Saturday food shopping took a decidedly holiday-like turn when I noticed that two of the local food stores that I frequent (Rosemont Market and Micucci Grocery) had gotten in fresh Italian chestnuts.
I was in the middle of making a soup with these chestnuts (note to locals: Micucci's are a lot cheaper) when my friend Joe called. He had wanted to discuss matters relating to his business, except that as soon as he discovered what I was doing, all he wanted to talk about were chestnuts.
"I can't get a good chestnut panettone anymore," my friend moaned in a truly sorrowful way. "For awhile I had an outfit in Italy ship them to me, but I can't get them to do it anymore. I just gotta find another source."
As I know how much my friend loves his chestnuts, both in a panettone and warm out of the shell, this hurt my heart deeply. I do not like to see my friends suffering.
After several more minutes of chestnut talk he asked whether I would be blogging about the soup that I was preparing, but sounded less than enthusiastic when I said that I would.
"Nobody knows how to roast a chestnut anymore," Joe groaned. "All they know is opening a jar or a vacuum pack.
"If it were my blog," he went on, "I would just do that: How to roast a chestnut."
It is helpful to have friends who are smarter than yourself, don't you think?
The first step in roasting chestnuts is a little dangerous, so be careful and work slowly. Using a sharp knife, cut an "X" into one side of the nut.
After all the chestnuts have been scored soak them in water for about an hour. If you're in a hurry, 30 minutes will do, but they should be soaked at least that long. At an appropriate time in the process you'll need to preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and have a roasting pan on hand to accommodate both the chestnuts and some water.
These chestnuts roasted for 20 minutes. There are two things I'd like to bring to your attention. First, you can tell that the chestnuts are done because of the way the skin has curled up where the "X" was cut. If that doesn't happen then they need to cook longer. Second, there is still ample water in the pan. Some people use no water, others use so little that it evaporates entirely. I find using a good quarter inch of water works well.
Here's the soup that I wound up making, by the way. And a recipe from La Cucina Italiana should you be inspired to do so yourself.
I don't expect Joe to make it. He's too busy trying to track down his panettone. Poor guy.
Enjoy the Holidays.