Colorful & comforting seasonal recipes for savory dishes, sweets and cocktails. 

Chestnut Old Fashioned

Chestnut Old Fashioned

I ate my first chestnut this past month. I remember their shape and hue from my childhood as they dropped to the ground and covered neighbors' yards, the slightly hollow sound they made when I kicked them like a soccer ball across the sidewalk, their crunch beneath my shoes. It wasn't until a few weeks ago in the grocery story when I saw them piled up like a holiday wishlist that I thought to give them a try. I'm so glad I did, if at first for no other reason than the smell they emit when roasting, softer than I imagined, richer and fuller, too. And then the taste! Their roasted flesh beyond worth the minor inconvenience of infiltrating that hard shell and breaking away the inner husks. Again, a bit milder in flavor than I imagined, so fatty, enveloping and wholesome. 

This recipe calls for roasting chestnuts then infusing them in a brandy simple syrup in the refrigerator for 5-7 days. Mix an old fashioned with the chestnut-infused syrup in place of the traditional sugar cube. The question of what to do with the leftover chestnuts is as easy as finding a nearby spoon, but consider using them in any and every indulgent chestnut dessert recipe you find. I made a list of ideas at the bottom of this post. I hope you have a chance to serve this one at Thanksgiving! 

Chestnut Old Fashioned
1/4 ounce chestnut syrup
2 dashes angostura bitters
1 orange peel
2 ounces rye whiskey

In a mixing glass combine chestnut syrup, angostura bitters and the orange peel. Very gently muddle the orange peel into the syrup and bitters. Add the rye whiskey and a scoop of ice to the mixing glass, give it just a few stirs then strain the cocktail into the serving glass over one large ice cube. For a more diluted cocktail, stir the cocktail longer and more vigorously in the mixing glass before straining into the serving glass. Garnish with the orange peel and serve. 

Chestnut Syrup
makes 8 ounces syrup
1 cup cooked chestnuts
1 cup water
1 cup raw sugar
1 vanilla bean
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 ounces brandy

The syrup can be made with precooked canned or vacuum sealed chestnuts, but there's nothing quite like perfuming your home with the smell of roasting chestnuts. If starting with uncooked chestnuts, the roasting process will cook the chestnuts through as well as make the outer shells easy to remove. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Use a sharp knife to slice the top of each chestnut shell, cutting just slightly into the flesh. Transfer the chestnuts to a baking sheet, cut side up, and roast for about 45 minutes, until the peels curl up. Remove the chestnuts from the oven and let them cool just slightly. Remove the shells and papery skin from the chestnuts while they are still hot. If the papery skin sticks to the chestnut flesh, roll it between your hands until they crack off, almost like winnowing off the husks from cocoa beans.

To make the chestnut syrup, combine 1 cup water, raw sugar, seeds from the vanilla bean and orange zest in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook just until the sugar is dissolved then remove from heat and let cool completely and strain out the zest. Place 1 cup of roasted chestnuts in a clean sealable jar and pour the simple syrup over the chestnuts. Add the brandy and stir to combine completely. Transfer to the refrigerator and wait at least 5-7 days before using the syrup. 

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