to 400 degrees. Bring stock to a boil in a medium size saucepan, add rice and reduce to medium low heat for 15-20 mins. After chopping the fennel, onion and garlic, place in a small bowl, adding olive oil salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly and then lay mixture down on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place in the oven for 20 minutes, stirring every 5-7 minutes, ensuring the edges don’t brown. Cut an X into the flat side of the chestnuts and place them in the oven on a clean, dry baking sheet for 15 mins.
When the rice is done, remove from the heat, and season lightly as desired with salt and pepper. Remove the chestnuts from the oven and allow them to cool. Also remove the fennel mixture from the oven, fold the sides of the parchment paper up and slide the mixture into the saucepan of rice. Add the picked thyme into this mixture and cover while opening the chestnuts. The chestnuts should easily open with your hands. If they are too sharp, use a kitchen towel in between your hand and a hard surface (like kitchen counter or cutting board) to crack them. Roughly chop the chestnuts and add them to the rice. Mix evenly and serve.