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feature1As a child nothing seemed more festive than chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but it wasn’t until adulthood that I actually tasted the wintry treat.  I found myself in Paris, France on a frigid, Christmas night without gloves, so I bought a bag hot chestnuts to keep my hands warm.  I wasn’t planning on eating the nuts, but the pleasant, buttery smell awoke my stomach and before long I was nibbling away at my hand warmer.   Not long after that, the chestnuts were gone and my hands were once again cold, but I was content.

feature4This time of year chestnuts arrive in the grocery stores, so I visited Garden Cove Produce and  picked up a bag to see if I could roast them myself.  I researched (and failed) at several different recipes.  Here is what worked for me.

Step 1: Select some fun holiday music to listen too while you bake.  Note: Don’t disregard this step!

Step 2: Rinse the dust and dirt off your chestnuts.  Note: There is no photo, as I figured you didn’t need a demo of this. (Also I forgot to take a photo)

Step 3: Preheat the oven to 425° F. Note: Though I am sure an open fire is more festive I found roasting chestnuts in an electric oven MUCH easier.  

Step 4: Cut an “X” on the rounded part of each chestnut.  If you don’t do this the nuts explode in a terrifying manner.

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Don’t almost cut your finger off as I am illustrating in this photo. It’s hard to demo and photograph at the same time.

Step 5: Place your chestnuts on a baking sheet with the “X” facing up.  Note: I’m not sure what happens if the “X” if facing down, but after the scary  forgetting to make an “X” incident I wasn’t taking any chances.

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Step 6: Place baking sheet (and chestnuts) in oven for 25 minutes.

My mouth is watering already!

My mouth is watering already!

Chestnut Not So Fun Fact!  Chestnuts have two shells: a hard outer shell and an inner soft shell called the pith.  The first and second attempts at roasting chestnuts I baked them too long and I couldn’t get the pith off.  It is a bit of trial and error, but well worth the work as the nuts are delicious.  25 minutes at 425° seemed to be the magic equation for me.  

FAIL!! Notice the pesky inner shell that won't come off on the left side of the photograph.  *grumble, grumble*

FAIL!! Notice the pesky inner shell that won’t come off on the left side of the photograph. *grumble, grumble*

Marriage Not So Fun Fact! My husband said I over-cooked the first batch, which was why the shells wouldn’t come off.  I said he was crazy, as I followed the directions to the letter.  An argument ensued and I roasted a new batch with a shorter time to prove that I was right and more importantly that he was wrong.  Dang it, if those shells didn’t come right off!  I hate when he’s right. 

Step 7:  Don’t burn yourself, but remove the shells while the chestnut is still fairly hot.  As the nut cools done it is harder to remove the shells.  The shells should come off fairly easily, unless you have over or undercooked the nuts.

Roasted chestnuts and morning coffee.

Roasted chestnuts and morning coffee.

Step 8: Enjoy your chestnuts warm with a cup of tea or coffee.  feature7

Sarah Belanger

Sarah works as a photographer and writer in North Alabama and has photographed for numerous national brands including Southern Living and Cooking Light. She also writes for several local magazines including No’Ala Magazine and Huntsville Event Magazine. See more of her work at S. Belanger Photography and keep up with her adventures at The Jealous Crumpet.