At the beginning of the month, I shared my process for roasting chestnuts. Then I read in a book that mentioned roasted chestnuts sprinkled with red wine and knew I wanted to give it a try. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Back in 2014, I read A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena De Blasi* for Cook the Books. Had I re-read my blogpost about that book - Fiori Di Zucca Al Forno - I might not have picked up A Thousand Days in Tuscany by the same author. Seriously. My reservations of the former were not exactly matched in the latter, but I was similarly underwhelmed.
"First, there was nostalgia - for the country I love and consider my home away from home...and for the food. There's something simple, elegant, and distinctive about Italian food. Her descriptions of the market made me utterly homesick...". Check.
Well, in this book it wasn't so much the markets as it was the food she was learning to cook.
"Second, there was indifference to the story. I do believe in love at first sight. But I can't say that her falling in love with the blueberry-eyed stranger was convincing or compelling. I never felt that she conveyed an overwhelming passion that would cause someone to, first, bring a stranger home - from another country - less than a month after meeting and, second, uproot and follow that stranger to a foreign land for good. While her actions were of a woman consumed, for certain, her words, about Fernando, were tepid, not scorched." Check.
In this book it was less indifference to the story as it was annoyance with the prose. De Blasi inserts a lot of Italian language into her writing. Not just a word or two, but completely sentences. Then she translates them. So, if you can read Italian like I do, you're reading the exact same sentences twice. And, if you don't read Italian, I can imagine that skipping over multiple sentences that you can't understand would be tedious.
"I definitely didn't adore this book. Still it had its moments of delight. And, as I said, for the descriptions of the food and markets, I would recommend it." Check.
Yes. My conclusion is the same - not a book I loved, but I did enjoy bits and pieces of it.
But I was inspired, as I mentioned, to try roasting the nuts spritzed with a little red wine. "As for the chestnuts, some we roasted right away as a reward, splashing them with a few drop of watered wine. Other we boiled and, after peeling away the shells and saving them to dry and grind up and brew like coffee, we'd boil the meat of the nuts in more water, this time with a few field lettuces, an onion, some wild herbs, until the mass was soft an thick as porridge" (pg. 157).
- sharp knife
- baking sheet
- red wine
Preheat oven to 400 degress F.
Carefully use a knife to slice an 'x' or a cross into the rounded side of the chestnut. Place the chestnut on a baking sheet. Place the chestnuts in the oven and roast for 15 minutes.
Remove the sheet from the oven and sprinkle red wine over the chestnuts. Return the nuts to the oven for another 5 to 6 minutes. The scored skin should curl open and you'll easily be able to peel the chestnuts. Once they are cool enough to handle, serve immediately!
Like the book, this process underwhelmed me. I couldn't really taste even a hint of the red wine. Maybe I should try rolling them in red wine instead of just sprinkling the wine over them. Maybe...
*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.
Click to see what everyone else read in December 2019: here.