How to roast chestnuts
The mere mention of chestnuts immediately brings to mind the song lyrics, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" But there are many other ways to enjoy this buttery, flavorful nut.
Chestnuts are very diverse in their culinary uses. Increasingly, gourmet recipes are featuring these nuts. They are often associated with the autumn months and winter holidays. Chestnuts roasting over an open fire are a wintertime favorite, as well as chestnut stuffing with holiday turkey. Aside from an open fire, chestnuts can be roasted on top of the stove and in the oven. Shown below are the ways to prepare them.
Remember, too, that they are wonderful in soups, stews, mixed vegetables, and in deserts such as pastries, tortes, or ice cream. They can also be dried and ground into high quality flour for making gluten free bread, biscuits, or gravy. There are many online suppliers of chestnuts, so you can have them shipped directly to your door.
Your grocer will likely have two kinds of chestnuts: castagne, run-of-the-mill chestnuts, and marroni, larger, gloriously meaty chestnuts that can be an inch or more across. While good castagne will do for boiling and such, you will want marroni for roasting.
How to roast chestnuts on top of the stove:
Before roasting the chestnuts, make a cut in the round side of each, to keep them from exploding. Out in the country people still use terracotta vessels that resemble colanders to roast chestnuts over the coals, but if you are doing them over the stove you will want a chestnut-roasting pan, which looks like a skillet with holes punched in its bottom (if need be you can make a pan yourself, by purchasing a cheap skillet and punching holes through it with a thick nail).
Put the chestnuts in the pan, sprinkle them with water, cover them, and set the pan over a medium flame. Shake the pan frequently and continue roasting until the skins are blackened and have pulled back from the meat where you cut into them; this should take 5 to 10 minutes (charring means you didn't shake the pan enough). Wrap the hot chestnuts in an old towel, squeeze them hard to crush the skins, and let them sit wrapped for five minutes. Open the towel and enjoy.
How to roast chestnuts in the oven:
STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. STEP 2: Clean off chestnuts. STEP 3: Use a sharp paring knife to cut an X into one side of each chestnut, or prick chestnuts with a fork to allow steam to escape. STEP 4: Arrange chestnuts on a baking sheet or in a shallow pan, with the cut or pricked sides up. STEP 5: Roast in oven for 15 to 25 minutes, or until chestnuts are tender and easy to peel. STEP 6: Peel nuts when they are cool enough to handle. Here's another oven roasting method:
Slit chestnuts with one long slit from top to bottom (or make an X), using a strong, straight edge knife. Be careful not to cut yourself as the nuts can be wobbly. This will allow steam to escape and prevent them from exploding in the oven. They will also be easier to peel.
Set oven to "broil" and pre-heat it to 425°F (218°C). Broiling, rather than baking, gives them more of a fire-roasted flavor.
Place the chestnuts on a metal baking pan and put it in the oven close to the top heating element. Broil for about 20 minutes, gently stirring or shaking chestnuts midway so they roast evenly. If you are using a gas stove (which tend to be hotter), watch that they don't burn.
Note: Your goal should be to bring the chestnuts to the point where the inside is completely soft, but the surface of the nutmeat is slightly toasted to a golden brown with a bit of crispness.
How to roast chestnuts over an open fire:
STEP 1: Choose a utensil that has a long handle such as a frying pan. STEP 2: Clean dirt off of chestnuts. STEP 3: Cut an X into the shell of each chestnut with a paring knife to avoid a buildup of steam inside the nuts. STEP 4: Place chestnuts in pan and cover. STEP 5: Roast over the coals of an open hearth for 15 to 25 minutes or until the chestnuts are tender and the shells are beginning to open. STEP 6: Peel chestnuts when they are cool enough to handle and serve with salt if desired.
Eating the chestnuts Serve warm with the shell attached and let people peel the shell and fuzzy skin off themselves by sticking their fingers into the slit and pulling the shell away from the nutmeat. If any parts appear very black, that probably was mold and is now charred and not dangerous. Just cut or tear away the black part and enjoy the good parts.
Tips & Warnings
- Chestnuts that have not been cut or pricked to allow steam to escape may explode, even after being removed from the heat.
- Use dry, firm chestnuts; soft chestnuts might be rotted.
- Try a little salt on your chestnuts.
- Be sure to remove the inner skins as well as the shells.