The smell of roasting chestnuts is one of my favorite holiday aromas! If you aren't lucky enough to have an open fire to cook them over, here are simple instructions on how to roast them in the oven!
Step 1: Choosing Your Chestnuts
To ensure that you're getting fresh, healthy chestnuts, avoid wrinkled, mottled, or dingy shells. These things can indicate mold or that they're past their prime. Also check for pinholes as those can indicate worms. (blech!)
The chestnut season is October through the end of December, so any for sale outside that window will likely be either too young or too old. Neither are desirable.
You want glossy, firm nuts that have little, if any, space between the shell and the meat inside.
Step 2: Tools of Tastiness
All you need other than primo chestnuts are a rimmed baking sheet, a very sharp paring knife and a clean tea towel.
Step 3: Cutting Technique
Before you begin cutting, turn your oven to 350 degrees F.
Starting on the flat underside of each nut, use a sharp paring knife and make an 1/8" deep incision that goes through the skin, the fuzzy papery layer, and just barely pierces the flesh. Slowly and carefully continue the cut almost all the way around the nut, stopping just short of meeting back up with where you started.
The reason you make this cut is so that the nuts are more accessible / easier to peel after they are roasted.
NOTE: The classic chestnut cut is an 'X' on the flat side. Feel free to do this if you prefer traditional / old school ways. : )
Step 4: Roasting Time!
Place your cut chestnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F. for 35-40 minutes. (smaller chestnuts = 35 min., larger ones = 40 min.)
Give the pan a little shake at 15 min. to make sure they cook evenly.
Step 5: Chestnut Swaddle
Once your timer has gone off, remove the pan from the oven and transfer the nuts to a clean tea towel. Wrap them up and let them cool off for about 4-6 min. before serving or removing the shells.
*Wrapping them up helps to keep the nuts from drying out and the shells from hardening.
Step 6: Peel and Serve!
While the chestnuts are warm, but not too hot to handle, remove the shells and papery skins.
You can do them all yourself, or let your guests peel their own. If you do go the guest route, make sure to provide bowls to put the shells in. And note that once they cool completely they will be difficult to peel, so pay attention to the timing if you're going to let your guests do this themselves.
Enjoy & Happy Holidays!
*As always, I love your feedback, other techniques, or ideas. Let me know if you have anything to add to this tasty project!