Kitchenware Products

It's Starting to Feel Like ... Chestnuts

If the familiar Christmas carol lyrics ¡°Chestnuts roasting on an open fire ¡± don¡¯t evoke strong visual images for you, buy some fresh Washington-grown chestnuts and roast them. This could become a new holiday tradition!

Purchase fresh chestnuts directly from a farm (see sources below, or buy them from your local grocer. Chestnuts are much more popular on European menus and have been a staple in many cultures for thousands of years.

Before Thanksgiving, I cheated and bought peeled, fully cooked chestnuts to add to turkey stuffing. They added a delicious nutty sweetness to the herbed dish.

As anyone who¡¯s tried to shell a chestnut knows, the most daunting task of using chestnuts in recipes is getting the meat out.

One customer and chestnut aficionado told Carolyn Young of Allen Creek Farm in Ridgeland that ¡°shelling the chestnuts should be considered a past-time.¡± Yes! Each autumn and early winter, he patiently shells fresh chestnuts while watching football games on TV. Now that¡¯s the spirit!

Chestnuts can be enjoyed raw, but are more commonly cooked. To eat them raw, peel off the outer shell plus the bitter inner skin (pellicle). They have a mild sweet flavor and crunch. They¡¯re easiest to peel if you first cut off the tips and boil for 1 minute, and then peel while still warm.

To cook chestnuts, roast or boil them. First, though, cut a shallow X in the flat side of each shell or score and then cut around the entire fat side so the chestnuts won¡¯t explode as they cook and will be easier to peel.

To roast, put the whole chestnuts in a single layer in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the shells start to split and the nuts smell fragrant. To boil, put the chestnuts in a saucepan, cover with water, and boil 20 minutes or until tender (test one before draining the rest). Peel the chestnuts while they¡¯re still hot, using gloves if necessary.

Here are some ideas from Colossal Orchards in Selah for using chestnuts in your cuisine:

Top a baked or microwaved butternut squash with chopped chestnuts and a little brown sugar.

Chop a few chestnuts and add to chicken noodle soup.

Combine whole chestnuts, steamed brussels sprouts, and 2 or 3 Tbsp chicken broth in a skillet. Bring to a boil; cover; cook 5 minutes.

Stir chopped chestnuts into your favorite stuffing. Chestnuts complement an apple-and-turkey-sausage stuffing especially well.

Chop chestnuts and use them in cookie batter in place of high-fat peanuts or macadamias.

Sprinkle chopped pieces over ice cream or apple pie for a tasty dessert.

Chestnuts are high in fiber, low in fat, and gluten-free. Look for fresh chestnuts at the grocer or purchase from Allen Creek Farm or Colossal Orchards. Allen Creek also sells chestnut flour, dried chestnuts, chestnut knives, roasting pans, and gift sets with items such as chestnut ¡®n honey cornbread, chestnut bisque and chestnut chowder soup mixes.

For more information about chestnuts, see:

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