Eating with the seasons. It sounds very easy. But every time I find myself at a supermarket, with racks stocked with fruit and vegetables from all over the world, it find it pretty difficult to remember just what is or isn’t in season. I’ve found that a great way to remember is to go with the classics. Cooking the dishes that were on the menu before our carbon footprint started to span the entire globe.
So for the Christmas menu, I tried out the classic combination of Brussels sprouts, chestnut and venison.
Brussels sprouts are named after the Belgian capitol of Brussel (or Bruxelles depending on which Belgian you’re asking). The reason they’re named after this city is simply because they were first cultivated in that region. Possibly as early as the 13th century. With harvest season being from September to February, it’s hardly surprising that historically they’ve been popular for Christmas dinners.
Brussels sprout have a bit of a bad reputation. Mainly because in the old days, they were prepared by boiling them to within an inch of their lives, which left them mushy and bitter. These days there are a lot more ways to prepare sprouts that produce far better results, like roasting, sauteing or braising. As a result they’ve regained a lot of their popularity. When prepared well, Brussels sprouts have a sweet, nutty flavor that combines very well with sweet chestnuts.
Chestnuts have long been a food staple in various parts of the world. Historically they’ve kept many poor communities alive during the winter months. Oddly enough chestnuts are considered more of a luxury product these days. In any case, they’re a good choice for Christmas dinner.
Chestnuts and Brussels sprouts together have quite a strong taste. So you need to pair them with a kind of meat that has a strong taste of its own to form a counterbalance. A good option is venison.
Venison is the meat of a deer. While its flavour is a bit like beef, it is richer and more gamy. It’s also a pretty healthy option. Venison a very lean meat and it’s rich in iron. With the hunting season running from October to February, it’s also available at the correct time of year.
Maybe, eating with the seasons isn’t that difficult after all.
(If you want to use fresh chestnuts for this recipe, read our how-to on cooking fresh chestnuts.)