17 December 2006

How to Roast Chestnuts

We've had a warm spell in Wisconsin, with temperatures hovering around 40 by day and 25 by night. Days are overcast and dull. Evenings are dark and inky but for the scads of colored lights around the neighborhood. The air smells of cold and wood smoke.

You can feel winter solstice is just around the corner.

Tonight seemed like a night for roasting chestnuts. I had plenty of inspiration from fellow bloggers. Christine at Christine Cooks, who always does such romantic things with food and wine, roasted them a few weeks ago. That inspired me to buy some chestnuts, step one.

At Cucina Testa Rossa on Dec. 15, Laura posted an evocative photo of a chestnut vendor in Luxembourg Gardens. I could feel the Paris breeze on my face and smell the Paris smell (imagining, because I have not been there in fall). That galvanized me to roast them, step two.

I don't have a fireplace, so my chestnuts weren't roasted on an open fire. (I've eaten them that way on a blizzard-y evening in December, and they are wonderful. It's the idea of the open fire that adds to the charm and the flavor.)

I do have an oven and plenty of old baking sheets.

Here's how I did it:

• I washed them, allowed them to dry and then using a little Victorinox paring knife, cut crosses in flat, dull topside of the shiny chestnut.

• I pre-heated my oven to 425 and found an old cookie sheet. I placed the chestnuts on the sheet, cross side up (as best I could). I left them in the oven for about 25 minutes, until they looked easy to peel.

• I let the chestnuts cool for just a bit, then wrapped them in a clean kitchen towel and squeezed them. They crackled and were ready to peel. I removed the inner skins, as well as the hard outer shells.

My next chestnut challenge is this: I've bought some chestnut pasta at the supermarket. What to do with it? Ideas are welcome.

8 comments:

FarmgirlCyn said...

We've had the same crazy weather pattern here in west Michigan...days have been in the low 50's! Today, I kid you not, I found a dandelion!
NO idea what to do with chestnut pasta. You wouldn't want an overwhelming sauce, as the flavor of the pasta wouldn't shine thru. The only thing I've done with fresh chestnuts is add them to the turkey stuffing. Wouldn't mind trying them, tho, as I've seen some of the blogs you mentioned.

Mimi said...

A dandelion in December? I've seen that in October but never this time of year.

I'm sure I'll have fun trying to come up with something for the pasta. I think you are right, though, about not overwhelming the flavor.

Jann said...

You are just so incredible to go through all roasting-how wonderful. Each time I am away in the fall or winter, I always purchase chesnuts from the vendors on the streets!

Mimi said...

It was really pretty easy — just make sure you use a heavy kitchen mitt when you are holding the chestnut for cutting.

Now I'm on a recipe search because I've got a lot of chestnusts and I want to try somehting different with them.

christine said...

Wow! Your roasted chestnuts came out way better than mine. I'll have to follow your instructions next time!

Mimi said...

I might actually have overcooked them a bit. But the color is lovely!

Katie said...

I have a chestnut tree in the neighborhood, so I get them free for roasting. They're good - but never as good as the ones I buy from a street vendor in a paper cone to nibble on as we window shop...must be the whole ambience thing...

Mimi said...

We have a tree in our side yard — I am told chestnut trees are "borderline" for this area and it never did very well. Anyway, in 2005 we were in Paris at the height of the chestnut bloom there, which comes about 6 weeks before ours. That year our own tree was magnificent for the first time. We figured somehow the tree sensed it needed to put on a show for us, to show us that it could compete with the Parisians.

In 2006, the tree was back to its normal state.