How to roast chestnuts like the French
If you’ve ever been to Paris in Winter, you’ve likely noticed the charming street vendors selling chestnuts in a small paper cone. They roast the chestnuts over something resembling a perforated metal trash can housing an open flame. The sweet smell of roasted nuts fills the air and makes this typical French treat simply irresistible. But they don’t call them châtaignes, the French word for chestnuts. No, the French, who have perfected the art of roasting chestnuts, call them marrons chauds.
Yesterday, I came across some chestnuts at the store and something came over me. Perhaps it was the first glimmer of winter as snowflakes were falling, or the desire to curl up in front of the fire, or the comforting memory of those winter nights in Paris. Whatever it was, I had the urge to roast chestnuts over the fire, even though I had no idea how to do so! Luckily for me, I have privy access my very own French culinary specialist at home.
What you’ll need
- Fresh chestnuts
- Paring knife
- Bowl & clean dish cloth
- Cast iron perforated skillet or BBQ wok
- Silicone oven mitt
- Hot coal bed from an open fire
Prep the chestnuts
I’m sure you’ve heard stories of exploding chestnuts. They are true. Like a mini bomb with shrapnel. You do not want to experience this. Make sure to prep your chestnuts for roasting by cutting off the edges one by one. Some people prefer to make an X shape through the skin. In any case, make sure to cut an opening to relieve the pressure.
Place the chestnuts in a perforated cast iron skillet
You can grab your drill and make some holes in an old cast iron skillet you have lying around, but I found it easier to just use my BBQ wok.
Get a hot coal bed ready
Make a big hot fire in your fireplace and let it die down until you’re left with a hot bed of coals. No flames, only bright red hot coals. Make sure you have a thick bed of coals that will last at least 30 minutes.
Wear your silicone oven mitt and place the perforated wok or skillet over the bed of coals. Ideally, you don’t want it to sit directly on the coals. Leave a small gap if you can to avoid burning them. Make sure to stir them regularly to get an even cook.
Make them sweat
After about 30 minutes, you should notice that many of the chestnuts have begun to split open. This is the sign that they’re ready. Carefully remove them from the fire (wear your silicone oven mitt!) and dump them into a bowl lined with a clean dish cloth, then cover them up. Let them sit for 5-10 minutes. This is called the sweating process.
Crack open and enjoy
You should now be able to easily remove the outer shell and reveal the soft chewy chestnut within. Careful, they’re hot!