During early and late fall, many grocery stores and farmers markets will have bins of freshly picked chestnuts. Your best picks will be vibrant brown nuts with a smooth, blemish-free outer surface that has a bit of a sheen. Forgo the chestnuts with cracks and opt for ones that similarly shaped, rounded at the top with a slight point at the bottom. Also, choose chestnuts that are firm and heavy for their size.
When you get your chestnuts home, simply store them in an unsealed plastic bag in a cool place away from direct light. They should last at least one week, but for optimal freshness, try to use them within three to four days and only purchase the amount you know you will use.
Roasting chestnuts is a simple affair, but you can also boil them in preparation for a holiday dish. Roasting or boiling will soften the outer covering of the nuts so you can extract the delectable chestnut meat. Whether you are roasting chestnuts in the oven or boiling them, cut a cross on the rounded side.
To roast chestnuts: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place chestnuts in a pan or on a baking sheet and roast for 15 to 25 minutes or until tender. When cool enough to handle, peel and use nut meat as directed (or just pop right in your mouth).
To boil chestnuts: Place chestnuts in a pot of boiling water and boil for 25 to 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and let cool enough to handle. Peel and use as directed.
For Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, toss cooked, roughly chopped chestnuts into stuffing, rice, or pasta dishes, or puree into gravy, soup, or dips. You can also add these delectable nuts to bread, cheesecake, tarts, and cookie recipes. Of course, you can always just roast them and enjoy as an after dinner snack.
Makes 16 servings
2 cups prepared chestnuts (roasted or boiled, peeled, chopped)
1/2 cup chopped white onion
1-1/2 cups butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
2 fresh rosemary stalks
2 (1-pound) loaves bread, cubed
1/4 cup milk
1 cup dried cranberries
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Saute chestnuts and onions in melted butter for 3 minutes. Add salt, pepper, poultry seasoning and rosemary and continue cooking until onions are translucent.
3. Remove rosemary stalks and spoon mixture into a buttered casserole dish. Mix in bread cubes.
4. Whisk eggs with milk and pour over stuffing. Bake 35 to 45 minutes or until cooked through and crispy on top.
Makes 8 servings
1-1/2 cups prepared chestnuts (roasted or boiled, peeled, chopped)
2 carrots peeled and diced
1 stalk chopped celery
1 medium white onion, chopped
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons bourbon
2/3 cup red wine
6 cups poultry stock (preferably turkey)
1. Saute carrots, celery and onions in melted butter until softened.
2. Add 1-1/4 cups chestnuts and stir, cooking for 1 minute. Pour in bourbon and wine and scrape browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
3. Add stock and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. Let gravy cool for a few minutes then pour into a blender and puree until smooth.
4. Pour gravy back into pot and stir in remaining chestnuts. Heat before serving.
Makes 12 servings
3/4 pound prepared chestnuts (roasted or boiled, peeled, chopped)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
4 tablespoons brandy
10 (1-ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate, chopped
6 eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cover a springform pan with parchment paper.
2. Combine chestnuts with butter and brandy in a food processor and puree until smooth.
3. Add chocolate and puree until well combined. Blend in egg yolks 1 at a time. Pour mixture into a bowl.
4. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites with salt until they have soft peaks. Beat in sugar and cinnamon a little at a time until stiff peaks form.
5. Gently fold egg whites into chestnut mixture. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve with cinnamon whipped cream.
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