04 ott 2011

POETRY OF FOOD : The Glazed Chestnut

Un bell'articolo sui marrons glacès dal blog POETRY OF FOOD

Lo trovate QUI


Whether it’s Fauchon, Hédiard, Ladurée, La Maison du Chocolat or any other patisserie or chocolate shop in France, when the holiday season approaches, all of them have one thing on their minds: the chestnut. No other nut enjoys the same status; it is the one nut that has been transformed into a delicacy and hailed as the “marron glacé,” or glazed chestnut.

Marrons glacés are simply made with two ingredients: sugar and Bourbon vanilla. Given that there are only three ingredients, one would expect pretty accurate results with little or no perceivable differences. Yet, like most things French and refined, it is the nuance that makes all the difference, regardless of the fact that the base technique is to boil chestnuts in simple syrup.

While this delicacy is also enjoyed in Italy, the first marrons glacés recipe was recorded at the end of the 17th century during the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King, and served in his court in Versailles. Great style and fashions were born in Louis XIV’s court during this era of prosperity and enlightenment and spread to not only the rest of France but also the world. Since then, marrons glacés have become a seasonal institution – or should we call it an event in its own right.

Every fall, all of France is abuzz as it awaits the arrival of this seasonal treat, especially at Christmas when no self-respecting home can celebrate without it. The obsessed will make a “tour de France” to taste and pronounce their favourite of the season, but the selection and decision are not as simple as one might think. Indeed, there are hundreds of producers of marrons glacés, from the high-end Fauchon to the more accessible Marrons de l’Ardèche, one of the originals from the 1800s.

Not all chestnuts are created equal: A marron is a variety that has been bred to be a single uniform nut, as opposed to the typical chestnut, which has two halves with deep grooves that make it fragile, resulting in breakage during the cooking process. The most wonderful marron glacé is not too sweet, not brittle and not overcooked; it should be tender to the bite, and, most important, the flavour of the chestnut should be pronounced and not overpowered by the sweetness of the syrup.

Once you venture into the world of this delicacy and appreciate its poetry, there are other delectable flavours and varieties. Marrons glacés with cognac: The chestnuts take on the subtle flavour of this spirit without it overpowering them. Marrons glacés with rum: This is a match made in heaven! The Bourbon vanilla works in harmony with the dark rum. There are also chocolate-covered or givrés (sugar-frosted) marrons glacés.

With this being the only season to indulge in marrons glacés, they are well worth searching out in specialty shops or online.

Fotografia di Greg Vore