Brussels sprouts get an autumnal anchor in braised chestnuts—buy them prepped, or use them to keep helpers busy. Our favorite instruction from Julia can be applied to most holiday recipes: "Toss gently with several tablespoons of butter to glaze." Adapted slightly from Julia Child's —Food52
4 to 6
For the blanched brussels sprouts:
1 to 1 1/2 pounds
rapidly boiling water
salt (1 1/2 teaspoons per quart of water)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Melted butter, for coating sprouts
For the braised chestnuts:
peeled chestnuts (see step 1, or buy chestnuts already peeled)
Plunge the sprouts into the rapidly boiling water, cover the pan only just until the water comes back to the boil, then boil slowly uncovered. In 4 minutes, begin testing: Take out a brussels sprout and pierce it with a small sharp-pointed knife—it is done when the knife goes in fairly easily. Cut it open and eat it, just to be sure: It should just be cooked through but still have a slight crunch. Drain immediately.
For immediate serving: Turn them out onto a hot serving dish. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper, and fold them into melted butter.
For later serving: Plunge the vegetables into a large basin of cold water with a tray or two of ice cubes, to stop the cooking and set the green color and texture. Drain when cold, in 2 to 3 minutes. When ready to serve, brown them lightly in butter on the stovetop and continue with the recipe.
For the braised chestnuts:
Preparing chestnuts for cooking whole: Like many a treat, they do require time, especially when you want them to remain whole. You must strip off the shiny brown outer shell, then peel, poke, and scrape off the thin brownish covering skin. To remove the shells and inner skin, cut a strip of shell off the outside curve of each chestnut. Cover with cold water in a saucepan and boil 1 minute. Set the pan aside. Remove 3 chestnuts from the hot water and strip off the outer shills. Peel and scrape off the covering brown skin. Some nuts will refuse to peel; heat and try again.
Place the chestnuts in a saucepan with the bay leaf, onion, celery, and enough stock to cover them by 1/2 inch. Season lightly to taste and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and simmer slowly—watch that the liquid does not boil and disintegrate the chestnuts. This will take about 40 minutes, or until the chestnuts are tender but hold their shape.
Ahead-of-time note: May be cooked in advance. Refrigerate in their cooking liquid.
Drain the chestnuts, reserving the liquid.
Boil down the cooking liquid in a 10-inch frying pan until almost syrupy, add the cooked chestnuts and reheat through, then fold and toss gently with several tablespoons of butter to glaze them.
Fold the braised chestnuts with the buttered brussels sprouts; 3 or 4 of each would be enough per serving.