Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose…
Roast chestnuts evoke wistful holidays images of days gone by. But how many of us have actually roasted chestnuts on an open fire? Too few, I imagine. And a shame, too, since anyone with a fireplace can do it easily. All you need are chestnuts, a good knife and a roasting pan.
It is useful (if not 100% necessary) to soak chestnuts for an hour or two before roasting. This helps them for drying out and the residual water creates steam that helps them to cook more quickly. Drain them and cut a cross in their sides as picture. This will prevent them from ‘exploding’ while they roast. You can do with this a good, sharp knife. They also make chestnut knives as well as a special instrument for the job, which you can find at specialty stores or online; it makes the job a lot easier.
The typical pan for roasting chestnuts is made of carbon steel and has large holes in its bottom to let the heat of the fire through. They are sometimes available in specialty cookware shops and online. You can also use a popcorn popper, the kind they make for fireplaces, with long handles.
Now take the pan and lay it over some hot embers. If your fireplace is big enough you can just clear out a space and pull some embers into place below your pan. You pan should lay a few centimeters/inches above the embers, which should be glowing red hot, but not actually on fire. An actual flame would char the outsides of the chestnuts before they are done inside.
Tossing them from time to time, let the chestnuts roast for about 20 minutes or so. As they roast, the slits you have made in their sides will begin to open. This is fine. The chestnuts will char a bit on the outside, which is perfectly normal and, in fact, desirable, as it gives them a nice smokey flavor. Some recipes tell you to sprinkle some red wine or other liquor over them as they roast, which you can certainly do if that appeals to you.
Once they’re done, remove your roast chestnuts gingerly from the pan into a cloth towel. (They will be very hot at this point, as will your pan, so be careful.) Wrap the chestnuts up for a few minutes to let them cool off a bit and soften further. Then open up the towel and eat them, preferably with your hands. They have both shells and a rather woody skin. You can eat the latter if you like, but they are much nicer without. The skins should, in any event, come off quite easily if they chestnuts are still warm.
If you don’t have a fireplace or an appropriate pan, the same basic technique can be used to roast chestnuts on a baking sheet, in a hot oven.
Roast chestnuts make for a wonderful ‘dessert’, made after dinner, say while watching a film and sipping some whiskey or grappa on a cold winter’s night. Or while singing yuletide carols, perhaps…
Oh yes ! I haven’t had the roast chestnuts for ages; my grandmother would roast them after we pick the grapes up and then have the chestnuts with freshly pressed grapes juice before it turns into young wine…… so simple, cozy; perfection at it’s peak !
Is there any way of keeping the roasted chestnuts from going rock hard if you do not eat them all the first day? Someone had once suggested soaking thm in water for a while before roasting, but that did not work.
A perfectly timed post. I brought home (well, rather I shipped home) so many chestnuts from Italy to roast and use in my recipes. Merry Christmas
Happy roasting and Merry Xmas to you and yours.
My Italian mother in law always sprinkles a little salt over them when they are ready and still warm… it perfectly balances out the sweetness and makes it even harder to stop eating them.
I’ll have to try that next time. Have a wonderful holiday season!
I do love chestnuts… but got mine for thanksgiving and didn't roast them till christmas… bad idea… they were old and turned into little hard bricks… must get some fresh nuts and try again… they are really best in the fireplace, aren't they??
I haven't roasted chestnuts for a long time now. But thanks for bringing back the memories. 😀
I enjoy your blog.
Happy New Year!
Hello, great minds! I have recently gone chestnut crazy … I WISH I had one of these handy dandy tools, though, I used a paring knife to make the “x” and barely emerged with all my fingers intact, lol.
I always think of that song when I'm making or eating them too.
At the beginning of December they are perfect with a glass (or two or three) of novello wine.
I've been eating lots of chestnuts this winter – sometimes roasting them in a pan over the fireplace just as you do and pairing with some red wine – sometimes in the oven to use in stuffings – and sometimes when used for a recipe like chestnut and leek soup, with a really easy technique that makes peeling a breeze. Eating chestnuts is one of winter's joys.
You've made my mouth water. Our family, being French, grew up having chestnuts at Christmas. My dad always makes them but has had to get creative. He punched holes in the bottom of a pie plate and uses that as the chestnut pan and roasts them over a low gas flame on the stove. They're still divine and we've all suffered burned fingers gladly as we pull them open.
Thank you for this post and for the good memories you brought back.
I love chestnuts! Roasted, boiled ..in whatever form someone decide to prepare them 🙂 At home I prefer foil cooking (in the oven) – this way they are bit softer than the roasted ones.
Happy New Year, Frank!
have not had roasted chestnuts in a very long time either… we did it in the oven – our trees only produced enough for 1 or 2 small bucketfuls but what I remember most is the thorny husk or casing that always found way to my bare feet later in the spring…. looks like you are all set up for years of great roasting… happy new year to you and yours
thanks for the reminder that slits need to made in order to prevent popping.
I loooove roasted chestnuts… remind me of warming my cold hands in winter when as a kid I used to buy them from street stalls in Madrid… I have a very similar pan too and a chimney. Happy New Year, Frank!
This post brings back great memories of roasting chestnuts! I've never seen a chestnut knife before though! What will they think of next? Happy New Year! Theresa
I always roast in the oven – I must make a resolve to not be so boring. And now you have me in the mood…and the grocery store is still open….I'll be back.
I can't tell you how many roasted chestnuts I've had in the last month – and I'm not sick of 'em! I love the taste, especially when paired with a glass of pinot grigio! 🙂
I remember roasting chestnuts when I was a kid, but haven't done it since then! I don't know why, either, because I do like them. Love your blog 🙂
It's been a long time since we've roasted chestnuts. Thanks for the reminder.
Years ago, Bob took an old metal pan that we had and drilled holes in the bottom to make a chestnut roasting pan. It worked great, and we still have it. I may have to find some fresh chestnuts soon!
Happy New Year!