Roast Chestnuts

Makes 4-6 servings, depending on the ravenousness of your patrons

1 lb chestnuts

Special equipment

an ungreased frying pan


Most recipes require you to make an X-shaped cut on the flat side of each shell. What a chore. Throw a few handsful of the chestnuts into an iron pan on ‐ I dunno, medium high? ‐ heat. Shake the pan every few minutes to keep them from burning. After about 10 minutes, they'll begin to split; a few suicidal chestnuts will actually leap out of the pan and explode like popcorn kernels (which is why you shouldn't try roasting these in the microwave; if you cook 'em too long, you'll have a mess to clean up. Believe me, I know).


Chestnuts are much more widely used in European than in American cookery, where the starchy nut often takes the place of the potato in a variety of dishes, particularly in stuffings. With only 2% fat, 2 or 3% protein and 35% carbohydates, it has more carbohydrates than the potato and just a tiny fraction of the fat of other nuts.

Its use in this country declined after the chestnut blight wiped the American species of the tree (Castanea dentata) from the landscape beginning in 1904. The virus kills the tree, and none grows past the sapling stage: it's been virtually extinct since the 1950s. Most of our chestnuts you see for sale in this country are imported from Europe.

First served: Samhain 1991
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Last modified: © June 1995