Christmas So Soon?

   Written by on October 26, 2015 at 7:54 am

I hate it when a song gets stuck in my head and keeps popping up at odd times.  The past couple of days it’s been the phrase “chestnuts roasting on an open fire.”  Maybe it’s because I cleaned the fireplace and chimney the other day, or maybe it’s simply because the Christmas season is approaching.  Whatever the reason, I decided to look into this nut roasting thing.

logo - walk in gardenThere is such a thing as a chestnut roasting pan – a skillet of sorts with holes in the bottom that you can use on your stove.  After picking over the nuts and selecting the best ones, make a small cut in the shell with a sharp knife.  Leave out this last step and you’ll end up with exploding nuts.  Not the kind of excitement we’re looking for here.  Put the nuts in the pan and sprinkle them with water.  Cover and roast over medium heat, shaking the pan frequently, until the shells begin to turn dark and separate from the meat.  The roasting should take only five or ten minutes, depending on the size of the chestnuts.  You’ll know they’re roasted to perfection when you can open the shells easily to expose golden brown meat inside, crumbly and sweet.

Another way to roast them is to place them in a single layer, cut side up, in a flat baking pan and roast them in the oven at about 400 degrees.  This will take a little longer, about twenty minutes.  Poke them with a fork to test for doneness.  Finally, wrap the nuts in a towel, no matter which way you roasted them, and squeeze them hard to break the skins.  This will make them easier to peel.  Let the nuts rest in the towel for a few minutes before unwrapping them.

Now, for all you purists, here’s how to roast them over a real open fire.  Picture yourself preparing a campfire, the fire in the fireplace or even the charcoal grill (not quite authentic, but it will do).  The fire should burn down to leave hot, hot coals and no flame – most important.  When the heat source is ready, spread the chestnuts in a single layer in a flat pan, again with cut side up, and cover the pan.  You must go through the shaking, roasting, shaking and roasting routine again to prevent them from burning.  When the nuts are done, 20 – 25 minutes, cover with paper towels or a towel and let them rest for a little while to make them easier to peel.

Actually, when I think of those words from the popular song, I envision a street vendor with his cart on a busy city sidewalk, steam rising from the hot, freshly roasted nuts.  As you stroll by on your mission of window shopping at the big department stores, you stop and greet the vendor with a hearty “Merry Christmas!” and hand over your coins to receive a paper funnel piled high with chestnuts.  You take a seat on a nearby bench and peel the nuts, shaking them in your hand like dice to cool them enough to pop in your mouth, or share with the squirrels.  Ideally, snow will begin to drift down in big fat flakes to complete the image.

Makes me want to decorate the tree.

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