Nat King Cole first started crooning about chestnuts roasting on an open fire in the 1940s, and the nostalgic scent of these plump, shiny beauties wafting from street corners remains a comforting symbol amid the frenetic swirl of holiday shopping and shindigs December usually promises.
Simply baking the chestnuts (don’t forget to score each one and give them a good soak before opening that oven door) is a surefire way to please guests, as is folding them into stuffing or using them to dot a chocolate cake. But chestnuts are rather versatile, which means chefs around the country are also using chestnuts to lend a festive touch to their winter dishes.
For Greg Guevin, chef at Russell House Tavern in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it was boredom of “the grilled vegetable platter ubiquitous to restaurants, the generic default option that gets no love” that led to him reach for chestnuts. His imaginative lasagna (pictured above) shuns pasta noodles for sheets of shaved potato that are layered with a blend of roasted chestnuts and root vegetables like carrots and parsnips. “The sweetness of the chestnuts makes the dish,” he says. Guevin amplifies it with a deep cremini mushroom-garlic-thyme jus deglazed with red wine “that helps keep the lasagna light,” he says. He then sparingly covers the “pasta” with a pecorino Mornay sauce, essentially a cheesy bechamel. Read more