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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Roasting Chestnuts- Fuggedaboutit

I am obsessed with cooking & travel shows that showcase the local delicacies.  I admit it, I need serious help- and I don't know if even Dr Drew can save me.  Some women have crushes on Brad Pitt or Matt Damon- me, I would sell my stuff and run off with Anthony Bourdain without a second thought.  I grew up with a father who loved to cook and did most of it- not the typical Italian household.  My Mom likes to say that he knew he didn't marry "Betty Crocker" and since he actually enjoyed cooking - she just let him take over!  Don't get me wrong- my mom has her 3 things she makes- and makes really well (love you Mom!)- she just doesn't get the same joy out of her culinary creations that we inherited from our Dad.  I was always fascinated when he lingerered over the stove- drinking wine while stirring pigskin into his homemade sauce, cooking up dandelion greens and  roasting bones in the oven for a stew.  I have fond memories of filling jar after jar of cherry peppers stuffed with proscuitto and cheese with my brother and him up at the lake-I think it was "one for me, one for the jar" most of the afternoon.  As I got older, I would invite him over for dinner at whatever circus-like apartment I was living in at the moment.   As I served my latest creation, I always watched his face carefully to see what he really thought of my efforts.  My dad was a lot of things- a good liar he was not.  I was always fascinated by his wine-soaked stories of making homemade bread in Italy, the chestnuts they roasted, ripe figs they picked right off their trees.  He taught me how to appreciate the most basic ingredients and create something almost magical with them.  These days, my taste varies from Italian to Mexican and even Asian- if my Dad could only see me now!

One Italian tradition that my brother and I enjoy year-round is our love of chestnuts.  We like to roast them over an open flame and come up with every excuse in the book to have a bonfire.  If it's been snowing, he even has been known to snowblow a path to his outdoor "kitchen" and shovel out some standing room for his guests! 

For those of you who have always been curious about chestnuts, cooking them is actually very easy.

First, you must score your chestnuts to allow steam to escape.  Basically, take a sharp knife and cut an "X" on the flat side of your chestnut. 

Then, place them in a pan that has had holes drilled through it so the heat can penetrate and cook evenly (we made ours on our own, but I am sure you can buy them premade- God bless the internet!)

Get your fire raging....

Or you can use a brick oven like my bro's (he made his himself!).   You can also do this stovetop with the same pan, just keep them moving and hang out stoveside so they don't burn!

Now, have some rum punch while you wait....

And enjoy some good company while they cook!  Keep stirring them- you don't want them to burn!


  1. I"M DOING THIS! How will i know they are done???

  2. Beans- It will take 20-30 minutes to roast your chestnuts. When cooked, the shells will burst open, and the chestnut will be golden brown. The tricky part is actually knowing when they are done! If you over-cook OR under-cook them, they will get hard and the inner skin will be very difficult to remove. Let them cool for a few so the shell is easier to peel off. It may take you a few tries to get the hang of this but that's part of the fun- once you master it, you will be so glad you did! Let me know how yours come out!

  3. holy crap! First, this post made me ravenous and I wish I met your dad. Second, I love how we both made references to Bourdain regularly in our posts. I too love him and would run off w/ him at the drop of a hat. (I would be willing to share him w/ u. I have a feeling he has what it takes to handle us both.) Third, when do we get the punch recipe :-)

    I love roasted (chest)nuts (and ones with hair on them) and now i'm psyched i have a true recipe!

  4. Gwen- i admit, i am over the top with this one. I went to the market the other day, knowing i wouldnt even see my brother this week- but what did i buy? Half a pound of chestnuts - cuz i felt thhe shakes coming on since i had none at home. Hahahaha. Half kidding. Im thinking of making them right now actually.... i have issues. :]

  5. Oh and i think u are right about tony. ;)