Delicious/Nutritious: Roasted chestnuts the perfect seasonal pairing
I hear a lot of talk about chestnuts these days. And who can resist the lure of a nostalgic chestnut roasting over an open fire sort of recipe?
I had to get on the chestnut bandwagon, and I’m so glad I did!
To roast chestnuts, just score them a bit and pop them in the oven on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Perfect, chestnutty beauty. Plus, they’re impressive! So lovely to look at you almost don’t want to eat them.
My chestnut recipe is a twist on an old favorite holiday appetizer. It’s so easy, it’s ridiculous.
Start with a small wheel (or a big one, if you’re a glutton, which I am) of Brie
Cut the rind off the top, and sprinkle with the following:
• 2 tablespoons brown sugar
• A handful of dried cranberries
• A handful of roasted, shelled chestnuts (skins removed)
• A hearty drizzle of honey
Microwave it for about 30 seconds until the Brie is soft and gooey but not completely melted.
Serve with apple or pear slices or some nice crackers.
This impresses guests (Brie always does) and it takes literally minutes to create. It’s a crowd favorite, I promise, and the chestnuts make it more holiday-ish and stylish, if I do say so myself.
Admittedly, I eat a lot of off-the-beaten-path foods. Wheatgrass, chia, tatsoi, passion fruit.
But I’d never, as far as I know, had chestnuts until Megan suggested them for this month’s column.
Like everyone else, I’d heard the song and pictured the quaint scene that involved roasting chestnuts over an open fire. But had I ever done that? Nope.
So, this Delicious/Nutritious challenge was an actual challenge for me — and a tasty one, at that.
Chestnuts, as it turns out, have a sweet yet sturdy flavor. Sort of like if you crossed a pecan with a cashew and threw in the texture of a macadamia nut. So, even though I’m fairly certain I’d never had a chestnut before in my life, it tasted somewhat familiar.
And that taste was so good, in fact, that I was sure glad I’d bought a half-pound of local organic ones from Chestnut Charlie’s before our photo shoot, because otherwise it would’ve been a race to the store for more at the last second.
They’re really great roasted (in an oven) on their own, but when paired with seasonal fruit and warmed, they help to create a super satisfying dessert without more than a teaspoon of (unrefined) added sweetness.
Note: If you can’t find Asian pears, you can substitute Bosc pears here. That said, the in-season Bosc might be so large that you may only be able to get half in a ramekin.
Warm Asian Pears with Chestnuts
1 Asian pear, cored and sliced thinly
4 roasted chestnuts (recipe below), chopped
1 teaspoon maple syrup
Dried cranberries, as needed
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub an oven-safe ramekin with coconut oil. Layer half the pear pieces in the ramekin. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon maple syrup and top that with half the chestnut pieces. Top with the rest of the pear pieces and top that with the remainder of the chestnuts. Put in the oven for 5 minutes and serve warm. Top with dried cranberries as desired.
1/2 pound of chestnuts
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Find the flat side of each chestnut and cut an X through it with a sharp paring knife. Once all of them have been marked with an X, place them on the cookie sheet and roast for about 30 to 40 minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon a couple of times while cooking.
Wait until they are cool enough to peel (but still warm) and peel. If you don’t get to them fast enough and they are tough to peel, reheat them a bit to get the skins to be more mobile.
Store whole in the fridge until use.