New to Chestnuts...What to do with them?
Hi there. As I am originally from Argentina where Christmas is a 40-degree affair full of cold salads and not much in the way of 'traditional' foods, chestnuts do not exist over there (as far as I know...maybe in southern Patagonia but they are certainly not widespread). I have been living in the UK for a few years and I think I tried them once and liked them. However, I have never attempted to cook with them but as I have become increasingly obsessed about food and cooking in the last couple of years and I am in charge of making the starter and dessert for Xmas day, I was wondering if anyone had any ideas as to how to incorporate chestnuts in the meal, how best to cook them, etc...All tips will be much appreciated!
In my family, roasted chestnuts were served after the meal with fruit and cookies. There were always little piles of shells next to everyone's plate. We would cut an X into the flat side of the chestnut, and roast in a pan with a little water. My husband always says that the next step was to forget to serve them, discover them in the kitchen while cleaning up, and say, "Damn it! I forgot to serve the chestnuts!"
OK. This dessert uses tinned unsweetened chestnut puree (which you'll easily find in UK supermarkets - look for Merchant Gourmet brand) and is my standby (as you can freeze it in portions and it defrosts very quickly):-
Lightly oil a loaf tin or similar.
Melt 275g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids). Beat in the tin of puree (tins are about 400g), 175g unsaltedbutter, 175g caster sugar, grated rind and juice of 1 orange. If you have it in in a couple of tablespoons brandy or orange liqueur make a good addition. Make sure everything is well mixed . Pack this into your loaf tin and chill in the fridge overnight.
It's now ready to eat or slice up and freeze and shoud turn out of the tim with no problem.
It's a rich dessert and I like to serve it just with some orange segments.
Merchant Gourmet also sell packs of peeled & cooked chestnuts. Ideal for a very simple soup. For 4 people, you'll need 225g. Chop a small onion, carrot and a stick of celery (or, really, whatever you fancy of this sort of veg). Put the veg in a pan with the chestnuts (crumble them up a bit) and simmer them in about 1 litre of ham or veggie stock. Simmer for about 45 minutes. Some croutons would be good.
Might be worth you checking with whoever is doing the main course. Chestnuts are a regular feature in our Xmas lunches - appearing in stuffings and with mixed withsprouts. You don't want a chestnut overdose.
Whatever you do, Christmas Day is nice a time to be even considering dealing with real chestnuts which are a complete pain to cook and peel. Use the pre-prepared stuff as I recommend. When you've more time, they make a great snack. Stab each one with a knife and roast them in the oven. Tyhye'll pop a little just like you can buy from street vendors. Peel while hot, dip in salt and eat (preferably with cold beer).
Thank you Roxlet and Harters! Those are some great ideas I would definetely consider. That dessert sounds fantastic although I think I might try it for New Year's Eve as I am already making a white & dark chocolate mascarpone cheesecake with dulce de leche for dessert (and it's certainly not going to leave room for much else!) I didn't know I could buy chestnut puree so I will ckeck it out and maybe get some roasted ones from the local street vendor to go with it...So many possibilities, so little time!