We had the best time last night sitting by the fire, roasting chestnuts and singing Christmas carols! Several years ago, we had our fireplace (which was originally designed to burn coal) re-built to burn wood. It was one of the best decisions we ever made! This year we decided to try roasting our own chestnuts. We purchased a chestnut-roasting pan, which looks like a skillet with holes punched in its bottom, and waited for the chestnuts to go on sale.
When buying chestnuts, pick over them carefully, choosing only those that are a rich brown color and firm. If they smell like mold, look dull or blotchy, feel light and rattle, or have pin-holes, leave them behind.
Before roasting the chestnuts, wipe them down with a damp cloth and use a paring knife to cut an “X” on the round side of each nut, to keep them from exploding. Put the chestnuts in the pan, spritz them with a little water, and then set the pan over the flame. Shake the pan frequently and continue roasting until the skins are charred. The skins will peel back from the meat where you cut into them; this should take 10-15 minutes (or longer depending on how hot the fire is.) The tricky part is knowing when they are done. Under-cooked chestnuts are translucent and leathery in the middle, while over-cooked chestnuts get dry and mealy. With practice, you will be able to tell when they are perfect.
Wrap the hot chestnuts in an old towel, squeeze them hard to crush the skins, and let them steam in the towel for five or so minutes to make them peel more easily. Open the towel and peel the chestnuts and serve them warm. Of course, you may want to sing a few verses of “The Christmas Song” before nibbling on the roasted treats!
Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!!