Wed 28 Dec 2016
TO THE SMOKE THE CHESTNUT GOES!
Depending on where your located, chestnuts may only be available for a short period each year, usually around the holidays. Mostly pan roasted in the oven, why not do something unique with this prized fruit and smoke them! In addition to the chestnuts, you’ll need a stove top smoker, purchased or you can make your own with tools likely in your kitchen. You can see our writing on the “The Kitchen Find” which will guide you on what is needed.
You will also need:
- Minuto® Chips Size #6 from SmokinLicious® Gourmet Wood Products
- a cutting board and knife
- about 2 hours of time. Be sure you also have a hood vent where you will be using the stove top smoker in order to maintain a smoke free kitchen.
You will find chestnuts available prepackaged or in bulk when in season. Although the packaged product will include a directive to cut and X in the flat surface of each nut, I grew up in a household where we always cut off the stem side. This is the small, dark cap side to the chestnut. The chestnut has a cap and a pointed end giving it a bloated teardrop look. I have found that when smoking, I get better control to the smoke infusion with a fresh cut to one end. Keep in mind, not all the chestnuts purchased will likely be viable as often mold will take hold of some of the chestnuts which you won’t see until you cut in to them. As the chestnuts age, they can develop a fuzzy mold on the outside which will tell you not to waste your time cutting that one open! Simply discard!
Generally, chestnuts have a flat side and a rounded side.
To prepare them:
- lay the chestnut on the cutting board with the flat side down. Place your knife blade over the small dark cap, and slice off in one motion. This will reveal the chestnut meat inside which will have a yellow-white hue. Once the cap is off, you’ll be able to tell if any mold has set in as it will have a marked gray/black appearance. If any mold is noted, discard the chestnut as it won’t cook tender. If the majority is free of mold, go ahead and keep it for the smoking/cooking process.
To do stove top smoking, there are 4 parts needed:
- a pan to hold the heat and wood chips
- a drip pan to prevent rendered fat and juices from entering the wood. Generally, you only need the drip pan when you actually have a food item that will produce juices or fat drippings.
- a grill pan
- a lid.
Note: Chestnuts will not produce any drippings though they do have a percentage of water that will be released as steam into the lid of the pan. Just be sure when you open the lid that you keep any collected water from dripping back into the cooking grate.
Now it’s time to start the heat under your smoker pan.
- Place the base of the stove top smoker over the burner and turn the burner to medium.
- Add about 1 handful of wood chips. I am using SmokinLicious® Minuto® Wood Chips Size #6 in Wild Cherry which will provide great color to the chestnut’s meat. The wood chips will combust and char but they will not ignite and there won’t be any need to add any additional wood chips. One handful is all it will take to both cook and flavor the chestnuts.
- After adding the wood chips to the smoker base, place the grill pan on next. Take the prepared chestnuts and spread them evenly into the grill pan. Then cover with the lid. Do not change the heat level during the cooking/smoking process. There is no need to rotate the chestnuts as the cut end will ensure that the heat and smoke vapor penetrate each piece.
- The cooking process will take between 40-60 minutes depending on the number and size of the chestnuts used. I usually do a check about 30 minutes in order to gauge the total cook time.
As you check the chestnuts and start seeing the shell separate from the meat, you’ll know you are getting close to the tender stage. Here is my trick for checking for doneness. Take the end of a paring knife and gently insert the tip into the center of the chestnut meat. If the blade passes into the flesh without effort, you are finished with the cooking process.
- Turn off the heat to the smoker pan and allow the chestnuts to rest for a few minutes before removing from the pan. Remember, these shells will be very hot so use tongs to remove them from the pan.
You can see that despite the Minuto® Chips being exposed to consistent heat for about an hour, they merely smolder and char, never igniting. In fact, you could easily use these chips again for another short cook item and they would still give off great flavor. Once the chestnuts have cooled enough to handle, I remove all the shell and membrane. These golden beauties are now ready to eat or to add special flavor to recipes calling for chestnuts. Just another way to bring something new to a seasonal favorite.
Bon Bar B Que