Recipe: Fresh Ricotta with Chestnut Honey, Chestnuts, and Pears
Recipe courtesy of The Cheese Course by Janet Fletcher

Published by Chronicle Books


Fresh Ricotta with Chestnut Honey, Chestnuts, and Pears

Artisan cheesemakers in some communities are producing excellent cow's and sheep's ricottas with a light, creamy texture and the pure taste of sweet milk. They are so fresh and lovely that they deserve to be the focus of a cheese course. Packaged supermarket ricotta pales in comparison.

I like to serve ricotta after the main course with honey or sugar and seasonal fruit peaches, berries, or figs in summer; apples and pears in fall; apricots and cherries in spring. When chestnuts show up in late fall, try poaching them in light syrup and crumbling them over a mound of ricotta. Surround with sliced red pears and open a bottle of Italian vin santo or other dessert wine.

Chestnuts can be frustrating and tedious to peel. The thin inner skin wants to stick to the nut, even after blanching. You will have an easier time if you keep them in the hot blanching water until you are ready to peel them. It's a good idea to buy a few more chestnuts than you need. The nuts are sometimes moldy inside, or they refuse to be peeled. For best flavor, poach them in the vanilla bean syrup a day ahead.

Ingredients:
  • 8 large fresh chestnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • One 1-inch piece vanilla bean, halved lengthwise to expose seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 pound fresh whole-milk ricotta
  • 1/4 cup chestnut honey or other full-flavored honey
  • 1 large red-skinned pear
Directions:
  1. Cut an X in the flat side of each chestnut. Bring a small pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the chestnuts and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Remove the chestnuts from the hot water one at a time with a slotted spoon and peel, working back from the X. If necessary, protect your hands by holding the hot chestnut in a kitchen towel. Remove both the hard outer shell and the papery brown skin, which tends to cling to the nut.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, vanilla bean and water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the chestnuts, cover and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 45 minutes. Let the chestnuts cool in the pan, then refrigerate overnight.
  3. To serve, place the ricotta on a large serving platter or divide evenly among 4 dessert plates. Remove the chestnuts from the syrup and crumble them coarsely by hand. Sprinkle the chestnuts over the ricotta, then drizzle the chestnuts and ricotta with the honey. Cut the pear into thin slices and arrange alongside.
Serves 4

 
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