Jackfrost nipping at your nose”
Tis’ the season for Christmas delicacies! Like most of us, I have known the lyrics to “The Christmas Song” for most of my life, with that classic opening line “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” But despite this, I had never tried roasted chestnuts!
Last year, I was at John’s parent’s house, and one evening, they casually roasted some chestnuts. Little did I know of treat was in store for me. They brought them out of the oven, and put them on a tray for everyone in the house to enjoy and a feeding frenzy ensued, with all participants munching on these delightful little chestnuts like a pack of rabid squirrels.
Ok so, I exaggerated a little, everyone was a lot more classy then a pack of rabid squirrels in their chestnut eating. With chestnuts so new and exciting to me, I was guilty of being the rabid squirrel of the bunch, throwing caution to the wind and devouring more then my share of the warm oven-roasted Christmas treat in a less then classy manner.
Turns out that roasting chestnuts has been a tradition in both sides of John’s family for years. So this week, I have decided to share this wonderful tradition with you, so you too can enjoy this Christmas treat! Eating them is always fun too, as everyone gathers around and it becomes quite the engaging social event.
Now you could do as the Christmas Song suggests, and roast your chestnuts over an open fire. However, most of us don’t have the resources, especially with all the gas fire places out there. I’m sure John and I will eventually try our hand at roasting chestnuts on the open fire, but for today, we will keep it simple with oven-roasted chestnuts.
There are four steps to roasting chestnuts: Selection, preparation, roasting and of course eating.
Step 1: Selection
This is a very important step, as the quality of chestnuts could vary greatly depending on the batch you have at hand. Select bad chestnuts, and they will dry and moldy, not so good. Select the good fresh chestnuts, and they will be much tastier. John’s uncle Tom is the expert in selection, and gave John and I a tutorial on how to pick the good ones from the bad once we brought them home. This is what we learned:
In the case of chestnut selection, look for healthier shiny shells as opposed to wrinkly ones. Go by feel and squeeze each chestnut, assessing the firmness. Firm, heavy chestnuts are the good ones. The chestnuts with drier, papery skin aren’t so good, you can feel that the nut has shrunken in the shell, as there is space between the shell and the nut when you squeeze. Do not eat these bad ones, they could be moldy.
John’s mom showed me this step. You have to cut the chestnuts at the midway point, about ¾ of the way down before roasting. This will allow you to easily crack them in half when eating them. Use a sharp knife and cut them right down the middle, so the two sides are still together. (See photo left)
Step 3: Roasting
Roast in the oven at 400 F for 20-30 minutes until chestnuts are soft.
Step 4: Eating
In the best step of all, simply break your chestnuts in half down the pre-cut line, and peel of the skin to reveal the tender and delicious gem inside. Eat chestnut and repeat step 4, over and over again.
I’m sure there is a store, perhaps a European market, wherever you live where you can find these babies, so next time you cross paths with some chestnuts, buy a bundle and try your hand at roasting. You won’t be disappointed!
Special thanks to John’s family for sharing this special Christmas experience with me!
Click here to view printable version of recipe:
Oven Roasted Chestnuts
- Select Chestnuts
Look for healthier shiny shells as opposed to wrinkly ones. Select Chestnuts with hard firm shells. Discard chestnuts with thinner, papery shell, where space exists between the shell and the nut inside.
- Prepare by cutting
At midway point in nuts, cut about ¾ of the way down, ensuring that two halves are still together.
Roast at 400 degrees F for 20-30 minutes.