How to Roast Chestnuts at Home
Whether or not you’ve got that open fire.
Whether you’re already listening to Bing Crosby, or you're catching the wafting smells from street-corner vendors, chestnuts roasting on an open fire can be top of mind as the weather cools down. Chestnuts are a versatile, healthy ingredient that can add sweet or savory flair to your holiday table. And to get the time-honored flavor, all you need is a sheet pan and your oven. Here’s everything you need to know about how to roast chestnuts.
How to Pick and Store Them
When it comes to roasting chestnuts, it’s important to only work with fresh chestnuts. Canned or jarred chestnuts have a different consistency, and won’t yield that same result.. Wynn Las Vegas’ executive chef Kelly Bianchi recommends looking for chestnuts that are firm, shiny and heavy for their size.
Every year, chef Andrea Reusing roasts chestnuts to order at her night market at the Durham in North Carolina, but she uses them throughout the season in various ways. She recommends storing fresh chestnuts in a cold, dry environment (excess moisture can lead to mold) and using them within a month of their harvest.
How to Prep and Roast Them
Classic Roasted Chestnuts don’t require much more than an oven and a sack of chestnuts. Prep the chestnuts by scoring the tops: Make a deep X with a small, sharp paring knife (this will keep them from exploding). You can blanch them first, which Bianchi does, before roasting them in a super-hot oven. Reusing likes to arrange them in a single loose layer of a preheated cast-iron pan over a medium flame before finishing them in a hot oven (450-500 degrees) until they are fragrant, about five minutes. Ted Allen’s simplest-of-all method, from his Chestnut Stuffing recipe, calls for arranging the chestnuts on a sheet pan with a 1/4 cup of water and baking at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. No matter the preferred method, once roasted, the chestnuts’ shells should be brittle enough to crack easily with a slight squeeze. Allow them to cool slightly, but peel the chestnuts while they’re still warm.
“Chestnuts have a subtle, mellow flavor that’s easily overwhelmed by strong flavors or too much acid,” Reusing says. “Fat is where it’s at: brown butter, olive oil or cream.” Bianchi is a fan of brown butter too, pairing it with sage for an on-point fall flavor duo.
Roasted chestnuts’ flavor profile lends it to recipes both savory and sweet. Bianchi makes a chestnut cream to garnish roasted squash soup. She also uses them to make a pureed, sweetened chestnut paste, the signature ingredient used in the classic dessert of Mont Blanc. At The Durham, Reusing makes a nutty flour for noodles and turns roasted chestnuts into a caramel that’s served alongside buckwheat cookies at dessert. At Lantern, she makes a steamed chestnut sticky rice for a bibimbap base and a sought-after dessert of chestnut frozen custard topped with candied chestnuts.
Try these recipes to bring that classic flavor to your holiday table:
Ready to take things next level? Serve this Chestnut Soup with Fried Parsley as an elegant appetizer. Or end the meal with a dramatic dessert of Drunken Chestnuts, in which roasted chestnuts are flambéed with rum and sugar, or Roger Mooking’s guaranteed-to-impress Fire Roasted Chestnut Caramel Cookies.