I know it doesn’t feel like it, but winter is around the corner. What better way to warm up a cold evening than a dish of freshly roasted chestnuts? Roasting season officially begins around the beginning of November and fresh chestnuts are available at your local grocery store now until Christmas.
Roasted or boiled, chestnuts are served as a Petisco, appetizers or snack-type meal similar to Spanish tapas. The chestnuts are typically enjoyed in the company of friends and family, at around the same time that homemade wine is ready for a first taste. What better pairing?
Traditionally, the chestnut feast and celebration of the wine falls on November 11 which is St Martin’s Day, known as the patron saint of the harvest. This informal harvest festival, is celebrated by Portuguese descendants in North America, as was as in Portugal. Sao Martinho, as he is known in Portugal, provides a great excuse to bring wine and chestnuts together.
Their nutty taste can provide a compelling substitution for potatoes with pork, or with other desserts. They’re also nutritious, with protein as well as vitamins and minerals.
Pick firm, smooth, blemish-free chestnuts. Keep the fresh chestnuts in the refrigerator until ready to use. Cook them in advance, and keep warm, until just before serving. Using a small paring knife, peel back the outer shell that should come off easily after cooking, and the thin layer of brown membrane that covers the cream colored chestnut meat.
Half the fun of eating the chestnuts is sharing the chore of peeling the treat with friends over conversation and wine.
- 1 lb (500 g) fresh chestnuts
- 1 tsp (5 mL) coarse salt (or to taste)
Using a sharp knife, score a cross on the flat side of each chestnut. In a large saucepan, add the chestnuts and enough water to cover them. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, until tender. (Alternatively, place the chestnuts on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated 400F/200C oven, shaking the sheet occasionally, for 30 minutes, until tender.)
Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.