I have to admit, before coming to the US, I had no clue how tasty Roasted Chestnuts were, and what I was missing until I tried a bunch of fresh brown roasted nuts on a dark and cloudy day in New York! The taste was just great, but it was the aroma that was even more inviting. Add to this the fact that Chestnuts have a very low fat content, and no cholesterol, gluten, or oil, which makes them extremely healthy too! And now that I have learnt how to Roast Chestnuts at home, I thought I’d share it with you too, for you could do tonnes of stuff with roasted chestnuts. [Photo by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar]
The best chestnuts for roasting are the larger, better quality called “marroni”. Only the rich brown, firm ones will do to produce sweet, soft, delicious roasted chestnuts. The regular “castagne” are best kept for boiling. If you are looking to do this more often, invest in some right tools like a roasting pan, tongs and good fire grills.
Roasting Chestnuts in Oven
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Wipe the chestnuts off with a damp towel and set them on a cutting board, flat side down.
With a small, sharp knife cut an X in each chestnut. (There are special chestnut-X-cutting knives that you can buy – see comments below. I would only recommend buying one of these knives if you roast a TON of chestnuts.) The X allows the steam to escape while they are cooking. (Do not omit this step, otherwise the chestnuts could explode in the oven!) This will also make peeling a lot easier.
For safety sake, you may feel more comfortable cushioning the chestnut on a (clean) dish towel to cut the X. Put the chestnuts in a baking pan with the X facing up. It will take 20-30 minutes to roast the chestnuts. When cooked, the shells will burst open, and the chestnut will be golden brown. The tricky part is actually knowing when they are done. If you over-cook OR under-cook them, they will get hard and the inner skin will be very difficult to remove.
Roasting in Open Fire
If you want to roast your chestnuts over an open fire, then you will need a chestnut roasting pan. These are long-handled pans that have holes in them. But if you don’t want to buy one, you can also use a grill basket, a hand-held popcorn roaster or a skillet with holes drilled in the bottom.
Place your prepared chestnuts into the basket. Keep them about five inches from the flames. Roast chestnuts for about 10 to 30 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Chestnuts are done when the skins have been blackened by the heat.
Peeling the Chestnuts
Almost Done!! Once you’ve roasted them, its time to peel off the shells, and this has to be done while they are still warm. The skins harden quickly and are very difficult to open once they have cooled. Peel the nuts as soon as you can handle them without burning yourself. Before peeling, wrap the nuts in a kitchen towel and gently squeeze them; this helps loosen the shells, making the peeling task easier. Also, keep the nuts wrapped in the towel or cover the pan with foil to keep the chestnuts warm as you peel.
There, now you have it, a complete detailed tutorial to enjoy a bowl of freshly roasted Chestnuts at home. Once you master this, some delicious chestnut recipes like Roasted Chestnut Ice Cream or a Green & Chestnut Salad are just a tiny bit away!