The beginning of chestnut madness: Purée de Marrons (Chestnut Purée)

After venturing to the Marché Raspail Sunday morning, I came home equipped with several seasonal items, including chestnuts, leeks, celeriac, and broccoli.  Quick side story: I got my haircut on Friday (at La Nouvelle Athenes, a hairstyling parlor located in an extravagant 19th-century-Paris apartment in the 9th arrondissement), and my hairstylist/boutique owner Sylvie Coudray described the various dishes on her christmas menu, one of which was purée de marrons, or chestnut purée.  This dish immediately intrigued me and led directly to my chestnut purchase two days later.   Inevitably, last Sunday turned into an entire day of playing with this new edible toy and trying to determine how many different ways I could eat it.  The most simple way is as a spread, or purée, eaten on toast for breakfast, with some whipped cream or ice cream for dessert, or as a sweet spread in an otherwise savory sandwich.  The use of chestnuts in dishes is highly varied, in anything from soups and entrées to pies and tarts.  Along with a basic chestnut purée recipe which I will provide here, I will also write my next post on Chestnut Cookies with Buttered Apples, a little delicacy I concocted during my experimental journey. 

This purée can last in the fridge for up to 2 weeks; key word here being can, I highly doubt that it will last that long.  Its taste is of course nutty but with a unique wintery touch whose flavor calls for such comforting spice accompaniments as nutmeg and cinnamon.  I absolutely adore it, and I believe I will be making a chestnut-cream pie with a nutmeg-spiced crust for some guests on Thursday, so please look out for that recipe soon. 

In order to easily crack open the chestnuts and get to the meaty center, it is necessary to roast them (chestnuts roasting on an open fire, anyone?).  Doing so is a cinch and I'll explain how in the recipe. 

Grazie, a presto!

Chestnut Puree - makes about 10 ounces

3 cups chestnuts
1/3-cup milk (skim, whole, or part are all fine)
1/4-cup sugar
pinch grated nutmeg
pinch cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees
1.  Cut an X onto the flat side of each chestnut, to allow the air to escape while chestnuts are roasting.  On a lined baking sheet, spread out the chestnuts, flat-side up.
2.  Roast for about 15 minutes, or until chestnut shells are softened.  Once cool enough to handle (don't wait too long or else they will become extremely tough to work with), peel off the shells.
3.  In a food processor, combine the chesnuts with the remaining ingredients, and add more sugar or spices as desired. Eat right away or store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.


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