A Week In Paris, Part I of III: Crème de Marron

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Eiffel Tower View from Seine River

Ahh, Paris.

The City of Lights.  The City of Love.  Food Lover’s Paradise.  Crowded Earth Kitchen explored the culinary scene in Paris for one glorious week, and is delighted to share three extraordinary dishes with you!

Today’s dish is crème de marron, or chestnut cream.  Prior to my Paris adventure, I had never even tasted a chestnut.  This starchy, earthy tasting nut is revered in France, readily available in markets, and featured in several dishes found in Parisian cafes.  I ordered a crepe filled with crème de marron, and instantly fell in love with the creamy, caramelized, nutty sweetness that is chestnut cream.

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Chestnuts at Rue Cler Market

Back home in the United States, I was able to find fresh chestnuts at a local, upscale market.  I paid $7.49 for 1.5 pounds, enough to make 3 cups of crème de marron (that’s a LOT of chestnut cream… did I mention I fell in love?)

Preparing crème de marron is a labor of love.  Don’t rush this.  Wait for a lazy afternoon, pop in the Amelie soundtrack for inspiration, and take your time.  “Amuse-toi bien!”

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Ingredients (makes 3 cups)

Crepe with Crème de Marron

Crepe with Crème de Marron

1.5 pounds of fresh (shell on) chestnuts

2 cups water

1 1/3 cup brown sugar

2/3 cup white sugar

Directions

Step 1) Using a small paring knife, score an X into the flat side of each chestnut.

picture277Step 2) Add chestnuts to a pot full of boiling water.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain chestnuts.

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picture282Step 3) When cool enough to touch (but not cold!), peel chestnuts by pulling back on the points of the scored X’s.  Be patient, this takes a little while.  If the chestnuts become too cold and peeling becomes difficult, return them to boiling water for a minute or two.  You will end up with about 4 cups of peeled chestnuts.

picture287Step 4) Combine 2 cups of water, the brown sugar, and the white sugar in a pot.  Heat (low-medium) and stir until sugar dissolves.  Add peeled chestnuts.  Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes until sauce thickens and just begins to caramelize.

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picture290Step 5) Cool slightly and puree in blender.  If you want a coarse chestnut spread, sort of the consistency of chunky peanut butter, you can stop here.  If you want a truly creamy “creme de marron,” proceed…

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picture291Step 6) Using a spatula, work your puree through a sieve.  The puree that goes through the sieve is your finished product.  Depending upon how fabulous or not-so-fabulous your blender is, you will end up with roughly 2 cups of super creamy creme de marron!

Whatever you do, don’t throw the chunky remnants in your sieve away!  Store them in a small container in your freezer – we’ll bake with them another day.  Or, just eat them with a spoon.  I won’t tell.

Spiced Almond Meringues

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What can I say, I woke up with a sweet tooth today!  When cooking for wellness, satisfying a sweet tooth requires a bit of mindfulness.  With a bit of thought, it’s possible to indulge in something deliciously sweet without ingesting the loads of saturated fat that are lurking in many traditional dessert recipes.  For me, meringues are just the thing… delightful when I feel like a bit of sugar without inviting butter (or worse, shortening) along for the ride.

Ingredients (makes 48 meringues)

3 egg whites

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup white sugar

Directions

picture194Step 1) In  scrupulously clean bowl, beat egg whites, almond extract, and cream of tartar at high speed for 2 – 3 minutes until soft peaks form.  It’s OK if the peaks fall over at this point, when you lift the beater out of the mixture.

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picture195Step 2)  Add white sugar and ground cloves – 1 tablespoon at a time – to egg white mixture.  Beat at high speed for 3 – 5 minutes until mixture is glossy and stiff peaks form.  When you lift the beater out of the mixture now, the peaks should stand up straight.

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picture196Step 3)  Drop tablespoonsful of the meringue mixture onto a greased cookie sheet, leaving 1 – 2 inches between meringues.  Bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Cool on a cooking rack and Enjoy!