Monday, November 21, 2011

How to roast a chestnut

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.


lauren@spicedplate said...

So delicious. Chestnuts are my favorite food of the season -- I can't get enough of them!

Anonymous said...

Super lazy way of roasting chestnuts:

Put in a pan and cover it with foil.
Roast until you hear one of them explode.
Turn off the oven and open its door, let them cool off, one more might explode underneath the foil during the cooling process.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

I learned to love chestnuts through my Italian born husband. Roasted chestnuts were always served at the end of a fall through winter meal. His family never soaked then, and his dad had frying a pan with holes in the bottom that he would use to shake the chestnuts over the fire. I cut the cross and put them in the oven to roast, but next time I'm going to try your method of soaking them first.

Wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!

As far a Panettone you have a "Christmas Tree Shop" in your area? It is a chain store of low priced year round decorative items and some food items. I was recently in New Hampshire (Portsmouth) and they were selling a two pound Del Duca brand Panettone for $3.99!

Nicole Gamble said...

My mouth is watering now just looking at it! Super recipe!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Just roasted some last night and they were so good. Love the soup too.

Claudia said...

I love these. But I hate carving little x's for 30 minutes. I often carve my fingers. It is the suffering I go through for chestnuts - and my family! We always had them after a meal. We still do - just not always. I've made that exact soup - so satisfying. Happy Thanksgiving, Mister Meatball. Hope there are meatballs and goodies gracing your Thanksgiving table.

Fred said...

I'm right there with you, your Meatiness: Love the castagna. Slip me a half dozen at the end of a meal with a robust red wine and I'll take a pass on the cannolis. Not really, but I'm trying to make a point. And that is my frustration at the inconsistency I have with chestnut roasting. So many times, the inner skin beneath the shell remains welded to the meat of the nut. Is this bad chestnuts or bad cooking? I'll be sipping the red wine with cannolis as I await your remedy. Thanks and gobble-gobble. PS: If I can the nut roasting thing down, definitely going for the chestnut soup as prime piatti this holiday.

Mister Meatball said...

Happy Thanksgiving, fellow castagna lovers!

And yes, the inner skin's removal is a problem, one I have not fully mastered technique-wise. Still, I can't switch to the cans and vacuum packs. Mostly because I love sitting around the table skinning and sipping.

Some things are worth swearing over.

john g said...

Just finised cooking up a batch to use in my sausage stuffing and ate half of them. Gotta get more now

joe said...

my grandpa taught me to eat and love castagna when i was little and always think of him when i eat them.yesterday(thanksgiving)they are what i looked forward to eating the most.keep the turkey and give me the chestnuts!