Pierce each chestnut on its rounded end with the point of a small knife. Bring the water to a boil in a large pan and add the salt. Add the chestnuts and return to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and cook the chestnuts for about 20 minutes, until they are tender. Test one of the chestnuts after 20 minutes. If it peels easily under warm running water, remove the pan from the heat, drain the chestnuts in a colander, and peel. Keep them warm while peeling; if they cool too much, it will become difficult to remove the shell and the brown interior skin.
Place the peeled chestnuts in a heavy pan with the milk, sugar, and butter and simmer over low heat until very tender, stirring often to prevent scorching, about 20 minutes.
Cool the cooked chestnuts and puree the mixture in a food processor fitted with the metal blade, adding the brandy or Cognac and the vanilla. Force the cooled chestnut cream onto a platter through a food mill, potato ricer, or colander so that it falls in fine shreds. As much as possible, shape the shreds of chestnut cream into a cone-shaped mound.
Whip the cream until firm but not grainy and spread it on the top third of the chestnut cream, pulling it to a point with a thin metal spatula. Or pipe the whipped cream onto the chestnut cream with a pastry bag fitted with a
Sprinkle with the chocolate shavings and dust very lightly with the confectioners’ sugar.
Keep the Monte Bianco in the refrigerator up to 4 hours before serving. Cover any leftovers tightly with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
Chocolate shavings and confectioners’ sugar for finishing
© 1990 Nick Malgieri. All rights reserved.