Not only are kaki in full season, but chestnuts as well are gracing our table these days. The small and beautiful orchard at the farm is near to bursting with fruit these days. (These are the short rather than the tall variety of Japanese food lore.) The spiky balls litter the ground next to the kabu field, and as we plant the new seeds we occasionally hear one drop.
Last week I was lucky enough to bring home a bundle of these to make a big batch of chestnut rice. Getting them out of their spiky case can be a bit of a challenge. Too sharp for bare hands even with my rubberized garden gloves I have to move with care. The best way, as Taskashi-san taught me last fall, is to use my feet. (I'll make a video of this, I swear.) Placing the ball between my feet with the open end facing up, I simply peel back the sides and the shiny nut emerges. Or you can just pick them up off the ground.
I also had enough to share with friends, and the look of surprise and pleasure on their faces to see this fall favorite was like a double reward. I've not yet learned how to make some of the lovely desserts or other dishes found everywhere at this time of the year, but someday!
Takashi-san's Chestnut Rice Recipe
1. Soak chestnuts for twenty-four hours.
2. Peel off the dark brown outer layer and the thinner inner layer to get at the golden surface of the nut.
3. Cut into thin slices.
4. Place on top of the rice in the cooker or your pot.
5. Cook and serve the rice as you normally would, and enjoy the soft sweet taste of chestnuts accompanying your favorite meal!