lemon-roasted pork chop; braised chestnut; treviso, thyme

It started with two paper baskets of local foraged chestnuts, the very last remaining on the farmer’s table in the Union Square Greenmarket. I had hoped to find some kind of game, or game-ish bird which they might accompany on a cool autumn evening, but then we were away for 5 days, and since my prize Asian-American hybrid nuts were getting a bit long in the tooth, I convinced myself that some very good pork chops would be able to stand in for the game I had not bagged.

I was encouraged in my illusion of a game dinner by memories from years ago of preparing and serving faux-marcassin, many times, using a white wine marinade described by Julia Child.

The process of chestnut preparation preceded everything else in assembling this meal; it began of course with roasting chestnuts over an open fire. In this case “over an open fire” meant over a perforated chestnut roasting pan above the gas flame on the top of our 1931 Magic Chef. When I was living in Providence I actually did roast chestnuts over an open wood fire on the keeping room hearth of my 1760s house.

It was great fun, and a few chestnuts exploded into the air (I may have neglected to slit those all through the outer shell beforehand) but the excitement was over in less than 10 minutes.

  • two 9-ounce bone-in loin pork chops (not really very thick this time) from Flying Pig Farm, thoroughly dried, seasoned with salt, pepper, and a bit of crushed dried habanada pepper, seared quickly in a heavy enameled cast-iron pan before half of a large organic Whole Foods Market lemon was squeezed over the top (which was then left in the pan between them, cut side down), the chops placed in a 400º oven for about 13 minutes altogether (flipped halfway through, the lemon squeezed over them once again and replaced), removed from the oven and arranged on 2 plates, some of the juices that remained in the pan poured over them, some poured over the accompanying chestnuts, and the remainder transferred to a glass sauce boat
  • fifteen ounces of fresh chestnuts foraged from a hybrid Asian and American tree on Keith’s Farm, above the City in Orange County, roasted inside a traditional chestnut pan on top of a gas range, sprinkled with a few drops of what was to be that night’s red dinner wine* (we had to open a fresh bottle for the purpose, so we decided to accompany the meal with a red wine rather than a white), wrapped inside an old cotton shirt, squeezed until they crackled, allowed to sit on top of the hinged cover above the range burners and oven pilot light for 5 minutes, the nutmeat then extracted from the shells and placed inside a heavy antique medium size copper pot, sprinkled with olive oil, a pinch of sea salt, a bit of freshly ground black pepper, sautéed for a few minutes, a generous number of rosemary leaves from Stokes Farm, half a cup or more of a chicken broth made with Better Than Bullion chicken base added gradually while simmering above a low to medium flame, stirring occasionally, until the chestnuts are as tender as desired (I like them a little firm) and the liquid had emulsified into a sauce, a tablespoon or so of maple syrup from Roxbury Mountain Maple Farm in the Catskills stirred in, followed by a tablespoon of chopped fennel fronds, from a bunch of flowering fennel from Lani’s Farm, arranged next to the chops on the plates, garnished with more fennel

  • the head of Treviso radicchio I had picked up at the Greenmarket from Tamarack Farms was far to large to be grilled or roasted for just the 2 of us, so I stripped off 10 or 12 of the large outer leaves, washed, drained, and dried them as thoroughly as I could, tied them into 2 bundles, arranged them on a medium Pampered Chef unglazed ceramic oven pan covered them with lots of thyme branches from thyme from Keith’s Farm, seasoned the treviso generously with sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper, and drizzled them with a tablespoon or 2 of olive oil; they were then baked in a pre-heated 400º oven for 8 or 10 minutes or so, turned to the other cut side and returned to the oven for around 8 or 10 minutes, then arranged on the plates and drizzled with a very small amount of balsamic vinegar
  • *the wine was a French (Burgundy) red, Bourgogne Rouge, Dom. des Meix Poron 2015, from Astor Wines