25 Ways to Use Chestnuts

By: Contributor

’Tis the season to be roasting chestnuts over open fires (or something like that). Preparing chestnuts can be a pain, but the aroma that will fill your house and the chestnuts themselves are always worth the effort.

Chestnuts must be cooked before eating them; roasting is one way to get that accomplished, but you can also boil them to use in a recipe. Like poking holes in potatoes before cooking, you must cut a small “x” into the flat side of chestnuts to prevent them from exploding. For easy shelling, peel the shells and skins off while the nuts are still warm. It’s a bit of a process, so make a big batch of roasted chestnuts, peel them all while they’re warm and then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

At this point you’re ready to fulfill your holiday duty of incorporating chestnuts into everything imaginable:

  1. David Rocco brings it back to basics with Roasted Chestnuts. Yes, you can do it over an open fire, but you can also roast chestnuts in the oven.
  2. The only way for those chestnuts roasted over an open fire to get any better, is for them to become a part of Roger Mooking’s Fire-Roasted Chestnut Caramel Cookies (pictured).
  3. Castagnaccio is a flat Italian cake made from chestnut flour. Try out David Rocco’s simple castagnaccio, Mario Batali’s Chestnut Cake with Lemon Sauce, or Debi and Gabriele’s version topped with walnuts and pine nuts.
  4. You can also serve Castagnaccio with Red Grapes.
  5. Castagnaccio con Lardo is Mario Batali’s savory take on this chestnut cake, made with fatback, prosciutto, rosemary and some olive oil.
  6. If you’ve now got a stash of chestnut flour that you don’t know what to do with, make David Rocco’s Frittelle di Castagne (Chestnut Pancakes) for breakfast or a sweet treat.
  7. Tyler Florence changes up the standard meat- and cheese-filled lasagna with Squash and Chestnut Lasagna. I won’t judge you if you buy fresh pasta sheets instead of making your own.
  8. If paupiettes (meat wrapped around a ground meat or vegetable filling) aren’t in your recipe repertoire, they should be. Turkey Paupiettes with Chestnuts and Brussels Sprouts are a great way to start. Make the Boiled Chestnuts ahead of time to add in at the end of cooking. Escalopes are thin boneless pieces of meat that have either been butterflied, pounded out or a combination of the two. This recipe calls for turkey escalopes; you can ask your butcher to do it for you or get a few turkey breasts and try out these methods for yourself.

Photo by: Kelley Jordan Heneveld ©Kelley Jordan Photography

Kelley Jordan Heneveld, Kelley Jordan Photography

  1. Slightly bitter radicchio pairs well with earthy chestnuts in Mario Batali’s Ravioli di Castagne e Treviso: Chestnut and Radicchio Ravioli.
  2. Cabbage Rolls Stuffed with Meat, Chestnuts and Dill are served in a quick broth of butter, beef stock, vinegar and a bit of sugar. If you can’t find quince locally, substitute Bartlett pears, which are also in season.
  3. David Rocco whips up Chestnut Polenta using chestnut flour instead of ground cornmeal, and serves it with creamy ricotta and sausage.
  4. Switch up your go-to party dip and make Chestnut and White Bean Puree with Guanciale and Caramelized Pear. Guanciale is an Italian cured meat made from -- please don’t freak out; it’s delicious -- pig jaw, and is a staple in Italian dishes like pasta carbonara. Though it doesn’t have the same complexity, pancetta can be used as a substitute in a pinch.
  1. Drunken Chestnuts, roasted and then flambeed in rum, make for a great snack or light dessert.
  2. Mario Batali boils and then peels chestnuts before adding them to his Chestnut Soup with Friulian Cheese and Salami. The recipe calls for speck, another Italian cured meat similar to prosciutto (making that a perfectly acceptable substitute) but smoked in the final stages of production.
  3. Tortelli di Castagne (Chestnut Tortelli) tossed in a sage and brown butter sauce is a simple, warming meal. Making your own pasta dough can be easy, especially if you have a stand mixer. Just be sure to knead for a few minutes at the end by hand so the dough reaches the correct baby’s-bottom softness.
  4. Two Fat Ladies bring us Beef with Chestnuts, Pears and Almonds. Rub the beef with some salt, pepper and dry mustard and make a gravy out of tomatoes, garlic, white wine, chestnuts and pears poached in red wine.
  5. If you’re a turkey-for-every-holiday kind of person, try out Giada’s fully loaded (sausage, prosciutto, chestnuts) Stuffed Turkey Breasts.
  6. Or, if you want the stuffing on the side, try out Raffy’s Turkey Sausage and Chestnut Stuffing.
  7. Seared Peking Duck with Chestnuts and Wine is an elegant, simple meal. Use the rendered duck fat to cook the Brussels sprouts for lots of flavor.
  8. Spuma di Cioccolato e Castagna is a chocolate and chestnut mousse, with a little kick of brandy.
  9. Involtini with Castagne e Prosciutto (Beef and Prosciutto Rolls with Chestnuts) are exactly as they sound; the beef is seared and cooked in a white wine sauce with lots of chestnuts.
  10. Zuppa di Castagne is a brothy tomato and chestnut soup that doesn't require a lot of prep work -- perfect for a cold winter weeknight.
  11. The holiday spirit starts with fried dough, like Corsican Chestnut Beignets.
  12. Use leftover biscuits to make a dressing (stuffing), like this Chestnut and Chanterelle Dressing with Chive Biscuits.
  13. Nadia G utilizes store-bought cooked chestnuts and canned pears in syrup in her Layered Chestnut Cream and Pear Verrine.
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