Thai Red Curry and Sea Salt Roasted Chestnuts

I've discovered that chestnuts are an ancestral type of food. Why is that? Because our ancestors wrote and sang songs about them.

Ha! Get it? I'm hilarious.

I originally intended to post this recipe before Thanksgiving, so you all could have it to serve to your families for Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner or perhaps both, but then the holiday travel season got the best of me. Oh no, don't get me wrong, I made these chestnuts before Thanksgiving, took all the photos, and then.... well, I decided to go to Crossfit and take a really long hot shower and straighten my hair the night I was supposed to write this blog post. Sorry, friends....but at least you'll be getting this one in adequate time for winter holiday cooking. Maybe. If you're like me and leave cooking up to the last minute. #procrastinationforever

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While developing this recipe, I realized that most people had never eaten chestnuts. When I was looking for them in several grocery stores, one person even asked "what are you going to do with chestnuts?", to which I wanted to reply "roast them on an open fire with Jack Frost nipping at my nose", but that seemed a tad bit too snarky to a complete stranger. So I very nicely replied "roast them and eat them!". I thought that answer was obvious, but this stranger had a perplexed look on his face as in he never really thought to eat chestnuts.

I also realized that there are actually specialty tools for roasting chestnuts. Serious. There are chestnut knives and chestnut pans and chestnut....hair dye? Ok, maybe the hair dye isn't so much for eating, but I've discovered that chestnuts are actually the color and vibrancy of Kate Middleton's coveted hair. (See, she knows.)

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I don't eat chestnuts often: they're a lot of work to peel and can be pricey. I was only able to find chestnuts near me at an organic specialty market for $10/pound, and after doing some research online, that seems to be the status quo for organic pricing; I unfortunately couldn't find any price point data for any "big box" grocery stores.

Despite the price, I really think that everyone should try roasting their own chestnuts at least once. They're incredibly festive and taste wonderfully warm and nutty just out of the pan. The roasting is quite easy, but the hard part comes with having the patience to diligently cut the chestnuts open before roasting, and then to peel back the hot, but still firm, shell to try to get the nut out whole. I like chestnuts plain with a little salt, but I also like them with a little spice, which is the recipe I've provided for you below.

When I first set out to try to roast these chestnuts, I decided that I was going to invent a new way to roast them.... and I quickly failed. I knew that if you did not cut open the shells of chestnuts before, they were likely to explode. I decided that I was going to do an experiment to see how long it took a chestnut to explode and at what temperature, so I threw one in the oven to test. It was going to be my own foodie version of Myth Busters, but then I got scared and removed it before it was even in the oven for a full 5 minutes. Whomp whomp. Next, I decided to roast them in olive oil on the stove top, but that produced so much smoke that I immediately had to open all the windows and doors to air things out before I got a surprised visit from the fire department. After that, I decided that perhaps I could actually roast them in the fire in my fireplace, but after doing some research, I realized there was a high probability of losing both my pan and the chestnuts at the same time. Take it my advice: roasting in the oven is the easiest, safest way.

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This recipe uses a red Thai curry seasoning, which I found at a specialty spice shop, but you could easily create your own blend, or use whatever curry you had on hand. I think that the spice and flavor or the curry combined with a little sea salt against the warm, nutty flavor of the chestnut is a real winner; it is almost like Asian spiced peanuts, but of course, a bit more festive for this holiday season.


Thai Red Curry and Sea Salt Roasted Chestnuts

  • 1 lb. whole chestnuts
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. Thai red curry blend*
  • 1 tsp. coarse sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. While oven is preheating, take a very sharp knife and very carefully slice an X in each chestnut shell, being careful not to puncture the actual nut. If you cut the nut inside the shell, the chestnut will crumble as you try to peel it from its shell after roasting. Cutting an X allows the heat to escape and ensures that you do not have little chestnut-bombs going off in your oven. Cutting these Xs can be difficult since the chestnut shell is extremely hard, but I found that the easiest way is finding the flattest side of the chestnut and then cutting one diagonal line downward and away from you, and then rotating the chestnut again to ensure that you never cut upward. (Which is a recipe for disaster when you are handling a sharp knife.)
  3. In a large cast iron pan or baking sheet, place each chestnut X side up, making sure that each chestnut has a little space to itself.
  4. Place the chestnuts in the oven, and let roast for 15 minutes.
  5. After 15 minutes, remove the chestnuts from the oven, and let cool until they can be handled without burning your fingers, but not completely cool. They should still be warm.
  6. Peel the chestnuts from their shell by firmly tugging back on the corners of the Xs , which should have opened slightly during roasting.
  7. Discard the chestnut shells and place the nuts in a medium sized bowl.
  8. After all nuts have been shelled and are in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and gently stir to coat.
  9. Add salt and curry, gently toss until chestnuts are evenly coated with spices.
  10. Serve immediately.

*The Thai red curry blend I used contained black pepper, paprika, cumin, onion, garlic, coriander, lemongrass, cilantro, chili flakes, and ginger.




Bet you didn't know this paleo dessert existed

Remember how I said last week that it didn’t feel at all like fall yet since the temperature wasn’t dropping? Well, just after that, the highs of 101 dropped to 85, then to 80. Just like that. But then, the highs crept right back up to 100 and 101. Essentially, still no fall boots for me.

In the short of it, I realize that most people are begrudgingly transitioning into fall (P.S. I talked to Emily- she’s already wearing her fall boots), but here in the southwest, I am enjoying an extended summer.  So much so, that the other day, Christopher and I bought a whole watermelon because it was on super sale; the end of summer is the season for extra large melons. (Heh, heh, heh…) Someone once told me that the best way to choose a melon is to knock on it, like you’re knocking on someone’s front door, and listen for a hollow sound. If its hollow that means the fruit is ripe. Well, without Google verifying this, Christopher and I dug headfirst into the watermelon box, knocking all the melons. Every. Single. One.  We spent probably 20 minutes in this box of Watermelons, and it almost reminded me of one of those ball pits in Chuckie Cheese, but with far more bruising at the end. After deadlifting 30-pound fruit for 20 minutes, we really decided that we needed to get back into Crossfit or some sort of weight-lifting regimen. In the end, we got the hollow-est sounding watermelon of the bunch.

So there we were, now at home with a gigantic watermelon. Here’s the kicker: I don’t even like watermelon that much. (Or melons in general, really.) In college, the cafeteria filled their fruit quota as much as possible from honeydew and cantaloupe. (I’m guessing because it’s the cheapest to buy in bulk.) I ate so many melons those years, that I haven’t enjoyed them much since. Another fun fact? Cantaloupe is called Muskmelon in Iowa and the Dakotas. Muskmelon! What a funny word.

In short, I set out experimenting with watermelon to figure out a way to enjoy the fruit since I was now in possession of approximately 30 pounds of it.  I eventually decided to try creating a reduction with both blueberries and balsamic as a watermelon topping, since balsamic reductions really bring out wonderful flavors in fruit, and blueberries are also in their peak at the end of summer. I had made both berry reductions and balsamic reductions independently before, so this time, I mapped out what I thought would be a good combination of the two. The end result was a blueberry-lime balsamic reduction that pairs exceptionally well with watermelon: the tartness of blueberries balances out the sweetness of ripe watermelon, and the lime adds a little zest. Everything ties together nicely. The balsamic reduction can be used as a dip for watermelon, but my favorite way to enjoy it was as a drizzle over a watermelon round, cut into eighths to resemble a “fruit pizza”.

When making the reduction, it is important to note that the concoction needs to be watched closely and stirred frequently, as it can stick and burn easily. If you doubt your ability to correctly make a reduction, do not fret! You can take the process slower by simmering on a lower heat to ensure that there is a lesser risk for burning. Just know this this significantly increases the time to complete the task.


Paleo Blueberry-Lime Balsamic Reduction

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

Can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or can be frozen for later use

  • 2 cups of fresh blueberries, washed with stems removed
  • 1 cup balsamic vinaigrette
  • 1/3 cup raw honey*
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lime
  1. In a saucepan, melt honey on low heat, and be careful not to burn.
  2. Add balsamic and blueberries, increase to medium heat to bring mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently.
  3. Reduce heat to medium low, add limejuice and vanilla, and then stir.
  4. Let reduce on medium low heat for approximately 30 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning or scalding. Reduction will be done when mixture is syrupy and has reduced in volume by about half.
  5. Let cool completely before handling.

*This reduction is tart, so if you prefer something sweeter, up the honey to ½ cup, or potentially even ¾ cup. (Although ¾ of a cup might be very sweet. I haven’t tried this yet, so if you do, let me know how it turns out.)


Paleo Fruit Pizza

Serves 2-5 (Varies greatly on your watermelon size)

  • ¼ cup Paleo Blueberry-Lime Balsamic Reduction
  • 1 round of watermelon, about 12 inches across
  • Berries, lime quarters, or lime peels for garnish (optional)
  1. Create a round of watermelon by cutting your watermelon first in half through the center, then cutting another piece from the half about 3 inches thick. Cutting a round directly from the center ensures the biggest diameter, however, you may choose to cut from the end to serve a smaller pizza. Note that if you slice a round with a smaller diameter, do not use as much of the reduction. If you don’t adjust this, your pizza will be much too tart.
  2. Place the watermelon round (Should just be one big watermelon circle) on your serving platter, tray, or board. Drizzle the blueberry balsamic reduction over the watermelon. For better presentation, you may choose to drizzle some reduction on your serving piece. (See below.)
  3. Using a pizza cutter, slice watermelon into pieces, like you would do to a pizza. You of course can do quarters or sixths, but I prefer eighths.
  4. Garnish with berries, lime peels, or lime quarters. (Optional)