How to Roast Chestnuts

Chestnuts from Root's Country Market - Lancaster, PA

Over the weekend I decided to cook a full turkey dinner with all the fixings. I called it "Thanksgiving planning" as a thinly veiled excuse to eat copious amounts of carbohydrates and butter. That being said, it definitely helps to assess and organize the turkey day timeline. In the interest of being a mise en place rockstar, I'm going to try and document my make-ahead recipes and day-by-day breakdown here on the blog. My cooking schedule will be at the bottom of the next few posts to maintain continuity and updates (several older recipes are linked below).

First up, chestnuts. Step away from the jarred stuff.

Songs were written about chestnuts roasting on an open fire for a reason. Nothing can compare to the meaty and sweet texture of fresh chestnuts right out of the oven. While the hassle of scoring and shelling this holiday treat deters people, I'm happy to say that there's an easy solution.

Tools

Last year, my brilliant husband put the ChestnutPro-Cut in my stocking and I would like to strongly endorse it. For less than $15 you can quickly and cleanly score the nuts while keeping all ten digits intact. I've come dangerously close to visiting the emergency room when trying to score chestnuts with a pairing knife.

Tool tip: If you're using a chestnut gadget, wear an oven mit or wrap your hand in a towel. The whacking can make your hand a little sore after a while.

Ingredients

  • A couple bags of chestnuts, rinsed (no need to dry)
  • 1/4 cup of water

Instructions

  • Move your oven rack to the middle position and heat to 350 degrees.
  • Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty foil.
  • Score the rounded side of the chestnut with an "X" (sometimes the chestnuts are flat on both sides). Note: I've read that some people using the ChestnutPro-Cut only make one cut rather than an "X". And as mentioned above, wear an oven mit or wrap your hand in a towel so your hand doesn't get sore from all the whacking.
  • Spread the scored chestnuts out in a single layer with the cut-side up.
  • Pour 1/4 cup of water around the chestnuts. The steam helps them open.
  • Place another layer of foil on top and crimp the edges to seal.
  • Bake for 35 minutes and then check to see if the chestnuts have opened. Continue baking if needed.
  • Cool and then remove the nuts from their shells (they should pop right out). Note: Inspect the nuts for any worms or funk, just comes with the territory.
  • Use within a day or freeze.

Thanksgiving Dinner Timeline (as it stands currently)

2 Weeks Ahead - Freeze the Following

1 Week Ahead

  • Freeze cranberry sauce or make on Tuesday.
  • Freeze freshly baked bread for stuffing.

Tuesday

  • Refrigerate uncooked pumpkin pie dough.
  • Roast the Chestnuts.
  • Transfer all frozen ingredients to the refrigerator.
  • Cover turkey in dry brine.

Wednesday

  • Refrigerate uncooked stuffing.
  • Bake and refrigerate pumpkin cheesecake.
  • Bake pumpkin pie.
  • Set the table.

Thanksgiving Day

  • Peel potatoes and cover with water.
  • Remove turkey 40 minutes ahead and rinse. Bake at 350.
  • Make giblet stock - 2 hours.
  • At about 120 degrees, make the Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Withhold 1/2 cup of half and half to add when reheating. Transfer mashed potatoes to a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic, clean pot.
  • 40 minutes before turkey is done, remove stuffing, cranberry sauce, and veggies from refrigerator and prep gravy ingredients.
  • When turkey comes out of the oven, chill and/or decant wine.
  • While the turkey rests, bake stuffing at 400 and make the gravy.
  • 15 minutes before the stuffing is done, increase the oven temperature from 400 to 425 and put the Brussels sprouts in.
  • Right before plating, reheat Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes in the microwave.
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