giovedì 13 novembre 2008

It's Chestnut Harvest Season!

In Italy, this time of year you will find street vendors selling delicious roasted chestnuts. It’s chestnut harvest season, and now is the perfect time to learn different ways to prepare this unusual but tasty nut.

The most common way to prepare chestnuts is to roast them. This is an easy task. Simply poke several holes in each chestnut or cut an “X” in the flat side of the nut prior to roasting. Then place the chestnuts on a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Placing an “X” might be a better option than simply poking holes in the nuts, because it can facilitate easier peeling of the shell when you’re ready to enjoy them. Roasted chestnuts are particularly delicious when buttered and sprinkled with a bit of sugar.

Chestnuts are often frequently boiled. This is the best method to use when you need fully cooked chestnuts to use as part of another recipe. To boil chestnuts, pierce the nut shell as described in the steps for roasting. Bring water to a boil, then boil the chestnuts at a rolling boil for about 15-20 minutes. Boiled chestnuts can be mashed, and are sometimes used as a substitute for potatoes or pasta. You will also find them used in stuffings and desserts.

Chestnuts can be used in a wide variety of recipes. You can use chestnuts to create chestnut bread, chestnut cheesecake, cream of chestnut soup, and chestnut dip. Chestnuts make an excellent addition to many holiday stuffing recipes, and chestnut puree is frequently combined with chocolate in a variety of delicious dessert recipes.

Chestnuts may also be baked, steamed in a regular vegetable steamer, baked, or stewed. You will find that many recipes, particularly dessert recipes, will call for pureed chestnuts. To puree chestnuts, follow the instructions for boiling them. After you’ve removed the brown shells, place them in a saucepan with water and boil them again for a full half hour, or until they’re easily mashable. You can then use a hand potato masher or mixer to really mash the chestnuts. After the chestnuts are well mashed, return them to a saucepan to add butter and other spices that are appropriate for your recipe. For desserts, you may want to add cinnamon and sugar, and for other recipes, salt, pepper, or other spices may be appropriate.

Do you have any delicious chestnut recipes you’d like to share? We’d love to hear your ideas!

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