“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nippin’ at your nose……”
Yep, as soon as I roasted these little bad boys, all three of my kids (even the 13 year old) spontaneously busted out in song….as if completely out of their own control. It was hilarious! It is so amazing how some songs are practically woven into our being, how a simple song can make you feel nostalgic about a food….even if you have never even tried it before! Insane!
Since I was raised in California, and not accustomed to seeing tall paper cones of warm chestnuts being sold by street vendors on snowy corners, I actually never even came close to a chestnut until my adult life. Yes, I would see them every December, chilled to the perfect temperature in the produce aisle, but it took awhile until I was ready to embark on the adventure of throwing them into my cart.
Since I am a sucker for traditions with my family, I decided “why not?” give it a whirl…at least it would be nutritionally more sound than a gingerbread house, right? The good news is that they are really lovely: warm, sweet and tender. However, to fall in love with chestnuts, I think you need to get any concept of nuts out of your head. These are not crunchy. They are soft, moist, and delicious. My kids had a blast with peeling and snacking on these lovelies…it was a great time of food bringing us together for lots of chatting and laughing. I think I will be repeating this new tradition multiple times every Christmas season.
Image found here
Simple, right? So, I gave it a whirl.
I like to roast things of this nature in cast iron with some coarse salt. Not only is it pretty and adds to any potential nostalgia by making it feel special, the cast iron and salt do an amazing job at creating a lovely constant temperature that hugs each chestnut perfectly. It’s like a nice sauna for these little babies.
If you want to do it in just a normal oven safe dish or pan, that is fine. The only thing that is absolutely necessary is the little cross you cut in the top of the nut. These are exceptionally moist nuts and you have got to let that steam out! I could only imagine a little show like popcorn if you forget this step…and exploding chestnuts could get ugly fast!
Now, simply throw them into an oven preheated to 425*F.
After 25-30 minutes, you chestnuts will be super hot and the peels will have curled back beautifully, beckoning to be peeled.
There are a million recipes to use these little gems in, but for those, I would just buy the nut meat vacuum packed at the store. Save the roasting and peeling for nostalgia and tradition. To make it a little extra fun, I paired the warm chestnuts with dark chocolate and cranberries for a lovely little snacking station.
Here is to new traditions….especially yummy ones!