Chestnuts preparation: I soaked the chestnuts in boiling water (off heat) and let them soak until the water cooled down to room temperature. This softened the outer skin ("onikawa" 鬼皮 or demon skin) and made them easier to peel. Using a sharp paring knife, I first cut the bottom of the chestnut and peeled off the outer skin and then removed the inner skin ("shibukawa" 渋皮 or bitter skin). The inner skin was more difficult to remove, although for some I got lucky and it came off in one piece. For many of them I had to shave off some of the meat of the nuts to get the skin off (#2 below). I prepared 11 chestnuts (for 2 Japanese cups or 360ml of uncooked rice). As I peeled the inner skin I soaked the nuts in water to prevent discoloration and some starch leached out as well.
Broth: I decided to use a seasoned "dashi" broth for this dish. I made dashi broth from a dash pack (combination of bonito flakes and kelp). In the cooled down dash broth, I added light colored soy sauce or "usukuchi shouyu 薄口醤油 (1 tbs) and mirin (1 tbs) and made it 400ml total.
Cooking: I used "Kamadosan" かまどさん, an earthenware rice cooker. I added the rice, broth and, for a good measure, a 3 inch square of dried kelp (surface wiped with damp paper towel) and arranged the prepared chestnuts on the surface. As per the instructions that came with the rice cooker, I set the steam holes of the inner and outer lids perpendicular to each other and placed it on a medium high flame for 14 minutes. I then shut off the heat and let it steep for 20 more minutes (#4 above).
While the rice was steeping, I made a small cucumber and myouga sunomono 胡瓜と茗荷の酢の物 (left in the back in the first picture).
I removed the kelp and mixed the rice while trying not to break the chestnuts. The bottom had a very slight crust of "okoge" おこげ. I served it with a garnish of black sesame seeds (The first picture above).
The result? Much better than last year--a world of difference. The chestnuts were much sweeter and while they had the somewhat dry texture characteristic of chestnuts, it was pleasing and definately not chalky. The addition of the glutenous rice gave the dish a sticky consistency or "mochimochi" もちもち consistency. The seasoned broth that I used also added a subtle but nice flavor. So, I have to say this was a success. We are glad that North American chestnuts have survived and we can enjoy them.