Many years ago on a business trip to Switzerland & Italy I stopped with two colleagues to visit my brother and his wife.
My older brother, a classical musician, moved to Europe shortly after graduate school. After stints in Munich and Zurich he played in the percussion section at La Scala and lived in Lugano Switzerland.
Mike and Evi kept bees, made wine, traded honey for polenta, made their own soda from fermented mulberries and honey, and cured their own meat, what a life, eh?
It was a cool afternoon in late October when we arrived. We walked into a large room with windows that looked out onto the foothills of the Alps to the north; a cozy fire crackled in a large stone hearth. The table was set with their wine, Taleggio cheese, crusty brown bread, and a pile of chestnuts they had gathered that afternoon.
We roasted the chestnuts in the fireplace and ate them with wine and bread and cheese. Definitely the simplest meal I had ever eaten and to this day one of the most memorable. Fresh local ingredients simply prepared, in this case — no stove cooking, an incomparable treat.
I re-created the experience this week-end. Part of the fun is looking for local produce and products that will complement one another.
We drank a Stonington Vineyard 2007 Cabernet-Franc (new this year); a goat cheese from Beltane Farm in Lebanon — Danse de la Lune; I confess the bread I bought at Whole Foods from Iggy’s Bakery in Boston — pain de campaigne; chestnuts bought at the Farmer’s Market in Waterford CT.
If local doesn’t strike you, take your palette to a wine and cheese shop and have fun tasting and pairing what will enhance the taste of roasted chestnuts. You’ll most likely find someone who will enjoy helping you choose. You’ll have fun and learn at the same time.
If you don’t have a fireplace you can roast the chestnuts in the oven. To roast chestnuts, cut an inch long X into the bottom of each chestnut to allow steam to escape.
In a fireplace; put the prepared chestnuts in a wire basket, or a chestnut roasting pan — a long handled metal pan, usually copper. Set the pan about 10-12 inches above logs (25 mins) or nestle off to the side to roast slowly (40 mins); shake pan or basket frequently for even roasting. To oven roast, pre-heat to 400 F. place chestnuts on a cookie sheet and roast for about 30 minutes, shake every 10 minutes.
Heap the hot roasted chestnuts on a tray, peel and eat as soon as you can handle them; once cooled the inner covering will stick to the chestnut when peeled. Any combination, wine and chestnut, cheese and wine, bread and cheese and wine, all offer intriguing taste and texture sensations. Relax and Enjoy!