Roasted chestnuts add quaintness and warmth to the holiday season. Never done it before? No problem. Today I’m sharing how to roast chestnuts.
One of my favorite aspects of attending concerts is learning the back history of the music. Knowing the story that led to the song makes the sound richer and the meaning deeper. When I listen to the music later, it reminds me of the musician’s history and it enriches my own experience. The story makes it resonate.
Similarly, when I read cookbooks, which I enjoy poring over cover to cover as if they were novels, I love it when the author tells me what inspired the recipe. Did she aim to emulate a dinner at a favorite local diner or a beloved comfort food? Was it reminiscent of an oft-made and long-loved family recipe or a product of a trip abroad…When I traveled with my husband to Switzerland a few years ago, it was as it usually is when we travel, cold.
It was fall in the Alps, before ski season but still coat weather. On the trees, chestnuts were ripening and falling to the sidewalks below. Street-side vendors scented the air by roasting the nuts for eager passersby.
They shifted the piles of nuts over hot pans until they were hot and breaking open. Then they scooped them into paper sacks with two pockets. One pocket held the nuts themselves, and the other side was ready for discarded shells.
The nuts have a texture similar to boiled potatoes, dense and slightly chewy. They are higher in starch than most nuts and very filling.
It was a perfect snack, warming our hands as we walked, while peeking in windows of stores selling cuckoo clocks, wooden wine toppers and ornaments, Swiss Army knives and watches.It is for this reason that as the weeks leading up to the winter holidays pass by, I become more and more eager for the arrival of chestnuts in my local grocery stores. While jarred chestnuts and those in shelf-stable aseptic packages are available year around, there’s nothing quite like roasting them myself, cracking open the shells, and eating them hot by the handful. Plus, once I learned how to roast chestnuts, I discovered it’s easy and fun to make your own.
They are delicious with hot cider or deep, red wine and perfect paired with a sweet winter squash in a risotto or topped over a creamy butternut squash soup.
How to roast chestnuts
Before roasting, keep them in a dry, cool place or freeze them in their whole shells for up to four months.
Once you’re ready to prepare them, chestnuts couldn’t be easier to roast at home. Simply score an X in the shells (or watch out for some serious and unfortunate exploding in your oven), lay them on a baking sheet, and roast them in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.
The shells should crack open easily, allowing you to enjoy the morsels inside. Any uneaten cooked nuts should be refrigerated and used within three or four days.
As we box our decorations and close the folder on our holiday Ipod mixes for another year, there are precious few weeks left until fresh chestnuts will be out of season. After that, the memories of those cool, winter nights roasting them will only be remembered in songs…
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose…”