Saturday, November 22, 2008

New - to me - chestnut roasting method

When I was a kid, my mom would bring home chestnuts, and we'd roast and peel and eat them. We usually stabbed them with a skewer, or when we got more manually dexterous, we would cut a slice into the top of each chestnut, rub them with oil, and then roast. They were hard to peel, and it was especially hard sometimes to get off the fuzzy, bitter-tasting inner skin. But that was part of the fun.

Our Thanksgiving stuffing - that I still make - was always a bread stuffing with chestnuts, celery and onions, and sometimes juniper berries. For the stuffing, we used canned chestnuts - French ones were available even back then - it would've been a lot of work to roast and peel enough fresh ones for the stuffing, and anyways, the fresh ones tasted too good to waste in the stuffing.

Later, vacuum-packed jars of chestnuts started appearing in the stores around Thanksgiving. I started buying those in the early 1990s. They cost about $10 per jar, and two was plenty for stuffing, and few extra to saute in butter with brussels sprouts. This year, the jars were $16. And all the chestnuts were imported, because American chestnuts trees had all died off from chestnut blight in the first half of the last century.

But now there are some growers trying to bring back the American chestnut, and the co-op had fresh ones for just under $9 per pound.

I bought some, and tried a method from Gourmet to roast and peel them - Cut an X in the flat side of the chestnuts and soak them in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain and roast in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes, until the X's open. Peel while they are still warm. Gourmet said you'd have to blanch them to get the fuzzy skin off, but none of mine had any that wouldn't come off with the tip of a knife.

Having the chestnuts peel so easy made me ridiculously happy - it propelled me up to the attic to shop-vac and sweep up three big buckets of crumbled shingles, nails, bits of wood, and other miscellaneous crap that fell through the roof when the roofers peeled off the old one(s) to the put the new roof on.

I worked for over an hour, and then took a bubble bath.


Sara said...

I've never tried a stuffing with chestnuts, or used chestnuts in any baked dish; your adventure in peeling them makes me wonder if I shouldn't try them in some dish. Can you suggest an easy chestnut recipe for the novice?

Deb's Lunch said...

Chestnuts & Brussels Sprouts! - Steam as many brussels sprouts as you want to eat. Melt butter in a skillet, add the brussels sprouts, and a little less than half as much chestnuts (e.g. if you steamed 2 cups of sprouts, add about 3/4 cup chestnuts). Toss all in the butter, until the sprouts are a little brown, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and eat.

If you hate brussels sprouts, just eat the freshly roasted chestnuts, warm.