To prepare fresh chestnuts for cooking, cut X on flat side of each chestnut. In saucepan of boiling water, cook chestnuts, 4 at a time, until points of cut curl, about 2 minutes; drain. With knife, pull off skins. In saucepan, cover peeled chestnuts with water and bring to boil; cook over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes.
At the store Fresh chestnuts have the best flavour and texture, but if you don’t have a kitchen brigade at your disposal, peeling them is time consuming. Look for these alternative products at grocery and specialty stores:
Dried chestnuts are the least expensive and most like fresh chestnuts in flavour and texture. Look for them in Italian and Chinese grocery stores all year round. To prepare: In bowl, soak 2 cups (500 mL) chestnuts in 6 cups (1.5 L) boiling water for at least 2 hours or overnight; drain. In saucepan, cover chestnuts with water and bring to boil; cook over medium heat until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and they are ready to use in a recipe.
Vacuum-packed chestnuts are softer than fresh but are ready to use interchangeably with prepared fresh or dried ones. Though more expensive than ready-to-use-canned, their taste is superior. If you are chopping them for a recipe, look for less expensive chestnut pieces.
Canned chestnuts are cooked and ready to use interchangeably with prepared fresh, dried and vacuum-packed ones. Rinse and drain well before using. Some are packed in syrup for use in desserts, so check the labels.
Image courtesy of Williams-Sonoma.
Excerpted from Canadian Living The Complete Christmas Book by the editors of Canadian Living Magazine Copyright © 2007 by the editors of Canadian Living Magazine. Excerpted by permission of Transcontinental Books, a division of Random House of Canada Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.