Too often roasted chestnuts ended up disappointing; overbaked and dry; under-baked and tough or just plain hard to peel. Until, that is, we found this foolproof method; it works every time. And, now that chestnut season is upon us we get to enjoy them every Shabbos.
Place the chestnuts flat side down on a cutting board. Use a small paring knife to score an X through the skin on the rounded side of each chestnut. Why the rounded side? It’s just easier than the flat side.
Once you've scored them all, place the chestnuts in a small sauce pan with water to cover and boil 1 minute. This will help them steam in the oven. Drain and pat the chestnuts dry. Place on a sheet pan.
Bake at 425°F until the edges of the chestnut shells really curl up, 20-25 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven cool for a minute or two. Using a towel, crack open the shells a bit to make the shell easier to remove later. Keep in a foil pan on the blech or warming drawer until ready to serve.
If you prefer to boil, cover chestnuts with cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for three minutes. Remove from heat. Scoop out a few at a time and peel off the shell and skin with a sharp knife. As they cool, they become more difficult to peel, so keep them in hot water until you are ready to peel. If you use this method they chestnuts need to be cooked 5 minutes longer once they are shelled.
Chestnuts cooked completely in the shell are best served with a spoon—peeling is not really an option.
If you want to serve chestnuts as a side dish or an accompaniment to dessert try them glazed. Here’s a simple method:
For the syrup:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean
2 pounds chestnuts, peeled (prepare your own or use ready-to-eat, packaged chestnuts)
In a 3 or 4 quart saucepan dissolve the sugar in the water over low heat. Add the vanilla bean and cook the syrup over medium heat, stirring it gently with a wooden spoon, until the syrup thickens somewhat.
Add the chestnuts and simmer them over a very low heat for 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and let them sit for 10 minutes more.
Remove the chestnuts one at a time and arrange them on a serving plate.
Serve them for dessert with whipped cream or use to garnish sweet soups like butternut or pumpkin.
1/3 cup finely chopped shallot
1/4 cup canola oil, divided
15-oz whole roasted chestnuts, about 3 cups
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 cup whiskey
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 pound haricots verts or other thin green beans, trimmed
Cook shallots in 2 tablespoons oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add chestnuts, broth, and liqueur and syrup. Cook, swirling skillet occasionally or stirring until liquid is evaporated and chestnuts are glazed, 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then remove from heat and keep warm.
Cook beans in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water , uncovered, until crisp-tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain in a colander, then transfer beans with tongs to a large bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking. Drain well.
Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat until lightly browned. Add beans and toss until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season chestnuts to your liking with salt and pepper. Serve beans topped with chestnuts or toss together in the skillet. This can be prepared in advance, refrigerated and reheated just before serving.