Chestnuts were called “the bread of the poor” because it has always fed families living In the Apuane Alps and the Tuscan-Emilian Appenine regions. The original polenta, before corn arrived from America, was frequently made from chestnut flour.
Chestnut flour “farina dolce”– chestnuts can be dried and milled into fine flour. Look for imported Italian chestnut flour that is light beige without dark specs which indicate bitter inner skin. Depending on the drying technique, the flour may have a smoky taste. This flour is often used for polenta, pancakes, fritters and baked sweets. Store chestnut flour in an airtight container in the freezer.
- 2 C. chestnut flour
- 4 C. cold water
In a large heavy pot, bring the lightly salted water to a boil. Slowly pour in the chestnut flour, constantly stirring with a whisk or wooden spoon to avoid clumps from forming. Continue cooking over low heat for 30-45 minutes when it will begin to “puff and gurgle” and pull away from the sides of the pot. Serve on a warmed platter or a wooden board.
Chestnut polenta is served hot:
1- with soft pecorino or ricotta cheese
2- to accompany pork dishes, cooked sausages, braised game, bacon rashers
3- to accompany cooked wild greens and mushrooms
4- put into little bowls and cover with fresh cream and a drizzle of honey
5- cut leftover chestnut polenta into slices and fry in olive oil or butter