Here’s an easy way to prepare those delicious chestnuts and have your house smelling like heaven.
Yes, we all know the song:
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire……
I think lots of people see chestnuts but don’t want to bring them home because they don’t know exactly what to do with them. Well lucky for you, I’m here to help you with your nut preparation. I’m sure there are other ways to prepare them, but this way seems to render the softest, most flavorful chestnuts with the best aroma.
Nutritionally, chestnuts are lower in fat that most other nuts (only 2 grams in 10 nuts) and are high in Vitamin C and minerals. The high fiber and soft dense consistency makes them very satisfying.
Unlike other nuts that you can eat raw, chestnuts are best cooked. Chestnuts come from a tree like all other nuts. (What about peanuts you ask? They aren’t nuts, they’re legumes)
When picking your perfect chestnut look for a rounded shape, (it may be flat on one side, that’s OK) with no holes (holes may mean visitors) and no black areas (that may mean mold). If you’re buying them to eat in a few days, store them in the fridge in a paper bag, not plastic, and out of moisture. You can store in the fridge 2-3 weeks. If you’re going to eat them in a day or two leave them out, loosely, giving them lots of air.
I recommend you to choose each one rather than use a scoop to gather them at the market. You really want to make sure that each one is a keeper and that each one will yield that soft nugget of golden flesh. You will always have some duds in the bunch. Sometimes moisture will get into an area and cause mold and sometimes the nut is just old. If any area of the nut is discolored black or dark after cooking, don’t eat it.
To get started, fill a pot with about 4 inches of water and add 1-2 tablespoons of salt, I like to use sea salt. You’ll use this pot for soaking the nuts before baking them.
Rinse the nuts well. Then, taking a pairing knife, cut an “X” in the flat part or any side part of the chestnut, and drop it in the salted water.
It’s tricky to cut the “X”, but hopefully there won’t be any significant bloodshed while you get the hang of it. Poke the point in the nut first, then angle the knife it so it makes a cut rather than dragging the knife over the shell.
When you have all your nuts cut, let them soak for about 15 minutes.
After the soak, place them on a foil lined or parchment lined baking sheet with the “X” facing up.
Bake in a 350 F degree oven for 25 minutes.
If you’ve never smelled chestnuts being gently tenderized by soft steady heat, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise. The aroma is like none other. I suggest you sit in the kitchen with a warm cup of tea and bask in the heavenly scent.
Maybe I’m hooked on that smell because of what I remember as a kid. Living on Long Island meant that New York City was just a one hour train ride away. During the holidays, a parent or older sister (I had plenty) would take me into the city to see the Rockefeller Center show, or to see the tree…ya know…THE tree, or to see Ice Capades. Coming out of the hole in the ground that is Penn Station up into the city was like emerging from the ground into another world. Sights, sounds, and smells filled the air. Just like the pretzel and hot dog vendors, there were also chestnut vendors. The smell of those chestnuts, met my nose first…even before the sound of the honking taxicabs. I haven’t been back to New York in a while so I’m not sure if they still have the chestnut carts…
Thanks for allowing that little flashback. Now, back to the recipe…
After 25 minutes of baking, peek in the oven to see that the little “X”‘s have opened and the four corners of that “X” have folded back to reveal the golden nugget.
If you know what these taste like, you’ll want to crack these right open as soon as they come out and eat them, so you’ll inevitably burn your fingers and mouth trying. Give them a few minutes to cool so you can handle them. Then squeeze them so they crack open and take out the tender nut inside.
You can eat them as you crack them, or you can crack them all, put them in a bowl, and eat them one by one. You will adopt your own eating style. Chestnuts can, of course, be used in recipes like chestnut stuffing. Cooked this way, they don’t need any seasoning at all. That would be a crime.
Feel free to post your favorite chestnut recipe in the comments!
Nutrition: 10 nuts
Calories: 206, Fat: 2 grams, Fiber: 4 grams, Protein: 3 grams, Vitamin C: 36% RDA, Potassium: 14% RDA, Manganese: 50% RDA, Vitamin B6: 21%, vitamin K 8% RDA
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