Roasted chestnuts have always been a winter tradition. Today, people still buy bags of hot, salty chestnuts from vendors during the holiday season. Chestnuts are available in grocery stores, and from neighbors that have trees! You can often just ask someone that has a chestnut tree if you can take some nuts, most people do not bother with collecting or roasting them.
Before you begin roasting chestnuts you will need to choose the best nuts. Look for smooth shells with no holes. The shell should be slightly flexible, a brittle shell indicates that the nut is old. Meat inside the nut will be firm and yellowish. No mold should be present.
Each chestnut will need a small X cut into it before you begin roasting. This allows steam to escape during the cooking process. If you do not notch the shell the nuts can, and sometimes will, explode. This can be dangerous if you choose to try roasting chestnuts over a traditional open fire. Beginners may wish to stick with the oven method. At the same time you’re notching the nuts, your oven can be pre-heating to 400F.
Place a small amount of oil in the bottom of a glass roasting dish. You will only need a few drops to coat the bottom of the pan. Spread the nuts in a single layer, spritz with a little water, and then place in the hot oven. For roasting chestnuts you will need to cook them about 10 minutes on each side. Stir after the first 10 minutes to turn the nuts.
After about 20 minutes, remove the nuts from the oven. Allow to cool until you can handle them. Peel and serve warm with a little salt. Once they have cooled completely their flavor is not as good, so if you plan to serve at a party or with dinner, keep warm in the shell until you are ready to serve. Guests can shell their own if you wish.
An alternative method of making roasted chestnuts is to use a fireplace. If you have an open fireplace prepare the nuts in the same manners as for oven roasting. Clear a small section in your fireplace of wood and ash. Place a heavy cast iron pan with the pre-notched and water-sprinkled nuts over hot coals. Watch carefully, and depending on how hot the coals are, after 5 to 10 minutes flip the chestnuts. You can purchase chestnut roaster pans – these look like frying pans with holes in the bottom.
One taste of roasted chestnuts and you’ll be singing this famous old chestnut!