How To Roast And Peel Chestnuts

by valentina on December 5, 2011

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping on your nose,
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.”

Okay, so I roasted these in the oven, not on an open fire.  Regardless, they’re divine!

One of my absolute favorite memories of living in Madrid, Spain in the heart of winter is the wonderful aroma of roasting chestnuts on almost every city street corner.  For somewhere around cien pesetas, I could get a big, newspaper-wrapped bundle of roasted chestnuts.  Not only did they smell amazing, but their heat would penetrate through the newspaper and warm my hands.  Truly lovely! And delicious!

Of course, I’d follow up the chestnuts with my daily café con leche!

Since it’s the Christmas season, we’d better get roasting!  Off we go!

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

I’ve had my Italian chestnut knife for over ten years, and though it doesn’t get used but once or twice a year, I love having it in my knife drawer!  If you don’t have a chestnut knife, a sharp paring knife will do.  Use the knife to make a large “X” all the way through the skin on the flat side of each chestnut.  Place them, round side down, on a baking sheet as you go.

Roast them in the preheated oven until all of the skins have peeled back, away from the chestnut, about 30 minutes.  (There will always be a few that don’t cooperate. No biggie, just don’t use those.)

Let the chestnuts cool just enough so you can handle them.  If you let them get too cool, you’ll have a much harder time peeling them.  Use your hands to peel the skin off each nut.  There is a fine, soft inner skin, too.  If this doesn’t come off with the thicker skin, you can use the tip of your knife to help work it off the nut.  If some of the nuts become too cool before you’re able to peel them, simply pop them back in oven for a couple of minutes to loosen the skins again.

A truly beautiful process.

Timeline:
Up to 4 days and at least 1 hour ahead: Roast and shell the chestnuts.
Shelled, roasted chestnuts should be covered and stored in the refrigerator and used within 4 days. Cooked chestnuts, either whole, chopped, or pureed, may be frozen in an airtight container for at least 4 months.

Notes:

Roasted chestnuts are great in savory braised dishes, chopped in cookies, in cakes and breads, and of course, eaten straight from the “fire.”

The longer you roast the nuts, the more caramelized they’ll become on the inside — if you just want to shell them to use in other dishes, you only need to roast them for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Roasting chestnuts is a perfect winter afternoon, weekend cooking project.  And it will lead you to many wonderful chestnut-filled dishes!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jennifer December 7, 2011 at 5:33 pm

After seeing your easy directions, I’m ready to give these a try (I’ve been eyeing them at the grocery store for weeks!). But I’ve never eaten roasted chestnuts, are they similar in taste to almonds or cashews? Are they sweet? I’m wondering how many I should buy per person and whether or not you think kids would like them too.

Thanks for the great directions, I’m going to buy and roast some whether or not the kiddos like them, I’m sure I’ll like them : )!

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valentina December 7, 2011 at 6:29 pm

Hi, Jennifer! Oh, I’m so happy you’re going to give these a go! It’ll be fun! They are different from most nuts in that they are unexpectedly soft and slightly chewy. They are mildly sweet and have an earthy, nutty flavor. My kids think they are good, but “weird,” (says my 5 yr old). I love them. Friday I’m sharing a Chestnut Potato Soup! Let me know how it goes, and happy holiday season!

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