Roasting Chestnuts on an Open Fire
I love the line in that classic Christmas song that describes the chestnuts roasting on the open fire. Chestnuts are one of my favorite nuts and it makes them all the more special in that you can only get them around the winter holidays. Chestnuts are of the beech family and while they grow in America, the ones consumed are mostly shipped over from Europe or Asia. The nut actually grows inside a protective spiny casing which they fall out of when mature. What we see in the stores are the chestnut with its second protective coating, a hard brown shiny husk.
To eat a chestnut, you first need to score or cut the husk so that steam from inside can escape, otherwise the nut might explode. My mom always made an “x” on the rounder side of the chestnuts, so that is what I did as well. Just as the song suggested, I opted to roast my chestnuts this Christmas near my open fire.
I scored all of the chestnuts, put them score side up in a roasting/fire-pan and set them near the flames of our fireplace. Using an oven glove, shake the pan often so as not to burn the nuts. You know when they are done first, by the wonderful nutty smell that will fill your home, and secondly, by the “popping” sound they will make. The edges of the score that you made will begin to curl up and back, also indicating that they are ready.
Let them cool a bit before handling them. Once they are cool enough to work with, you can begin to peel off the outer husk. Often the inner fuzzy skin will come off with the husk, but sometimes you need to pick at it a bit or rub it off. While it is edible, it tastes better without the fuzzy pieces.
The texture of warm chestnuts almost remind me of the texture found in potatoes. Starchy, firm, yet yielding when chewed. The taste however is sweet, nutty, and earthy.