When we moved here from Switzerland, I set up our chestnut stand outside the local health food store. In Switzerland there was a very regular sort of exchange when someone came to buy chestnuts, and it was short, predictable, pleasant, and even kind of a sing-songish exchange that went something like this:
“Greetings! What would you like?”
“I would like a medium bag, please.”
“It would be my pleasure!”
I would hand the customer their bag of hot, roasted chestntus, they would pay, I would say thank you, wish them a nice day, and they would do the same. The end.
So when my very 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 because I didn’t know what to say! I mean, everyone in Switzerland knows what chestnuts are, no one cared how many grams of fat they contain, and you either liked them or didn’t. But when you smelled them in the air, you knew that it was Fall, and Winter was on its way!
It turns out that many Americans know and love chestnuts, so that first customer was not the norm, thank goodness.
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 just simply with a good bottle of red wine and some Italian salami.
You already know that you have to buy them NOW. Most grocers think that chestnuts are nuts, so they don’t refrigerate them. Too bad because they are NOT nuts and they are very perishable. They need to be refrigerated right away, in the lowest part of the fridge when you get home from the store.
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 our beloved Julia Child, they will tell you to score them on the flat side. Wrong! Score them on the rounded side, from “ear to ear”.
So in case you don’t have a handsome Swiss chestnut roaster in your neck of the woods, but you love roasted chestnuts like I do, here is how to roast them the right way!
Making Roasted Chestnuts the Right Way!
- 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 directly from freezer or refrigerator 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!