Chestnuts are wildly popular in the fall, and can be found in many regional dishes once the weather starts to turn colder. Fresh chestnuts can be bought from early fall through winter. The best will have glossy, unwrinkled shells and feel heavy in the hand. Out of season, or for less work, you can find them already peeled and either dried or frozen. If using dried nuts, soak them for an hour before use.
If you are using fresh chestnuts you’ll have to roast them first. To do so, use a sharp pairing knife to cut an “X” onto the rounded side of each chestnut. Soak the nuts in hot water for a 1-2 minutes, dry them, then roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes. You will need to peel the chestnuts while still hot. The easiest way to do this is to place them in a clean towel and squeeze repeatedly to loosen the meat from the shells. Open the towel and peel away!
This lovely Italian recipe from one of our Italy cooking vacations combines chestnuts with the bright flavors of citrus. You can use the same recipe for other proteins, such as rabbit or guinea fowl. Try it yourself and let us know what you think!
Pollo all’Arancia con Castagne (Orange Chicken with Chestnuts)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Cook method: Simmer
- 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (2 ½ to 3lb.) chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup roasted, shelled and skinned chestnuts (1/4 lb. in shell or about ½ jar peeled whole chestnuts)
- ½ cup fresh squeezed orange juice
- 2 bay leaves
1. In a large bowl stir together flour, salt and pepper. Add chicken and toss to coat.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet or dutch overn over medium-high heat until hot, but not smoking.
3. Brown chicken in batches, transferring pieces to a bowl.
4. Pour off fat from skillet. Return chicken to skillet with chestnuts, orange juice and bay leaves.
5. Bring liquid to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, until chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. If the dish starts to become too dry, add a bit of water or stock, or a bit more orange juice, to the pan.
Serve warm and enjoy!
By Peg Kern
Sign up to receive our newsletter, which includes travel tips, recipes, promotions, and information on our best cooking vacations.