Chestnuts Roasted on a Bed of Salt with Fennel

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Easy

  • Serves

    4

Appears in

The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen

By Paula Wolfert

Published 2003

  • About

I've always loved the French way of roasting chestnuts on a bed of sea salt, flavored with a few fennel seeds to infuse a faint licorice taste. (Licorice happens to be one of the best flavors to enhance the natural taste of chestnuts.) Traditionally, French cooks bake the chestnuts with salt in an earthenware pot-bellied dish called a diable, but you can use a heavy cast-iron pot and still obtain excellent results.

The chestnuts are served warm accompanied by pats of butter.

Ingredients

  • ¾ pound large, firm chestnuts with smooth shells
  • ½ cups sea salt or coarse salt
  • ½ teaspoon fennel seeds, bruised
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, preferably Echiré, Beurre de Celles, or Isigny Ste. Marie, imported from France

Method

  1. Soak the chestnuts in cold water for 1 hour to soften the shells. Preheat the oven to 450°F. Drain the chestnuts. Use a small sharp knife, or a chestnut knife if you have one, to slit the rounded side of each chestnut. Line the bottom of a medium cast-iron pot with foil or parchment paper. Spread salt over the foil or paper and arrange the chestnuts, slit side up, on top in layers. Scatter the fennel seeds over the chestnuts. Cover and bake for 35 to 45 minutes.
  2. Remove the pot from the oven; keep covered with a thick towel until ready to serve. (This steaming period helps to detach the inner skins.) Guests peel their own chestnuts and add a dab of butter with each bite.