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Chestnuts!

As I was walking to work, I noticed a great deal of chestnuts lying around in the park, so I was thinking I would grab a bag and pick some up on the way home.

What do I do with them then? I remember someone in college microwaving them, and they were quite good (scored the top, I believe, then just popped them in)

What else? I know they're everywhere this time of year, so other people must have thoughts

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  1. Have a bag sitting here. Had them in Italy as a dessert Marrons Glacés with fresh cream and liquor it was to die for otherwise never have been a huge fan.

    I found a Pear Strudel with Chestnut Cream and Pear Chip recipe in - The French Laundry Cookbook that looks easy enough for a non baker like myself to make. Looks like the perfect fall dessert.

    Also, saw in our Julie Rooso's cookbook a Chestnut-Potato Puree that looks delish.

    I can post these if you like.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Lori SF

      I'd love a recipe for the marrons glaces!

      1. re: itryalot

        sorry I don't have that one, this was something I had in Rome many years ago and still dream of sorry sorry..maybe somebody here will see this and have a clue as to how you make this dish. I remember the glace coating was luxurious covering the chilled chestnuts so when you took a bit in you were pleasantly suprised between the warm covering and chilled glaces..then the cream sauce was heaven with a bit of liquor that was almost like a brandy not too sweet but with heat.. everytime I see the word chestnut I have a flash back.

        I have the other recipes I mentioned.

        1. re: itryalot

          I don't have a recipe, but I used to help make them when I worked at a French bakery in Ottawa. Trust me - they're a PITA to make. You have to repeatedly soak and coat them with syrup over several days, and if you don't store them properly, they rot. Oh, and they almost always break.

          1. re: piccola

            Was this "The French Baker" in the Byward market?

            I tried making marrons glacees a few times, and failed. I am going to try again this year, and will start a thread on it, as I said in another thread. Hope you can help with it, piccola. BTW did you also work at Piccolo Grande (looking at your nick) :-) ?

            The French Baker did not make them last Christmas as they do not sell well.

            1. re: souschef

              Alors Souschef, have you tried the marrons glacés yet?

              1. re: buttertart

                I bought some yesterday, and plan to start the long process this week.

                BTW I will be getting a kilo from Confiserie Rohr in Geneva for Christmas, so will have my benchmark on hand for comparison.

                1. re: souschef

                  Pretty damn high benchmark, looking forward to hearing about the process and outcome. (The best I ever had by the way were from Bernachon in Lyon. Too bad you're not in NY, there is a Turkish cafe here - a branch of Gulloglu in Istanbul - that sells chestnut baklava - very good marrons glacés in baklava pastry anointed with sheep's milk butter.)

              2. re: souschef

                Sorry for the (incredibly) belated reply! Yes, it was the French Baker, though I haven't worked there in nearly about 8 years, so many things must have changed.
                I never worked for Piccolo Grande, sorry -- but I do love their gelato. This is just a longstanding nickname.

        2. Where do you live? If you're in North America, the chestnuts you've seen lying around are NOT edible. Our native chestnut trees died out years ago due to some imported bug or fungus or something. The chestnut trees we have are horse chestnuts - the tree looks very similar but the nuts are definitely not good to eat. Actually I think they're poisonous.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Nyleve

            not entirely true. there are a number of newer planted trees that are edible. the husk/shell is the difference.if it is sort of brushlike with lots of thin softer spines almost like a brush on the outside as opposed to hard spaced spines on the outside then it is a edible chestnut as opposed to a horse chestnut, which is actually a member of the buckeye family and the nits shouldnot be eaten. If they are real chestnuts, write again and I'll give you some recipes for wonderful things to do with them

            1. re: Nyleve

              I live in Massachusetts and my chestnut tree is most definitely not a horse chestnut. They're quite easy to tell apart. There is a thread currently on the Boston board that helped me identify mine, and it has lots of good links to pictures.

            2. I'm in seattle...are they really not edible? When I lived in New Hampshire we always picked them up and ate them...is that not okay?

              1. home with a head cold I seemed to miss the part that you saw them in the park. No not for human consumption for squirrels only.

                1. just taste 1 - microwave or boil or bake - and see how it tastes - they might be chinese chestnuts , which r just as delicious as the italian chestnut. if they are indeed horse chestnuts , u will taste the acidity right away - but they arent poisonous - they just taste like crap. I nave 10 chinese chestnut trees and i cant wait till the nuts drop in the fall - they are superb.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: dibob817

                    Please check this link. Yes they really are poisonous - please don't eat horse chestnuts. Make sure you have the right kind before you taste.

                    http://museum.gov.ns.ca/poison/chestn...

                    1. re: Nyleve

                      well, ty for the link - sure surprised me though. As a child , there was a horse chestnut right down the road from my house - and there qwere real chestnuts around then also) and i ate a horse chestnut maybe twice - never remember gettign sick. But I did always have a cast iron stomach.

                      again, ty 4 the info - and I stand corrected.

                      1. re: dibob817

                        Always happy to save a life on a rainy Saturday.

                  2. My mom used to boil them and use them for stuffing. We enjoy them raw and oven roasted (slit first and when you take them out, wrap them in a clean dishcloth).

                    1. If they're edible..... Italian chestnut cake (torta di castagne) is one of my favourite cakes, and generally I'm not big on desserts. It's much lighter than most nut-based cakes because the chestnuts are either very finely chopped or pureed, and the eggs are separated, with the whites being beaten to stiffness before being integrated into the batter.

                      1 Reply
                      1. If they're the edible kind, my favorite way to use them is chestnut rice. We get locally grown chestnuts as there's a guy in the next county who has trees he nurtures. The shells are soft enough to score and peel with a sharp paring knife, although you have to be careful. Then the skin generally peels off because they're moist. Some require a little more coaxing. I cut them in pieces and cook them atop koshihikari (short grain white) rice and a little sake in the water. Absolutely delicious!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: amyzan

                          oooh yum! I'm actually more interested in savoury recipes than sweet ones, so if you have more, please post!

                          1. re: piccola

                            It's called kuri gohan in Japan, and I found the basic recipe in Hiroko Shimbo's The Japanese Kitchen. I use a rice cooker, so it's very easy once I get the chestnuts peeled. I usually do that laborious part while watching evening TV the night before we have it. Then I cover the nuts with water and refrigerate them overnight. I don't roast them before peeling, but I'm lucky to have a local source and they're so fresh, 90% of them are soft enought to peel with a paring knife, CAREFULLY!

                            Okay, so you wash the rice until the water runs clear and then drain. (I use a short grain white rice koshihikari variety, buy it at an Asian grocery.) I put the rice along with 1 tbsp. sake and 1 tbsp. mirin in the rice cooker pot. (If you cannot find mirin you could sub 1/2-1 tsp. sugar to taste, but try to find the mirin, as the flavor's better. Asian groceries should have it.) Add water to the correct level for the amount of rice your'e cooking. I usually cook 12 ounces of rice with about 25-30 chestnuts. Cut the chestnuts in quarters or sixths if they're large and scatter atop the rice in the water. They should sit on top so that they stay in pieces and can be folded in gently when the rice is ready. I like the rice topped with gomashio, which is black sesame seeds and salt pounded in a mortar or suribachi, 6 parts sesame to one part salt. (If you have any gomashio leftover, use it as a table condiment.)

                            1. re: amyzan

                              I don't have a rice cooker, but I'm sure I can adapt it for a regular pan. Thanks!

                        2. Stumbled onto a chestnut thread from the Boston board and thought I’d post a link here that may be of use…(originally posted by kobuta)

                          http://tree-species.blogspot.com/2009...

                          1. And now for my question…

                            Last year a friend had some chestnuts he picked up in his yard to feed the squirrels at our “clubhouse”. He offered me one but it had a worm in it and I refused. He told me that all chestnuts have worms in them. I asked around and searched a bit on the web, but haven’t found a definite response. My friend described a process you go through to de-worm them, but none of it seems logical to me, so…

                            Do all chestnuts have worms in them?

                            3 Replies
                              1. re: cuccubear

                                A chestnut in its edible stage is all but impregnable by worms, so a chestnut with a worm is garbage for two reasons. Also, there are very few edible chestnuts in the U.S. Some sprouted from surviving root systems after the blight destroyed every tree here, about 100 years ago. Some resistant hybrids have succeeded after 1950, but it's still early for chestnuts from second generation hybrid trees. Check out the other thread referenced above.

                                1. re: Veggo

                                  “a chestnut with a worm is garbage…”

                                  That’s what I thought too, but he was adamant about it so I let it go.

                                  I was surprised that he even had chestnuts, and offered them to me. I knew they could be poisonous, so after reading this and the other thread on the Boston board, until I know exactly where they came from, I ain’t eatin’ ‘em.

                              2. I love this River Café recipe for gnocchi with chestnuts and sausage. It's a winner, especially at this time of year.

                                http://www.sierrarica.com/recipes/22.pdf

                                1. I have very fond memories of gesztenye pure from when I was in Hungary - it's chestnuts cooked with milk, sugar and a little rum, pureed, and then pressed through a potato ricer. Served with a big cloud of whipped cream. Heavenly.

                                  I'm always a little disappointed by roast chestnuts from street vendors though - they seem mealy and flavourless - but I've never had fresh chestnuts to roast myself.

                                  Last Thanksgiving I made brussels sprouts with chestnuts and double-smoked bacon (recipe here - http://www.chow.com/recipes/10441) - as a quick shortcut, I buy vacuum packed bags of pre-peeled Chinese chestnuts at Asian groceries. The quality is not bad - they smell very nice, and work well in this dish. I've got to try the chestnut rice recipe listed above - thanks, amyzan!

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: plum

                                    Is that Hungarian dessert the one that's supposed to look like a mountain? It sounds great with the rum in there.

                                  2. I make a chestnut soup that's especially good around the holidays: cook 1 medium onion and 1 small clove garlic in 2 Tb butter until softened, add 1 package of the Chinese cooked and peeled chestnuts, 1/2 cup white wine or vermouth, 2 1/2 cups water plus 1 Maggi chicken bouillon cube (or homemade stock equivalent), 1 small bay leaf. Cook until chestnuts are falling apart (about 1/2 hour, can cook longer). Purée in food processor and sieve back into cleaned pan, add 1 cup heavy cream and a jot of Armagnac, Cognac, or sherry in order of preference. Serve in small cups with croutons or something else crisp as a contrast. Can add diced celery and carrot to the onions if liked (about 1/2 cup of each). Makes enough for 4, can be doubled or more. This recipe is based on a happy memory of a soup we had at Troy's Restaurant in Toronto when we were courting.

                                    15 Replies
                                    1. re: buttertart

                                      I was going to ask you where do you get your chestnuts? From a store or street vendor? Are the domestic or imported? Knowing that there are some viable chestnut trees around, but are there enough for supply to meet demand?

                                      Apparently not, according to this article on Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chestnut

                                      Demand is far greater than supply and the US imports mostly from Italy, Portugal and France, with some imports from China and South Korea.

                                      This may have been common knowledge among chestnuts afficionados, but at least I learned something today! YAY, I can go home now!

                                      1. re: cuccubear

                                        The Chinese ones are quite good for most applications and seem to be more widely distributed all the time. I have also made this with the Chinese dried chestnuts which you have to cook for about an hour in boiling water before embarking on the soup, and once with the real thing which have to be slit, boiled, the outer shell peeled off and the inner skin ditto while still hot, which was a huge pain in the butt (and fingers).

                                        1. re: cuccubear

                                          As a massive chestnut fan, I am shocked that you don't have any to speak of in the US. One of the best things about winter is getting a paper bag of roasted chestnuts off a street vendor. Having said that, I often buy the peeled and cooked ones for convenience - in the UK they're mainly from France.

                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                            They have those here too but they are a lot more expensive than the Chinese ones, which also tend to be whole, not broken as the French ones in plastic vacuum packs often are here.

                                            1. re: buttertart

                                              Have you bought the ones that WIlliams-Sonoma sells in jars?

                                              1. re: souschef

                                                No, I'm too cheap. I don't think I've ever bought a WS food product.

                                          2. re: cuccubear

                                            For GreedyGirl...................I'm late to this thread but found mine over new years in West Edmonton at the worlds biggest mall. there is a market in there that is mainly Asian but it had their loose chestnuts on sale and I bought about a hundred of them for like $8. Roasting some thing very second in my convection oven after watching a video that taught me how to score and boil and then bake. I'm doing that with only 10 so I can see how it works. One floated, that's not a good sign huh? Plus they're hard little buggers to score. My thought is if this method works [did I mention I also bought a chestnut roaster], I'll do them all up and freeze them for later use. Gotta find some really good dessert recipes using them.

                                            1. re: iL Divo

                                              I'm amazed that they're still okay, considering that you bought them over New Year's.

                                              1. re: souschef

                                                Yay souschef is back! Where ya been? Missed you. Baking much lately?

                                                1. re: buttertart

                                                  Hey Buttertart, I've been here, but not contributing much. I'm honoured you missed me !

                                                  I made a chocolate chestnut cake today for the 60th birthday of one of the outlaws; it went across very well - nice and moist and tasty, and not too sweet. As a chestnut-lover you should make it sometime; I posted the recipe here a while ago. A bit time-consuming but well worth it.

                                                  How 'bout youuuuu ?

                                                  1. re: souschef

                                                    Okeydokey thanks, nothing too special in the baking department (baking of course but nothing terribly involved), no overseas food collection activities recently. Your chocolate chestnut cake will be my husband's next birthday cake. Hope to hear/see more from you soon!

                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                      A couple of points on the cake:

                                                      - the recipe makes about 50% more meringue than you need. I made a 12-inch diameter cake yesterday (instead of 9-inch), and increased all the filling and icing components by 50%, and had enough meringue (but only just). When you are making hubby's cake you can get away with using 4 egg whites.

                                                      - I was unable to get my usual puree (made by Valade in France), and so bought another brand (also French). The puree was packed down more and did not whip up so well with the butter and meringue (there were small pieces of unmixed puree), so if it seems dense to you I suggest that you beat it first. BTW do not use creme de marrons as it is too sweet; you have to use unsweetened puree.

                                                    2. re: souschef

                                                      I'm glad you're "back" too.

                                                      Question about chocolate chestnut cakes and other things with that combination. How can you taste the chestnut with the chocolate in there. I love, love, love chestnuts and it's kind of a luxury. So I can't see covering up the taste with chocolate.

                                                      Can you taste the chestnut in there?

                                                      1. re: karykat

                                                        It's hard to describe. You do not taste chestnuts distinctly, but neither does the chocolate cover the taste of the chestnuts; think of it as a new "taste combination" to explore.

                                                        I made the cake once for a friend who took it to a family dinner. As feedback she told me that dessert was eaten in absolute silence punctuated by occasional sighs of contentment.

                                                        BTW chestnut puree is not too expensive.

                                                        1. re: souschef

                                                          Happy silence while consuming anything is a good sign in my experience.

                                          3. Here in eastern KS, there is a local grower who has planted Chinese variety trees that are doing quite well. http://www.chestnutcharlie.com/ I usually buy a few pounds and shell them to keep in fresh water in the fridge for a few weeks. I'll make chestnut rice or braised chicken with chestnuts most often, from recipes in Hiroko Shimbo's cookbook, The Japanese Kitchen. If there are any leftover, i either dry them in the shell, then peel for storage, or make candied chestnuts. I've not yet found an entirely reliable recipe for candied chestnuts, though. I have visions of mont blanc at Christmastime, but the harvest seems to be too early here. They've always been eaten up or dried by that time.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: amyzan

                                              Couldn't you make and freeze sweetened chestnut purée in preparation for Christmas? That is a wonderful dessert.

                                            2. OH THAT'S WHAT I FOUND IN VERSAILLES. THAT THING I PICKED UP OFF THE GROUND THAT LOOKED LIKE A SMALL GUORD, IT'S A CHESTNUT.

                                              1. major success in just now, out of the convection oven, I have delicious chestnuts. who knew it'd be so easy. they are wonderful.
                                                so easy to do, via the method I learned in that video. I peeled just one so I could taste before my bath, the rest are still in the chestnut roaster in the convection oven, lid on. I'll peel the others after I come back. So now, I know I'll do all of them and freeze them for later use. YEAH!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: iL Divo

                                                  Is there any significance to tasting a chestnut before your bath ? :)

                                                2. If I roast my own chestnuts, which I did by the way in a chestnut roaster I got, do they last like regular nuts to munch on or do they go bad and have to be refridgerated? I put them in a plastic bag for my snacks in my purse/desk and they turned out real funky so I tossed the whole bag cause I was scared.

                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: iL Divo

                                                    They're more like potatoes in a way than they are like nuts - a lot of the moisture is preserved when roasted. Yes you should keep them refrigerated. Too bad you had to throw them out!

                                                    1. re: buttertart

                                                      I have 20 more to roast in the frig but waiting for something wonderful to use them in. Not sure what to do with them, any hints after I do roast them?

                                                      1. re: iL Divo

                                                        There's a great chestnut poundcake recipe in Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert - you need chestnut flour for it though. You can make soup with them too. I think there are a lot of suggestions in other threads on chestnuts on this board.

                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                          Darn, perhaps the only Medrich book I do not have. There are some good chestnut recipes, though, in Cocolat.

                                                          BTW buttertart, if you have not made her Queen of Sheba Cake you should. I have made it numerous times, and really enjoy it.

                                                          1. re: souschef

                                                            You'd love Pure Dessert. Yes I've made the Q of S cake many times, it's a standard around our place - I use the one in Bittersweet (it's also in another great book, "The Baker's Dozen", with lots of recipes from other US bakers of renown. (We lived about 8 blocks from Cocolat in Berkeley years ago and a friend used to work for her - apparently not the easiest person to work for, but who is, in the food business?) PS: any new and good Canadian baking books out there mon cher ami Montréalais?

                                                            1. re: buttertart

                                                              Considering the depth that Alice Medrich goes into in her investigatioin of chocolate, I am not suprised that she is not easy to work for. Perfection brooks no compromise and takes no prisoners. Our gain.

                                                              I have not investigated any Canadian baking books recently, my dear Yanqui friend; to tell you the truth, I am scared to look at new books as I have already spent a fortune on them...that and music, as I am a keen music lover.

                                                              BTW I live in Ottawa, but spend a fair bit of time in Montreal...especially when I want some chocolate and good food (that does not come out of my kitchen, of course)..

                                                              1. re: souschef

                                                                True re pursuit for perfection (and this was in the mid-70's, when the field was very underdeveloped in the US).
                                                                If I lived in Ottawa I'd spend a lot of time in Montreal too ;-) (just kidding, Ottawa is very nice indeed). Books and music are our weaknesses as well.

                                                        2. re: iL Divo

                                                          I have a great recipe for a pork and chestnut stuffing (which I normally jazz up with wild mushrooms (the non-poisonous variety. The chestnuts are normally braised, but I think roasted may work as well.

                                                          BTW why are we discussing chestnuts ? Summer is almost here, and chestnuts are a fall/winter dish.

                                                          1. re: souschef

                                                            Chestnuts are forever...but yes more fall/winter.

                                                    2. Last weekend, a vendor was selling chestnuts at the Farmer's Market, so I thought I'd give them a go...

                                                      Roasted them in the oven, 325 for 15 mins. The smell was out of this world! Very enticing. I scored the shells before roasting, and I have yet to find a worm.

                                                      For the record, she was selling them for $2 a pound.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: cuccubear

                                                        They were $3.00/lb in Manhattan Chinatown a week ago.

                                                      2. It is far too cold to grow any type of chestnut where I live so the only times I have them fresh is on our European travels where we love them roasted. As others have mentions they are sublime in soups and another favourite of mine is in stuffing with apples.

                                                        My ultimate favourite savoury preparation would be homemade pasta - either incorporated into stuffed ravioli perhaps with roasted butternut squash and/or ricotta or as part of the pasta itself. You just roast them, crush them, and place on the pastry dough. Fold over and roll then put through pasta roller. Same way to make puff pastry crust for savoury meat pies.

                                                        I love chestnut honey drizzled over grilled bread with gorgonzola and prosciutto.

                                                        Chestnut mousse is wonderful inside homemade truffles.