Chestnuts have a sweet flavor all their own and are a beloved dessert ingredient all over Europe. During their season, which coincides with the cold weather, every bakery serves chestnut specialties. Nonetheless, I have restricted the number of chestnut recipes in the book for a few reasons. They are not all that popular in America as a dessert and it can be difficult to find plump, fresh chestnuts, even in season. Look for firm, shiny chestnuts; avoid any nuts with tiny holes, which indicate insect infestation. Always buy a few more chestnuts than you need because there are always stubborn ones that refuse to let go of their skin during peeling or some that are just not up to snuff. (Chestnuts are often roasted, but some recipes boil them.) The earlier in the season, the fresher the chestnuts. You may find chestnuts in the market in February, but ask the produce manager to be sure they aren’t left over from Thanksgiving. Chestnut purée in 1-pound cans comes in sweetened and unsweetened varieties, so be sure to buy the right one for the recipe.
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