To roast chestnuts, cut an X on the flat side.  Chestnut soup, a don’t-miss seasonal treat.  Brussels sprouts with roasted chestnuts from MyRecipes.com).
While canned chestnuts, and more recently, ready-to-eat vacuum-bagged chestnuts, can be found year-round, fresh chestnuts season lasts for only about two months.
Now is the time to enjoy their beguiling flavor and nutrients to the fullest extent.
They don’t have to be roasting on an open fire, per our favorite crooner, Nat King Cole. Roast chestnuts (lacking an open fire, we use the oven—here’s how) are a treat, but so are the luscious preparations that follow.
Long before they found their way onto holiday menus, chestnuts, which are tree nuts, were a dietary staple in the mountainous regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Because grains could not grow in those areas, chestnuts were a valuable source of nutrition.
In fact, chestnuts are nutritionally more like a grain than a nut. They are low in protein and fat, but high in starch and fiber. Naturally gluten free, they are the only nut that contains vitamin C.
SAVORY CHESTNUT USES
Add diced, halved or whole chestnuts to:
Appetizers (wrap with bacon instead of the classic water chestnuts)
Breads, dressings, muffins
Cream of chestnut soup (recipe)—a must-have seasonal treat
Puréed into dips, pestos, and as a delicious side, especially with chicken, duck, pheasant, pork, turkey, quail and veal
Garnishes for mains, soups, salads, vegetables
With grains, pilafs, risottos
With seasonal vegetables: Brussels sprouts, carrots, mushrooms, turnips—also in casseroles, stir-frys and omelet fillings
Candied (marrons glacés recipe)
Puréed and added to hot chocolate or coffee
Puréed and sweetened as a bread spread
Chestnut ice cream—puréed, diced or both
In a sweetened bread spread Mousse or Mont Blanc, sweetened chestnut purée in a meringue shell, topped with whipped cream
Cakes, plain and fancy (here’s a chestnut loaf cake)
Chestnut soufflé and a multitude of other desserts
SWEET CHESTNUT USES
RECIPE: BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH ROASTED CHESTNUTS
This recipe is from Mary R. Wendt, MD, author of Waist Away: How to Joyfully Lose Weight and Supercharge Your Life. She is an expert on making the transition to plant-based nutrition.
Ingredients For 4 Servings
½ pound chestnuts (fresh, approximately 2 cups), wiped clean
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half (approximately 5 cups)
¼ teaspoon salt
Fresh-ground pepper to taste
Optional additions: frizzled ham, sautéed leeks, sautéed wild mushrooms
1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Use a paring knife to score an “X” onto the flat side of each chestnut.
2. ARRANGE the chestnuts in a single layer in a large baking pan, with the X facing up. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the “X” flaps on the shell begin to curl away from the nut. Do not overcook!
3. REMOVE from the heat and partially cool until it’s comfortable to peel away and discard the shells. Chestnuts are easiest to peel when they are warm.
4. WARM the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and garlic. Sauté for 5-10 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally until lightly browned.
5. ADD the chestnuts to the skillet and cook covered for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the Brussels sprouts are very brown. Stir in the salt and pepper and sauté an additional 2-3 minutes.
6. GARNISH as desired and serve.