To roast a chestnut, you first need to pierce the outer shell. This will create a steam vent. If you don’t do this, the nut is likely to explode into a mealy mess when it’s cooked.
Pierce the nut by making a slit with a small, sharp knife (a utility knife is perfect) either on the flat side of the nut, or on the pointed end. Slit the shell, but not the meat of the nut.
Roast the nuts by shaking them in a dry heavy skillet over medium heat for about 15 – 30 minutes. The nuts are done when the shell darkens slightly and curls away from the cut. The meat of the nut should be soft, it should smell sweet, and it should be a pale translucent yellow.
Peel and eat them while they’re still hot, popping them out of the shell and the papery brown husk or ‘pellicle’ which covers them. Work fast, because as soon as the chestnuts begin to cool, the pellicle becomes very difficult to remove.
Other methods of cooking chestnuts
You can also roast fresh chestnuts in an oven. Place them in a roasting pan with a tight fitting lid and bake at about 400 F for around 30 minutes.
Everybody knows that song about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” right? Well, if you have a chestnut pan you really can roast them over an open fire. A chestnut pan will have holes in the bottom of it, and it should have a long handle so that you can hold it over an open fire at a comfortable distance.
However you roast them, once they’re done, roasted chestnuts need nothing more than a sprinkling of sea salt. Peel them while they’re piping hot, enjoying the heat and toasty aroma, the moist crumbly texture and the sweet, mild flavor.