Freshly roasted chestnuts are a winter delicacy you can make easily, using a microwave or toaster oven.
Well, these aren’t quite “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”, but they’re the easiest next best thing. I like using a toaster oven for convenience and power savings, but if you don’t have a toaster oven, the regular kitchen oven works just as well. Just make sure to cut into the chestnut shells before roasting as shown in step 2 below to prevent the chestnuts from exploding in whichever oven you’re using to a avoid a nasty mess to clean up (I know this from experience!)
When buying fresh chestnuts, select those that are firm to the touch—the shell should not give when squeezed with your thumb as shown in the picture below. Also, choose those chestnuts that are heavier rather than lighter in weight and don’t have any signs of mold or small round wormholes in their shells.
If you’re not roasting the fresh chestnuts the same day you bought them, put them in a plastic bag and store them in the refrigerator for about 1 week. Just beware, the quality of chestnuts degrades steadily over time.
About 1/4 Pound Fresh Chestnuts Per Person
Kitchen Oven or Toaster Oven
Small Sharp (Paring) Knife
Potholder or Folded Dishtowel
1.If you’re using a toaster oven, skip to step 2. Otherwise, set an oven rack a third to halfway up from the kitchen oven bottom, and pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees (235° C).
2. Use a small sharp (paring) knife to make ½ – ¾ inch long, shell penetrating shallow cuts across and along the grain of the shell of both sides of the chestnuts so that the chestnuts look as shown in the third picture below. (These cuts will allow steam to
escape and prevent the chestnuts from exploding during roasting.)
3. Do as follows according to whether you’re roasting the chestnuts in a kitchen oven (left column) or toaster oven (right column).
|Put the cut chestnuts on a baking pan.||If your toaster oven allows, place the rack in the middle of the toaster oven.|
|When the oven reaches 450 degrees, put the chestnuts in the oven and,…||Put the cut chestnuts on the toaster oven rack.|
|…set a timer for 25 minutes.||Turn on the toaster oven to 450 degrees (235° C) – you might have to estimate the temperature as shown here), and…|
|When the timer sounds, remove the baking pan from the oven with a potholder, and…||…set a timer for 25 minutes.|
|…pour the roasted chestnuts onto a plate.||When the timer sounds, use a potholder or folded dishtowel to pull out the toaster oven rack, and…|
|…then carefully transfer the roasted chestnuts onto a plate.|
4. Let the freshly roasted chestnuts cool until they’re safe enough to touch. Then crack and peel the shell, and …
… remove as much of the fuzzy membrane as possible, which is actually optional. I sometimes like the added crispy crunch and flavor from the chestnut membrane, though I’ll sure agree that’s a matter of taste. Bottom line: don’t worry if you can’t peel away all the membrane.
Images courtesy of Bruce Tretter