Scallops and Drunken Chestnuts

Yesterday was our epic Chopped Challenge for Mike’s birthday celebration and our New Year’s Day fun. The baskets of ingredients were provided by members of our blog family and put up to vote by our readers. We completed three rounds including an appetizer, main course and dessert recipe. It was a crazy day of cooking, spills, dirty dishes, laughter, a bit of competitive jabbing and absolute fun. Thanks for all of those that participated and followed along. We hope you had some fun too. :)

Now as promised here are the first recipes from the event. We’re going to kick off with the appetizer dishes. We used the ingredients suggested by Linda at Savoring Every Bite (who has some fantastic recipes – we’ve tried several in fact – not to mention amazing party planning/hosting skills) which included Chestnuts, Brandy, Polenta and Scallops. The measurements provided in the recipes are approximated as we didn’t do too much calculating yesterday. We mostly went on gut feel and tossed in what we thought worked. 

We started by scoring the chestnuts with an “x” to allow the steam to escape and prevent the chestnuts from exploding as they cooked.

We then boiled the chestnuts for 15 minutes at which point I removed my half and placed them on a baking sheet to roast for 10 minutes at 425F. Mike finished his off for another five minutes in the boiling water. Once the chestnuts were done, we let them cool to the touch and removed the peels from the nuts.

Next came the polenta. Mike and I each made our polenta very differently. Mike boiled his dried polenta along with scallions for a minute.

He then poured the polenta into six greased muffin tins and topped each with some shredded Havarti cheese.

Mike baked his polenta muffins for about 20 minutes at 400F and reserved them for the final dish.

As for my polenta, I prepared it according to the package directions but added a bit of fresh rosemary and sage to the process.

When the polenta was cooked through I spread it in a thin layer on a greased cookie sheet and scored it into my desired cracker shapes.

I then seasoned the polenta with sea salt and baked it at 350F for 55 minutes at which point the crackers were nice and crispy.

As for our brandy, Mike created a glaze by melting butter in a sauce pan and adding in some brown sugar and water to create a syrup. He then added about 1/2 a cup of brandy and some vanilla and let it simmer for a while. Finally he tossed in his chopped chestnuts and let them simmer for a bit.

I also melted some butter in a sauce pan, then toasted some pancetta and added a large diced shallot.

Next I added about 1/2 cup of brandy, brought it to a boil and then reduced to a simmer. Next I added in some chicken stock and my chestnuts. After some additional simmering, I pureed the sauce with my immersion blender and let sit over a very low heat.

We both cooked the scallops similarly, by searing them in a skillet. Mike cooked his along with bacon and scallions. I first crisped some sage leaves in butter and then tossed in my scallops. It was then time for our final presentation and taste testing.

Mike’s dish, Seared Scallops over Polenta Muffins with Chestnut Brandy Glaze, was a sweet appetizer with crispy delicious bites of syrupy bacon. He first topped the polenta muffin with the chestnut brandy glaze and then a seared scallop. Next he sprinkled some of the bacon and scallion crumble and added a final garnish of freshly diced scallions.

This was a delicious appetizer and Mr. N’s personal favorite. He gave this one 4 spoons. Mike and I each gave his dish 3 spoons, but it was a tad on the sweet side for both of us. Miss A had just finished off her snack and “wasn’t hungry anymore.” (I think she was just holding out for the lobster!)

My dish was Seared Scallops over a Chestnut Brandy Sauce and Rosemary Polenta Crackers. This was the winning appetizer dish. I served the chestnut sauce over the polenta crackers and topped it with the scallops and crispy sage leaves. The scallops were seared perfectly and went really well with the savory gravy-like sauce and crispy polenta crackers.

Mr. N didn’t enjoy this dish as much, giving it only 2-1/2 spoons. Mike and I both gave this dish 4 spoons as we both especially enjoyed the chestnut sauce. The crackers were also a fun way to eat the polenta as we both enjoyed the crispness – a little something different.

Ultimately it was a pretty tough decision. We both very much enjoyed each dish as evidenced by the fact that we had no problem cleaning our plates (and Miss A’s!). It was a great start to our Chopped event. Thanks again Linda for the great ingredients. We had a lot of fun with these and can now say that we’ve cooked and eaten chestnuts! (And we got to add a bottle of brandy to our liquor shelf!)

You can print the recipes here, but again the measurements are approximate.

Mike’s Appetizer (the Chopped one ;) ): Seared Scallops over Polenta Muffins with a Chestnut Brandy Glaze

Kristy’s Appetizer (the winner): Seared Scallops over a Chestnut Brandy Sauce and Rosemary Polenta Crackers

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51 comments on “Scallops and Drunken Chestnuts

  1. Deborah says:

    I’m so impressed. I’ve never had fresh chestnuts before, and I would have no idea of what to even do with them!!

  2. restaurant quality! Amazing dishes and i love the flavor and use of the chestnuts

  3. eftychia says:

    I already saved this recipe for a future reference. It looks delicious! I love chestnuts and I think you created a perfect ingredient combination. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Both absolute winners in my book. :-) Mandy

  5. Mel says:

    Oh my word! As always I am taken with the fun your family has – it always makes me beam reading about your adventures! Mike and Kristy you both made such fantastic-looking dishes. They honestly do not look like they emerged from a home kitchen! Mmm…

  6. beti says:

    it sounds so good, the drunken chestnuts are quite interesting but everything looks delicious

  7. Kate says:

    Oh that looks so good!!

  8. Kate says:

    Both of these look amazing. It’s too hard to choose….I will have both. ;) Well done!

  9. Charles says:

    I don’t know what to say – they both look so freaking “gourmet”. Great job to the both of yer! I’d have a huge difficulty choosing one to “chop” here – I love the idea of both the polenta muffins and the polenta crackers especially :)

  10. What a fun challenge! So your husband is not mad that he’s the chopped one! lol. I agree with Kelly, I too am surprised at your stamina in pulling off such a fun event, especially the start of the new year!
    Both recipes are very creative, just look tastey! I love chestnuts but just have always had them boiled, I definitely want to try both recipes, maybe for a quiet date night at home with my hubby!

  11. Caroline says:

    Both dishes look great…wonderful and creative presentations! I’m so impressed. Looks like something you would order in a five-star restaurant! :)

  12. I just loved these posts. What fun!

  13. I’m so glad you’re posting the recipes from the challenge… Congratulations to both of you! – these appetizers are gorgeous. I love the addition of bacon in Mike’s version and your polenta crackers are a flash of genius Kristy (and how ’bout that sear on the scallops…:)). Most of all, I’m amazed by your stamina… that’s no small job you guys pulled off on new year’s day (hope you’re still on speaking terms ;)). How fun.

    • ChefDad says:

      I would try five of the six recipes pretty close to the way we made them again, with one exception that ended up costing me the title. Even that one was salvageable.

  14. Karen says:

    Both dishes look and sound great. The two of you would be stiff competition on the real Chopper show.

  15. spicegirlfla says:

    Wow…both appetizers look amazing! I’m so impressed with both of your creativity!! I’d never have thought of a chestnut sauce! I really like that idea Kristy and can’t wait to try it! I’d love to have seen a pic of your kitchen thru all of this!! I like that Mike added some crumbled bacon to his…all in all both look like winners to me!!

    • Kristy says:

      I think the sauce could easily be more of a meal rather than an appetizer. It was good stuff, but pretty filling. Oh the kitchen – it was a disaster. But the living room – next to the kitchen where the kids were playing – that was beyond a disaster. Amazing what they can do to a room when we give them free reign. LOL.

  16. Courtney says:

    You two are simply amazing. Both dishes look so good – I would not be able to choose – though I do love the idea of polenta crackers!

  17. Man, I was all about those polenta cups too. Stiff competition here. I think both look great and I’ve now learned what an individual serving of polenta looks like.

  18. Very creative on both accounts. I’m wondering if Mikes brandy sauce needed a splash of acid, like a champagne vinegar to help cut the sweetness. All in all both winners in my books! Scallops look like they were cooked to perfection!

    • ChefDad says:

      I was counting on the bacon to cut it a little bit when it was all pulled together, and it did but the bacon was a little salty so I backed off on putting a lot of that in.

  19. ChgoJohn says:

    Job well-done for the both of you! Both dishes look fantastic and were quite creative! It would have been hard to chose between them, that’s for sure.

  20. Love the photos and the food just looks utterly divine – perfectly presented. I’ve really kindled a love for chestnuts this year – I must’ve eaten rather a lot of the little things! Great work as usual :D

    • Kristy says:

      Thanks so much! This was the first time we ever ate (or cooked) chestnuts. They are fantastic. I can see why you’ve developed a love for them this year. I know we’ll be making them again! :)

  21. I just LOVE how you listed your dish was the winner Kristy lol. But I must say, both scallop dishes really look amazing. I think I may try both of them out.. just to see. And don’t worry if the recipe is exact, I love discovering new flavors all the time. I love this. Can’t wait to see the other dishes. My family and I are excited LOL.

    • Kristy says:

      Thanks Kay! Both dishes were delicious. And you better believe I’ve been ribbing Mike all week about winning the challenge. And to think, when he met me I hated cooking. LOL. ;)

  22. Both of your dishes look like something I’d be served in a restaurant.. how awesome is that!!

  23. A_Boleyn says:

    Both dishes seemed well done but I think I would combine elements of your two treatments now that I see the two recipes side by side. I liked your crunchy polenta crackers, Kristy, but I preferred Mike’s treatment of the chestnuts. I would have had a hard time deciding as well. Perhaps if I had TASTED the two dishes for myself. ;)

    • ChefDad says:

      I just wish I could have peeled one of the chestnuts without crushing it–it’s hard!

      • A_Boleyn says:

        I almost bought some chestnuts today at the grocery store and tried roasting them like Kristy did, though without the pre-boiling step, but then realized that other than eating them straight, I didn’t have any other idea what to do with them. :)

        By the way, I’ve been thinking of offering the 2 of you a Valentine’s day challenge. It was inspired by your adventuresome spirit in even thinking of this Chopped challenge after your family’s exploration of international cuisines. I bought a big tub of cinnamon hearts (I love cinnamon) and as I was crunching away on the little red hearts, I though … Kristy and Mike should do something Valentine’s day/hearts related. I’m sure they would come up with something amazing. :)

        • ChefDad says:

          The chestnuts were great in the sauce, I’d make the sauce over again but I think I’d put it on really thick French Toast or pour it over a cinnamon roll instead of polenta muffins.

  24. Dawn says:

    These are professional looking dishes, I am so impressed!!!

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