One of the treats farm stands and markets offer each fall are sweet chestnuts. Also known as Italian chestnuts, these large nuts are a shiny brown that makes them decorative as well as flavorful. If you collect chestnuts from your own trees or from your neighborhood, you'll have to contend with the spiky outer casing, but nuts purchased in stores will have already removed it for you. Although these seasonal snacks are often roasted, chestnuts can be cooked using several methods.
Preparing the Nuts
Store your chestnuts in the refrigerator until you are ready to prepare them. Fresh chestnuts will keep for a week in the fridge.
Remove the chestnuts from the refrigerator two days before you want to cook them. Lay them uncovered in a single layer on a cookie sheet. This allows the meat inside the nut to develop a sweeter flavor.
Rinse the nuts in cold water just before cooking them. Dry the nuts with a towel, and then cut a shallow X into each nut's shell. Make this cut deep enough to penetrate the shell, but not so deep you cut into the nut's meat.
Heat your oven to 375 degrees. As the oven is heating, spread your chestnuts out in a single layer on a cookie sheet.
Roast the nuts for five to 10 minutes. Turn the nuts, and then continue roasting for another 10 minutes or until the nuts feel tender.
Remove the nuts from the oven and wrap them in a kitchen towel to keep them warm. Let them sit for 10 minutes, and then peel the nuts.
Pan Roasting or Grilling
Warm a wide, stainless steel or cast iron skillet over medium heat on the stove or a medium flame on a grill.
Place the nuts in the skillet. Leave enough room in the pan so the nuts can be easily turned.
Roast the nuts for 10 to 12 minutes or until the shells split. Turn the nuts occasionally so they roast evenly. Once the nuts have finished roasting, wrap them in a towel, let them sit for 10 minutes and then peel off the shell.
Less Conventional Methods
Save time by microwaving your chestnuts. Place them on a microwave safe dish in a single layer and microwave on high in 30-second increments until the nuts feel tender. Fewer than 10 nuts will take less than a minute to cook.
Indulge yourself by deep-frying chestnuts. Peel the nuts before deep-frying them, 10 at a time, in 350-degree oil for three to five minutes. Remove the nuts from the oil and allow them to drain on a paper towel.
Boil chestnuts to add a salty kick to the nuts' sweet meat. Peel the chestnuts and place them in cold, salted water. Bring the water to a boil, and then cover the pot and allow the nuts to simmer for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the nuts and allow them to drain on a paper towel.
- If you've collected fresh nuts, wear gloves to peel away the outer casing before you begin the preparation step.
- It's easiest to peel chestnuts when they are warm.
- When deep-frying chestnuts, the oil should fully cover the nuts.
- You do not need to score the chestnuts if you are deep-frying or boiling them. Instead, peel the nuts entirely.
- Use extreme caution when cutting the X into the chestnut. The nuts can easily slip out of your grip and cause you to cut yourself. To stay safe, wear a thick glove on the hand holding the nut.
- Do not skip the scoring step unless deep-frying or boiling. The X allows steam to escape and prevents the nut from exploding as it cooks.
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