One of the great things about living in California is the year-round farmer's market. Winter brings an array of winter squash, kale and chard, pomegranates, and citrus - including my favorite, the Satsuma mandarins that can be eaten like candy.
And of course, chestnuts. When we make it to the Sunday Sacramento farmer's market, one of my favorite stops is for roasted chestnuts.
Fun as it is to buy freshly roasted chestnuts, you can do it yourself and you don't need an open fire. They're incredibly easy to roast in your oven.
Preheat your oven to 450º and place the oven rack as close to the bottom of the oven as possible.
The next very important step is to cut an "x" into each chestnut to allow steam to escape. You can do this with a regular serrated knife - you don't need a special chestnut knife. Miss this step and you'll have a big exploded chestnut mess in your oven.
Lay the chestnuts in a single layer on a roasting pan, sprinkle with water, and place in the oven. Roast for 15 minutes, then turn them over, and sprinkle with water again.
Roast for another 15 minutes, or until the skin has started to peel back and the inner meat is soft. Take them out of the oven and allow them to cool. Peel and eat them as soon as they are cool enough to handle! The chestnuts are easiest to peel when they're warm.
Chestnuts are highly perishable and need to handled and stored differently from other types of nuts. So if you buy them at the market, plan on roasting them within two days. There is more on storing chestnuts in ANR's free publication Nuts: Safe Methods for Consumers to Handle, Store, and Enjoy.
And if you want to try your hand at growing your own chestnuts - ANR has also published a handy guide to Chestnut Culture in California.