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After a happy childhood on his parents' farm in upstate Smyrna, New York, Charlie Palmer enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America with the dream of becoming a chef. Fast-forward a few decades: His coast-to-coast restaurant empire now includes hot spots in Manhattan, Las Vegas and San Francisco. Married for 19 years and the proud dad of four sons (Courtland, 18, Randall, 17, and twins Eric and Reed, 14), Charlie relishes holidays at home in Healdsburg, California. "These popovers remind me of my mom and are perfect for a full house," he says. Breakfast, anyone?
Charlie Palmer's Cranberry and Chestnut Brioche Popovers
Makes 12 popovers
3 cups whipping cream
6 large eggs
Salt and pepper
Pinch nutmeg and cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 1-pound day-old brioche bread, crusts trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup roasted chestnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, combine cream, eggs, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add dried cranberries and brioche cubes and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to allow bread to absorb egg mixture.
2. Add roasted chestnuts, parsley and sugar. Spoon mixture into 12 greased muffin tins. Bake until set, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately.
Tip: The best way to serve these crowd-pleasers is with strong, freshly brewed java, says chef Palmer.
Family Circle: Even with your busy travel schedule, does your crew do the big family dinner thing?
Charlie: Absolutely. In fact, my wife Lisa and I go out of our way to make sure of it. My boys know they can bring anyone they want as long as they let us know ahead of time. The conversations that go on would never happen if we weren't all around the table.
1/2 pound fresh chestnuts, OR 2 cups frozen peeled chestnuts
3 pints brussels sprouts, trimmed, outer leaves removed
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups pearl onions, peeled
2 cups chicken stock
1. (Skip this step if using frozen peeled chestnuts.) Preheat oven to 350°F. With a sharp paring knife, cut an "X" into the flat side of each chestnut. Spread chestnuts in a shallow pan and roast for 20 minutes (the cut flaps of the shells will curl up). Remove from the oven and set aside until just cool enough to handle -- if they cool completely, they'll be a real pain to peel. Peel chestnuts, removing the skin as well as the shells, and cut into quarters.
2. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Half-fill a large bowl with ice water. Drop the brussels sprouts into the boiling water and blanch them until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain brussels sprouts in a colander, then immediately drop them into the ice water. When the sprouts are chilled through, drain again. Cut sprouts in half through the root end.
3. Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large sauté pan over low heat. Add onions and cook until lightly caramelized, 5 to 7 minutes.
4. Add chestnuts and toss with onions until coated with butter; continue to sauté until onions are well-caramelized, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and add brussels sprouts. Sauté for about 2 minutes, then add chicken stock, which should quickly come to a boil, steaming the sprouts to heat them through. Stir in remaining butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve.
Originally published in the December 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.