When we moved here from Switzerland, I set up our chestnut stand outside the local health food store. Now in Switzerland, there was a very regular sort of exchange when someone came to buy chestnuts, and it was short, predictable, pleasant, singsong-ish and fun: "Greetings! What would you like?" "I would like a medium bag, please." "It would be my pleasure!" I would give out the chestnuts, the customer would pay, I would say thank you, and I would wish them a nice day. The end. So when my first customer came to the stand here in Asheville, her question of "How much fat is in them, and how many calories do they contain?" really threw me…I didn’t know what to say! I mean, everyone in Switzerland knew what chestnuts were, no one cared how many grams of fat they had, and you either liked them or didn’t.
But when you smelled them in the air, you knew that Fall was here, and Winter was on its way! I like using chestnuts in a lot of my fall and winter cooking, from marroni crème, to soups, to stir-frying them with rice and veggies, to layering them between flourless chocolate tortes. Or with a good bottle of red wine and some Italian salami! So here is how to roast them in case you don’t have a local and handsome chestnut vendor roasting them just for you!
You already know that you have to buy them NOW. Most grocers think that chestnuts are nuts, and they don’t refrigerate them. Too bad because they are NOT nuts and they are perishable! They need to be refrigerated right away, in the lowest part of the fridge.
Actually the best way to store them is to score them (a box cutter works fine), and then freeze them in a ziplock bag. Now if you read Italian cookbooks or even beloved Julia Childs, they will tell you to score them on the flat side. Wrong! Score them on the rounded side, from "ear to ear".
Then simply follow these instructions and you will know how to make…
- Preheat oven to the highest temperature on bake
- Put baking sheet/cast iron pan in oven for 5 min. or so to get it hot
- Take chestnuts from freezer and place them on baking sheet one layer thick
- In about 5 minutes or so, use a wooden spoon (or your hands in an oven mitt) to stir, and cut back temperature to about 475 F
- Keep moving them around every 5 minutes until done, which might be around 25 min. They are done when the chestnut is no longer glossy, but matte, and when you take your thumb nail and press into it and it gives a little (like a done boiled potato).
- Wait a few minutes until you can pick them up without burning your fingers. Open them like a snapdragon to get the outside shell off. Store them in the fridge for a couple of days if you need to. Enjoy!