So you've heard the song that starts off "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." and maybe you're even fortunate enough to live in a city that has a vendor that sells roasted chestnuts (like Boston, MA) but if you don't and you want to try sampling them yourself then this blog entry is for you.
First getting the chestnuts.
When shopping for chestnuts look to make sure they are not brittle. Chestnuts that are brittle usually mean they've been sitting on the shelf a little too long. The moisture that was in them has all dried up. Buying chestnuts of this quality will result in a hardened, possibly blackened, inside turd and will definitely make you think that eating chestnuts is a sham if it's your first try.
If you squeeze the chestnut (at the store) and it breaks then it's brittle and really old. You can also tell by the sheen on the chestnut. As the chestnut ages it will get more dull looking. As a novice chestnut eater you may not notice anything but over time this will become more apparent.
chestnuts (as many as you would like)
- preheat oven to 350° F
- cut each chestnut so there's a score that breaks the outer shell (this will prevent the chestnut from exploding while cooking) Also if you make an X it'll make breaking the shell easier after it's cooked.
- place the chestnuts on a cooking sheet and place in oven.
- cook for 50 minutes
After cooking the shell should be brittle and should be able to crack easily simply by squeezing the chestnut. You might want to wear oven mitts if the chestnut is fresh out of the oven as it will be hot (duh). The shell may or may not come off easily but it should be brittle.
eat the yummy insides.
There is a chestnut cutter that exists. It makes it easier to cut the chestnuts and is great if you want to reduce the risk of cutting yourself with a knife. I'm not talking about that old barbaric hooked blade that old italian ladies use, I'm talking about the scissor like blade on one side, chestnut scoop on the other.
You can buy this plastic one here (http://www.myitaliancantina.com/collections/frontpage/products/snips-chestnut-cutter).
There's a more impressive looking one here (http://www.chestnutter.com/). If you buy one tell them Bagelhot sent you, not because they know who I am or that you'll get a discount, but just because it'll make me laugh to think of these confused people wondering who Bagelhot is. If you make a good product I'll endorse it (especially food gadgets).
chestnuts are gluten free.
I would like to thank Mike Zanette for passing on this information and for introducing me to eating these things way back in the Walmer apartment days. I can still picture him burning his figures because he couldn't wait for the chestnuts to cool down once he took them out of the oven, hence the inclusion to this blog entry of the tip on using of oven mitts.