With holidays literally only weeks away, and chestnuts being a major A-lister among the nut family (cough the christmas song cough) I knew I had to incorporate these hunks of shells into my dishes. Or at the very least, attempt.
I remember my first experience with ever trying a chestnut. To me they only existed in songs and movies. Not real life. We cracked walnuts around the holidays. That’s about as fancy as my family got with the nut tree. The only time of year we had to blow the dust off of Grandmas possessed by the devil – looking nut chomper (Nut Cracker).
Any who I was in Istanbul on my way to tour the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (more famously known as The Blue Mosque) when I passed by a street cart filled with these (what I thought at the time to be steroid sized hazelnuts) roasted chestnuts. The smell was so overwhelmingly delicious making me ache for the coconut candied nuts that you can find on almost every street corner in NYC come the holidays. I wanted them all, at once, in mah belly. Kestane kebab’ is what the street vendor said they were. I shrugged my shoulders and purchased a bag of them. First was the texture, it wasn’t like any other nut I had ever tasted, it was soft, almost like a baked potato soft, and then came the flavor which was sweet with an underlying nutty fullness. Love at first bite.
So that brings me to todays recipe. As I was about to purchase an obscene amount of cranberries one of the grocery stock people at Schnucks (yes, the name is spelled correctly) had a cart full of chestnuts. Tis the season. I immediately removed the cranberries and replaced them with pounds of chestnuts. Probably over did it
a lot a little, and not going to lie I have one of the biggest belly aches of my life right now from over eating these nut jobs.
I had remembered a recipe from a while back that I had seen in Food & Wine magazine for Chestnut Chocolate Mousse. I knew I needed to recreate this dish and adjust it to fit my personal palette and my own cooking methods/experiences.
My recipe calls for fresh chestnuts – NOT vacuum sealed – pre roasted – chestnuts. I know it takes a little bit more love and time to slit the shells, roast & crack your own nuts but trust me, the flavor alone is worth it. And having a home smell of freshly roasted chestnuts ain’t so bad eitha. Plus there is no good replacement for fresh.
I like to serve my mousse with a little bit of freshly whipped cream and chocolate shavings (that I got from scraping the bowl that the chocolate had been melted in). This recipe makes about 5-6 large servings or about 10-12 smaller servings (powerful flavor. small portions is best in my opinion).
Another great thing is that this chocolate mousse and roasted chestnuts dessert can be made a day ahead and kept in your fridge until ready to serve (except do not add the whipped cream or shavings until right before). I think it is the perfect ending to a Holiday feast and would highly recommend adding it to your menu. PLUS it is very difficult to mess up. Impressively easy!
- 1 cup chestnuts (which will leave you about ¾ cup roasted)
- 4 cups heavy whipping cream
- 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
- 4 oz bittersweet chocolate
- 1 tbsp dutch dark chocolate coco powder
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 3 egg whites
- cream of tartar - a pinch
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. First very carefully, using a small serrated knife (which I find easiest/safest) slice a slit width wise down the curved part of your chestnut. You must make a slit that goes deep enough to just reach the actual nut. See pictures above for details.
- Next place all of your "sliced" nuts onto a baking sheet or oven proof pan. Roast for about 25-30 minutes until nut starts to burst out and shells are a deeper brown color. Remove from oven and let sit for about 15 minutes or until you can handle the nuts without burning.
- Crack or peel open the shells, remove nuts and chop into small pieces. Set aside about ¾ cup chopped nuts.
- Next in a heat proof bowl, melt chocolate over a pot of simmering water. Mix in your tbsp coco powder. Stir until incorporated. Once melted set aside to cool to a warm temperature.
- In a large bowl add your four cups of heavy cream. Beat until a whipped cream consistency forms. This may take a couple of minutes. Once whipped, remove about one cup of the whipped cream place in fridge (for topping at the end).
- Fold in your chopped chestnuts and melted chocolate to the large bowl of whipped cream. Set aside.
- Next in a small preferably stainless steel (this will help with the soft peaks) bowl or stand mixer add your three egg whites and begin to beat over medium speed. Once soft peaks begin to form start gradually adding your granulated sugar and then beat to stiff peaks.
- Fold egg white/sugar peaks into chocolate heavy cream mixture until fully mixed in. Divide mousse into preferred serving ware (mini ramekins, bowls, etc) and let cool in fridge for about 2 hours. When ready to serve add a dollop or two of the whipped cream and top with chocolate shavings (you can get these from leftover hardened chocolate from the chocolate bowl).