Here is another great recipe from our editor. This tasty treats are a bit decadent. They have bacon wrapped around a filling comprised mainly of bacon. We are not suggesting you eat these delicacies regularly, but try them at least once. You won't be sorry. Enjoy!
Long ago Chestnut trees were plentiful in North America. These gorgeous trees dotted the North Eastern landscape in North America. Chestnut trees actually made up about a quarter of the native forest in that area when European colonists came to these lands. Chestnuts were abundant, delicious and free. This is why the chestnut was so prominent in early American cookery. I love reading old cookbooks and recipe collections. I often try to adapt those recipes to modern-day ingredients and cooking equipment as well as our evolved taste buds. That is exactly what I did with an old pork-wrapped chestnut fritter recipe.
Where are the chestnut trees now? The North American variety is close to extinction. It was wiped out by a disease carried on an imported tree in the early 1900s. Many researchers are still trying to save chestnut trees from complete extinction; I hope they will be successful. Those abundant, wild chestnut trees no longer fill our forests. There are, however, many hybrid chestnut varieties that are grown on North American farms. So while you can't pick free chestnuts from the forest like early Americans did, you can find fresh chestnuts at many health food and specialty stores. This recipe is a bit involved and time-consuming, so this is something I only make on holidays and other special occasions. It is also high in calories, which is another great reason to limit your consumption to special occasions.
I have tried many different ways to cook these bacon wrapped chestnut fritters. I finally settled on my toaster oven. Why do I prefer the toaster oven? The close proximity of the heating elements to the food in a toaster oven makes the bacon wrapping deliciously crisp. I tried to mimic this in my broiler, but the direct heat was just too strong without offering enough in the way of ambient heat. The toaster oven provides an ideal cooking environment, with just enough browning and just enough ambient heat.
The old-fashioned method of cooking bacon-wrapped chestnut fritters involved pan frying them over a fire in copious amounts of lard. Feel free to attempt that if you are brave enough, the final product is quite spectacular. However, it is incredibly greasy and absolutely loaded with fat. And this is already bacon wrapped bacon, so it is certainly not lacking in the fat department. There are also inherent dangers when using fat near an open flame. I'd like to think that early American cooks would have prepared their bacon-wrapped chestnut fritters in a toaster oven, had they been given that option.
2 dozen fresh chestnuts
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter (you'll get enough salt from the bacon)
1 shallot, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound plus 16 slices of bacon
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
Heat your toaster oven to 400 degrees F. Use the point of a small paring knife to cut a small "x" on the flat side of each chestnut. Bake the scored chestnuts for 40 minutes. Remove the chestnuts from the toaster oven and allow them to cool.
Heat the unsalted butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. I think a cast iron skillet is the best choice for this task. Cook the shallot and garlic in the hot butter until slightly golden; this should take about 3 minutes.
Place the cooled, cooked chestnuts into the work bowl of your favorite food processor fitted with a multi-purpose blade. Pulse till roughly chopped. Add the cooked onions and garlic and the freshly ground black pepper. Roughly chop the pound of bacon and add it to the food processor work bowl. Process until everything is very well-combined.
Cut each of the 16 slices of bacon in half and arrange each of them into an "X." Evenly split the pureed chestnut filling between the 16 bacon "Xs" and fold the bacon over to enclose the filling. Gently flatten each fritter to a thickness of 3/4 of an inch. Cover the fritters tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. I like to get these fritters ready the day before and just leave them in the refrigerator overnight.
Heat your toaster oven to 400 degrees F, with a baking sheet in the oven. Carefully place the bacon-wrapped chestnut fritters on the hot baking sheet and bake the fritters until they are golden brown and crispy; this should take about 45 minutes. Serve the bacon wrapped chestnut fritters while still hot. Enjoy!