To learn more, read "All Hail Cesare" in our National edition.
Recipe adapted from Cathy Whims, Nostrana, Portland, OR
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 to 60 minutes
Total Time: 55 to 75 minutes
4 ounces dried chestnuts, 6 ounces shucked fresh or jarred chestnuts or 8 ounces shell-on fresh chestnuts
5 cups water (or chestnut cooking liquid)
1½ teaspoons fine salt
1 cup coarse-grain polenta
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
⅔ cup (about 3 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan
4 large egg yolks
White truffles, pecorino al tartufo, sautéed black trumpet mushrooms or truffle salt (optional)
1. If using fresh shell-on chestnuts, clean them well, then cut a slit around their bellies, shell-and skin-deep.
2. Place the dried or shell-on chestnuts in water to cover and bring to a boil. If fresh, gently boil until tender, about 6 minutes. Pull them from the water and peel immediately. If dried, gently boil for 5 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat. Cover and let sit for 1 hour.
3. Drain the chestnuts, reserving the liquid. Remove the shell and skin from fresh chestnuts.
4. Pass the shelled, cooked chestnuts through a food mill (or finely grind in a food processor).
5. Bring 5 cups of water (or the chestnut cooking liquid) and the salt to a boil. Slowly whisk in the polenta, stirring constantly until the water is boiling and the polenta thickens. Turn the heat to low, stirring rigorously every few minutes, until polenta pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 40 to 60 minutes. Stir the puréed chestnuts into the polenta, then add the butter. Thin with water or chestnut cooking liquid if necessary.
6. In individual small bowls, grate a fluffy mound of Parmesan in the center, about 3 tablespoons per bowl. Make a well in the Parmesan mound. Carefully place an egg yolk into each well. Ladle the piping hot polenta over to cover. Shave truffles or pecorino al tartufo over the polenta, or top with sautéed mushrooms or truffle salt. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately.