On the first day of autumn this year, I returned to Gerês. Here, I found green tufts of moss, wet and lush, holly and hawthorn covered with red berries and arbutus trees filled with white flowers and fruit. I love this time of year and the earthy tones that define the autumn landscape of my favourite hills and fields. On my way home, I bought some chestnuts, pears and mushrooms to make this simple, seasonal and sophisticated meal – a fragrant and tasty roast inspired by a perfect autumn day.
- 3 pears (see Note), halved
- 100 ml port
- 1 tbsp brown sugar
- vegetable oil, for deep-frying
- 350 g chestnuts
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 4 chicken thighs
- 100 ml good quality chicken stock
- 1 tbsp rosemary leaves
- crushed pink peppercorns (see Note) and salt, to taste
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Mix the pears, port and brown sugar in a bowl and set aside until needed.
Fill a deep-fryer or saucepan one-third full with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat to 180˚C. Make a cut in every chestnut and deep-fry them for 8 minutes (a bit longer if the chestnuts are really big) or until the skins darken and the chestnuts are golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Cool slightly and peel.
Heat the olive oil in a non-stick casserole over high heat. Add the chicken thighs, skin-side down, and cook, turning, for 5 minutes or until golden. Drain the pears, reserving the port mixture, add to the pan, cut-side down, and cook for 1 minute or until caramelised. Add the port mixture, chestnuts, chicken stock, rosemary and pink peppercorns, and bring to a boil.
Place the casserole in the oven and cook for 25–30 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through, the pears are tender and the sauce is thick and syrupy. Season with salt.
• Monica uses a type of Portuguese pear known as rocha, which are good for roasting. Substitute other firm roasting pears, such as beurre bosc.
• Pink peppercorns are from gourmet food and spice shops.
Recipe and photographs from Pratos & Travessas by Mónica Pinto.