With the sound of Nat King Cole singing sweetly in the background, it’s time to roast your own chestnuts.
First, pick chestnuts at the store that are firm, clean and not moldy. If you can squeeze them and feel the shell dimple and the hard kernel underneath, the nuts may have dried out and could be moldy inside. American-grown Dunstan nuts are a smooth brown in color, and rounded in shape, whereas imported nuts from Europe are often pointed at one end, and often somewhat tiger-striped in coloration. If you can find them, the American grown nuts will be better (sweeter) tasting, and peel easier. What you most often find roasted on the street in New York City are European nuts.
Traditional roasting is over charcoal or an open flame, with the nuts’ shells blackened from cooking. Special chestnut roasting pans with holes in the bottom to allow the flames to hit the nuts are available in the stores to cook them this way, often with long handles to place the pan into the fire. If you leave some of the nuts uncut, when they start to explode (like the song says, pop pop pop!), they are done. Take them off the flames and let them cool before eating.
To Oven Roast: With a sharp knife, cut an “X” at the end of the nut. Be sure to cut through the outer skin down to the meat of the nut otherwise they can explode. Arrange X-cut chestnuts in a single layer in a roasting pan / baking sheet. Place in oven at 350 degrees for 15- 25 minutes or until the nut can be easily pierced with fork or knife tip.
Peel and enjoy!
To Precook and Peel Nuts: With a sharp knife or cleaver, cut the nuts in half. Place in boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and immediately peel. The half kernels will peel easily when still hot. Remove both the shell and the seed coat (the thin skin between the kernel and shell). Dunstan Chestnuts peel very easily! Other varieties, such as European imports often found in stores, do not.
To Microwave: Arrange X-cut Dunstan Chestnuts in a single layer in a microwave safe dish. Microwave on High for 1-2 minutes. Microwave a maximum of 12 Chestnuts at one time so they cook evenly.