Chestnuts roasting on an open fire...You know the song. Sadly, the closest many of us have ever gotten to roasting chestnuts on an open fire is sticking them in the oven. You know the drill. You cut the X's into the shell, roast them, and then you have to quickly peel off the skins while they're hot (inevitably burning your fingers along the way).
Even if you're lucky, you only have a 75% success rate, since many stubborn chestnuts refuse to slip from their skins once cooled. After many personal chestnut roasting fails, I have resorted to just buying them from the street carts of Manhattan. That is until recently, when I discovered a foolproof way to get it right, every single time. Read on to see how it's done:
If you've been spreading your chestnuts across a baking sheet to roast them, you're doing it ALL WRONG. You see, what chestnuts really need to open up is steam. Keeping them warm just until you peel them is also key. Here are some tips for roasted chestnut perfection every time.
Don't forget the X! Place the chestnuts flat side down on a cutting board. Use a small paring knife to score an X through the skin on the rounded side of each chestnut.
Soak 'em! Once you've scored them all, place the chestnuts in a bowl of hot water for 1 minute. This willl help them steam in the oven. Drain and pat the chestnuts dry. If you want to add herbs or flavorings, this is the time. Toss the chestnuts in a bowl with a combo of melted butter, rosemary, sea salt, or any other combo of fat, herb, and salt.
Wrap them up! Tear a generous length of of aluminum foil and place the chestnuts in a single layer. Gather up the edges to form a parcel with a small opening on top (while still keeping them in a single layer). Place the parcel on a baking sheet. You can stack multiple parcels on one baking sheet if you need to.
Work quickly! Bake at 350°F until the edges of the chestnut shells really curl up, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and working one parcel at a time, peel off the shell and the skin at the X. (A paring knife sometimes makes this job easier). Do this as SOON as they are cool enough to handle; the shells are harder to peel when cold. Don't open up a parcel until you are ready to peel the chestnuts. Eat the chestnuts right away or store them in the fridge for up to 3 days for soups, gnocchi, and snacking.