Chestnuts and Spaghetti Squash

Photo: Carina Salvi

Mild-flavored and stringy, spaghetti squash is often sauced like pasta, and chestnuts are best known locally in their Christmastime street-cart garb. Bistro du Vent’s Laurent Gras takes a different (and deliciously autumnal) approach to both, braising the nuts with bacon, toasting the cayenne-spiced squash seeds, and scattering both over the fibrous squash flesh.

Laurent Gras’s Spaghetti Squash with Glazed Chestnuts
1 spaghetti squash, approximately 2 1/2 lbs.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons butter
Grapeseed oil to sauté
Pinch cayenne pepper
20 to 25 large fresh chestnuts(at Eli’s Manhattan)
Canola oil to fry
1 1/4 cup chicken stock or water
1 ounce bacon, cubed

Illustration by John Burgoyne.

For the squash: Preheat oven to 350. Split spaghetti squash lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and fibers, reserving seeds. Drizzle squash with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Wrap squash in foil, and bake for approximately 11/4 hours. (Meanwhile, start on the chestnuts.) Remove squash from oven, and, using a fork, scrape the strands of squash flesh free from the shell; let cool. In a medium skillet, brown 2 tablespoons of butter and sauté the squash strands for about five minutes. Wash squash seeds and dry them in a toaster oven at 250 for about an hour. In a small skillet, sauté seeds in grapeseed oil over low heat for a couple of minutes. Season with salt and cayenne, and set aside on a paper towel.
For the chestnuts: With paring knife, carve an x in the flat side of each chestnut to facilitate peeling them later. Over medium heat,
(1) fry chestnuts in large skillet with canola oil for about five minutes until skin starts to curl away from the x. Remove chestnuts and
(2) let cool slightly before
(3) removing skin and inner peel. Return peeled chestnuts to covered skillet, and braise with chicken stock or water, bacon, remaining butter, and salt for approximately 30 to 40 minutes, until chestnuts are soft. Remove lid, raise heat, and glaze the chestnuts until liquid is reduced.
To serve: Place squash on platter, arrange chestnuts on top, and sprinkle with seeds. Serves 4.

Chestnuts and Spaghetti Squash