How to Eat Chestnuts

by Fred Decker

American chestnuts were wiped out by disease, but hybrids are now being grown.

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Items you will need

  • Paring knife
  • Baking sheet
  • Saucepan
  • Broth
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Fresh herbs
  • Bread or cornbread
  • Chestnut paste or puree

Chestnuts are widely eaten around the world, and are a feature of cuisines from African to English. They are an unusual nut, very high in natural carbohydrates and sugars. In that respect, they resemble a carrot or potato more so than most other nuts. Fresh chestnuts are hard and glossy, and heavy for their size. They can be stored in your refrigerator's vegetable crisper for weeks, but should be given a few days at room temperature to develop sweetness before they are prepared and eaten.

Step 1

Cut a long slit through the shell of each nut with a paring knife, or the traditional smaller X-shaped cut, before cooking by any method. This will allow steam to escape and prevent the nuts from exploding.

Step 2

Place the nuts on the hearth, in front of an open fire, for five to seven minutes or until they are visibly steaming and hissing. Peel and eat them hot.

Step 3

Roast the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 15 minutes. Peel and eat them hot, or reserve the peeled nuts for use in other dishes.

Step 4

Boil the nuts until tender in a pot or saucepan, just like a potato. Test the nuts for doneness by sliding the tip of a paring knife into the slit in the shell. When the knife goes in easily, the nuts are done. Peel them as soon as they are cool enough to handle, and use them in your favorite recipe.

Step 5

Simmer peeled chestnuts in broth, with aromatic ingredients such as leeks or onions. Puree them and finish with cream and fresh herbs, to make a richly flavored soup.

Step 6

Use boiled or roasted chestnuts with bread or cornbread to make a holiday stuffing for your turkey or goose.

Step 7

Squeeze sweetened or unsweetened chestnut paste or puree into pastry recipes, fillings, pancakes or other batters. The puree will give a distinctive chestnut flavor to baked goods or savory dishes.

Tips

  • Roasting concentrates the chestnut flavor -- use it for recipes in which the chestnuts are the featured ingredient. Boiling mellows the flavor of chestnuts -- use it for recipes in which they play a supporting role.

    Chestnuts are starchy enough to be used as a vegetable, once roasted or boiled.

Warnings

  • Chestnut purees and pastes are often sweetened. Pay close attention when purchasing, and be sure to get the appropriate version for your sweet or savory recipe.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

About the Author

Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.