Wintertime is the season for chestnuts. I love chestnuts, and they are one of my dad’s favorite treats. In Europe chestnuts are roasted and sold on street corners. Chestnuts have a naturally sweet flavor. They are versatile and can be used in sweet or savory dishes.

To prepare chestnuts you’ll need a sharp knife. Cut an X in the flat side of the chestnut, before roasting or boiling them. To roast the nuts, place them on a sheet pan and place them in a 375-degree oven for 30 minutes. Let them cool slightly then peel. To boil chestnuts, place them in a small pot and cover with water.  Bring the water to boil then turn down the heat to simmer for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and slightly cool the nuts before peeling. Chestnuts are easier to peel when they are still warm.

Candied grand marnier orange chestnuts
1 lb boiled peeled chestnuts
1/4 cup grand marnier 
1/2 cup sugar
1 mandarin zest
1 cup of water
pinch of salt

Place all the ingredients in a sauce pot and bring to a boil.  Turn down to a light simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until almost all the liquid has evaporated.  Cool to room temperature.   Once you have cooked down the chestnut mixture, pair it with cheese and crackers, use it as part of a dessert, and try it with savory foods. I have stuffed a quail with the candied chestnuts and then roasted it.

For the Quail
4 semi deboned quail
3 tbsp of dried herbs de provence 
1 tbsp of crushed coriander seed
6 tbsp of grand marnier chestnuts (from above)
4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

For the quail, drizzle 2 tbsp. olive oil over it and season all sides with salt, pepper, coriander and herbs de provence. Place 1½  tbsp. chestnut mixture inside the quail. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil in a cast iron pan or sauté pan. Place the quail breast side down and brown for about 2 minutes. Turn the quail over and place the pan into a pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes. When the quail is done, take it out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before serving. I served the stuffed quail with another drizzle of olive oil and a side dish of butternut squash puree.