Roasting chestnuts over an open fire is a quintessential holiday tradition pulled straight out of a Normal Rockwell painting (and a Nat King Cole song). If you’ve only heard about roasted chestnuts, but never tried them yourself, you’re in for a treat. After roasting, the nut is turned into a tender, earthy delight more like a mushroom or potato than a nut. When roasted over a fire, the added smoky flavor enhances the taste even more.
Most people buy either Castagne or Marroni chestnuts. Marroni are more expensive, but typically easier to peel and a bit more tender. Pick out chestnuts that are firm, blemish-free, and smooth. Shake each one to check if the nut has pulled away from the skin; when chestnuts go bad, they’ll feel soft and rattle when you shake them. Try to get chestnuts that are uniform in size so they cook at the same rate.
Be careful when you’re roasting the chestnuts. The popping sound some people associate with roasting is actually a little chestnut explosion. As they heat up, if the steam has nowhere to go, it will eventually force its way out. That’s why, as noted above, you’ll want to score each one before putting them in the fire.
Finally, once the roasting process is complete, you can eat the tender chestnuts plain, or dip them in butter and cinnamon-sugar for a sweet holiday treat.