Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Thing #347--"...Merry Christmas to You"

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

The Christmas Song (Mel Tormé and Bob Wells 1944)

Today I roasted (and ate) chestnuts.

Earlier this year, I read in the newspaper that Missouri produces a fair number of chestnuts, but they need to do a better job of promotion; nobody I know uses them. (According to this website, U.S. consumers consume 0.1 lb of chestnut per capita, Europeans average 1.0 lb per capita, and Koreans are the world's largest chestnut consumers at 4.0 lbs per capita).

After I read the article I added "roasting chestnuts" to my list of Things to do and promptly forgot about it until last week. I was in the grocery store, saw a bin of chestnuts, and added some to my cart.

The Internet was full of information about how to prepare chestnuts:
The most popular method of cooking chestnuts is roasting.

It's important to puncture or cut the shell before roasting. Use a sharp knife to cut a ½-inch "X" on the flat side of each nut, cutting down to the meat. DO NOT roast a chestnut until the shell has been cut; if the shell is not punctured, steam pressure will build up and cause the nuts to explode.

Preheat the oven to 425 °. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes (or until the shells open and the nuts can be removed easily). Partially cool the nuts and peel them while they're still warm.
I only bought about a dozen chestnuts at the store, because I didn't know who'd be around to eat them. Turns out that was plenty, because there were only three of us. A couple of hours after dinner, I cut the shells, put the chestnuts in the oven, and set the timer. When they were done, I poured them in a bowl and carried them into the family room. Everyone grabbed a nut and started peeling; since it was my project, I got to peel the remaining ones!

The shells were much easier to peel then I imagined; I found out that the better the cut on the shell, the easier it was to take off. Hot chestnuts peeled easier than cool ones (but were harder on the fingers), so there was a fine line between tractability and comfort.

I was surprised at the texture of the nutmeat. It was much softer than a pecan or walnut, and not at all crunchy. The flavor was sweet and nutty. Overall, quite a treat.

2 comments:

  1. Merry Christmas. I have nominated your blog for the Pop-tastic award. Come on by and pick up your certificate.

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  2. Tom, my HTB (husband-to-be), introduced me to roasted chestnuts about 4 years ago. He was born in Europe and lived there until he came to the US at the age of nine. He gets a kick out of bringing chestnuts to holiday parties and roasting them for our uninitiated American friends.
    Honestly, although I will share them with him, I could never get too excited over the flavour. A bit bland, I think.

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