There are three things I remember about Christmas as a child: Korean Santa (we didn’t have any nordic looking people in our Korean church), an artificial tree, and eating a pot of boiled chestnuts. Mom would serve piping hot chestnuts as dessert, and I would eat so many of them that my tummy would ache. My little sister, on the other hand, had more fun ‘processing’ the naked chestnuts into baby food consistency with her chubby fingers.
It’s funny that after all these years, it was my sister who reminded me of the Christmas chestnuts. She brought me a small bag of chestnuts over Thanksgiving. They were handpicked by her mother-in-law from a farm in upstate New York. Just enough for an individual snack, I polished those off one afternoon.
Then, while I was at Trader Joe’s picking up cereal for the kids, I came across packages of peeled cooked chestnuts. So it isn’t an urban legend. However, I was now entering dangerous territory as one of my favorite difficult foods became TOO accessible. Nothing would have made me more happier than to dine on just chestnuts and coffee for the rest of the day. But I had to take the family into consideration, and I refrained from binge eating the two packages of cooked chestnuts I brought home.
The chestnuts rightfully ended up in a beef short rib stew inspired by a Korean dish called galbi-jjim. In the classic recipe, chestnuts and dates are added to the short ribs as they braise together for hours. Often, chestnuts are replaced by potatoes and carrots, and the dates can be omitted. It is also cooked stove-top, low and slow. But I tried cooking this version in the oven at 350 degrees. Although I liked the convenience of cooking it in an oven, I found that the sauce didn’t concentrate as well. I ended up finishing the braise on the stove, and the recipe below is one done completely stove-top, which is how I usually cook it with fine results.
Serve it over rice, mashed potatoes, or with crusty bread. The combinations are limitless.
- 3 pounds of beef short ribs (bone-in or boneless)
- 2 packages(6.5 oz each) of peeled and cooked chestnuts (Trader Joe's brand was used here)
- 2-3 peeled carrots
- 1 onion
- 3/4 c soy sauce
- 2 tbs brown sugar
- 10 cloves garlic
- 1 inch knob of ginger
- 1 c red wine
- 1 tbs sesame oil
- (If chestnuts are not available, substitute with potatoes that are cut into chunks.)
- Cut beef into 1 1/2 inch cubes, and place in a heavy pot. (Choose a pot that doesn't crowd the beef but allows the beef to be in contact with each other.)
- Pour water into pot and completely immerse the beef.
- Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid and reserve 4 cups of it.
- In a food processor, puree onion, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, red wine, soy sauce and sesame oil.
- Add puree to the pot with the beef. Add reserved liquid to the pot just until the beef is covered.
- Bring to a slow simmer, and cook on low for 1 hour covered.
- After an hour, add chunks of carrots and cooked chestnuts into the pot.
- Simmer for another 30 minutes partially covered. Occasionally stir from the bottom.
- Serve with rice, potatoes, hummus, bread, or pasta.