Family Recipe Friday - Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire!
The Greeks first introduced the chestnut tree to Europe. The majority of the chestnut trees currently found in North America are from European stock; however, Native Americans did enjoy their own variety of chestnuts long before European immigrants brought their own varieties.
In 1904, a disease killed off the majority of chestnut trees sparing only a few groves in California and the Pacific Northwest.
It wasn’t until I began celebrating Christmas Eve with my husband’s family (they are Italian) that I became aware of the chestnut tradition. Prior to that, I couldn’t relate to the line in the song.
I now have very fond memories of Nonna delivering roasted chestnuts to the table. She always served them at the end of the meal, after a sweet dessert, then came the roasted chestnuts, fresh walnuts (another tradition that was new to me) along with fresh fruit, usually clementines and grapes.
If you really want to enjoy roasted chestnuts, I do think it’s important to find fresh, good quality chestnuts, most of the chestnuts today are imported from Japan, China, Spain and Italy. I would try to stick to Spanish and Italian imports.
You can prepare your chestnuts in advance by scoring them with a knife. This is very important. If you choose to skip this step, the chestnuts will explode in the oven making a lovely mess or on you and your kitchen risking bad burns. Trust me I speak from experience. One year I missed a couple, it will be snowing chestnuts in your kitchen.
Of course you don’t have to have the open fire, however I think if you live in a rural area, where open fires are still permitted that could be quite fun. Instead, an oven will to just fine. Alternatively, another compromise might to an outdoor grill. Just stand watch turning them often.
Preheat Oven to 450F
Cut a large X in the flat side of the chestnut with a sharp knife cutting all the way through the skin.
Place chestnuts on a baking sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the nuts. Shake the pan a couple of times to ensure even cooking. Set a timer, so not to burn them. By this time, you will have had a couple of glasses of wine and the chestnuts will easily be forgotten. (Done that too)
Let them cool slightly before handling, but you want to peel them while they are still quite warm. If they cool down too much you can reheat them slightly to help them to peel.
There you have it, you can add one of your ancestor's oldest food traditions to your holiday menu, try roasting some chestnuts this Christmas.
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