Contributor: Cleveland Clinic Preventive Cardiology dietitian Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD
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This year, if you are looking to put a twist on your holiday dinner, chestnuts might be just the thing. Fresh chestnuts are available from fall through December, which makes them a perfect holiday treat. You can buy them fresh, ground, dried, puréed or vacuum-packed. Roasting them brings out a rich, sweet flavor and makes them tender.
While tree nuts are typically high in fat with a moderate amount of protein and low in carbohydrate, chestnuts are unique in that they are high in carbohydrate and low in fat and protein. They also contain potassium, B and C vitamins.
One ounce of roasted chestnuts contains 70 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrate. They can be added to salads, soups, stuffing and even dessert recipes.
Step 1: Choose good chestnuts
Making chestnuts isn’t hard at all but you do have to ensure that you buy good ones and that you roast them for the right amount of time.
Look for glossy, firm nuts that have minimal space between the shell and the meat inside. Avoid chestnuts that have wrinkled, mottled, or dingy shells, which could mean that they are old or moldy.
Buy more than you need because once they are open, you might find that some have actually turned bad and are not edible.
Step 2: Prepare by scoring each nut
Preparing the chestnuts is fairly simple. You’ll need a cutting board, small sharp knife, baking pan and possibly a kitchen towel.
Here’s what you do:
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
- Wipe of the chestnuts with a clean, damp cloth.
- Place each chestnut, flat side down, on the cutting board and using your knife, cut an “X” into it. This will allow steam to escape as they roast.
- Put the chestnuts in a baking pan with the “X” facing up.
Step 3: Roast the chestnuts and keep a close watch
Depending upon the size of the chestnuts and your oven, cooking times can vary. Generally, chestnuts take about 20-30 minutes to roast. You can stir them occasionally to help them cook evenly.
When cooked, the shells will burst open, and the chestnut will be golden brown. Roast until the shells begin to peel back where you cut into them.
Keep a careful watch to ensure they are not overcooked or undercooked. Either will result in hard chestnuts and the inner skin will be difficult to remove.
Step 4: Peel the chestnuts while they are still warm
Next, you’ll peel them. Do this while they are still warm but cool enough to touch. If you wait too long, it will be more difficult to remove the shells.
Serve immediately if possible when they’ll have the best flavor. Enjoy!