Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, Then What?

Ahh, chestnuts, they conjure such cozy images of all the traditional winter activities - skating, sharing good times with friends - so you buy some and bring them home. And there they sit till the holidays are over and you finally toss them out. Somehow, roasting them seems tricky or dangerous. And then you have to decide what to do with them...

We have a few suggestions.

First, the roasting. It is, in fact a little dangerous, but only if you neglect to cut into them first. As they heat up, they start to steam and if the steam has no place to go, they will explode, leaving an awful mess in your oven, or possibly taking out the lamp in your family room if you do decide to go the "open fire" route. An "X" is the traditional chestnut cut, but a half inch slit works just as well. Be careful of your fingers on this - they can be slippery.

Once the cuts are made, put them on a cookie sheet and into a 350 degree oven for 15 - 20 minutes. They will open up a bit when they're ready.

Take them out and leave them till they're nearly cool and then peel. Don't let them cool completely, they're easier to peel when still a little warm. At this point, they should taste wonderfully sweet with a firm but not crunchy texture.

You can put the nicely peeled chestnuts in a dish with a little salt and pepper as part of a pre-dinner cheese plate. They go very well with aged cheeses and olives.

But of course, we always buy far more than our guests will eat before dinner, so here's a recipe to use up the leftovers.

Rotini with Chestnuts and Bacon
(serves 4)

1 Pound Rotini Pasta

4 Slices Bacon, cut up
1 Dozen Chestnuts, roasted and peeled
2 Small Shallots (or 1/2 Medium Onion), chopped
1/2 Cup Dry White Wine (optional)
1/2 Cup Chicken Stock (optional)
1 Cup Button Mushrooms, quartered
1 Cup 35% Whipping Cream

In a saucepan, cook the bacon. When it is half-done, add the onion. When the onion is soft and starting to colour, add the mushrooms and white wine (if using). Cook until most of the wine has evaporated. Add the chicken stock (if using) and reduce by half. Add the cream and cook until sauce has thickened slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add the roasted chestnuts.

Cook and drain the pasta. Toss with the sauce. Sprinkle with best-quality parmesan cheese.


1 comment:

margaret atkinson said...

mmmm, thanks for the excellent tips! i can't wait to try it! my chestnuts always cause a small explosion...