Back around Christmas when the chestnuts from Italy poured into the markets I picked up a pound of them so that I could make this dessert. Marcella writes about how she would nibble on these wine-stewed chestnuts while sitting next to the fireplace as a young university student in Bologna. You can picture her sitting there, likely in a 700 year old building, freezing in the depths of winter, being warmed from the heat of the fire, the glow from the wine, and the cooked chestnuts . . . sharing laughter, gossip, and intellectual debates with her friends.
She writes that her father warned her that the chestnuts and the wine had a way of making one tipsy - although she never could determine if it was the wine-stewed chestnuts or the flask of wine she'd have alongside the chestnuts that did it. She advises you, with her usual humour, to try plenty of both to determine for yourself which makes you feel lightheaded.
The most complex part of this recipe is slashing the chestnuts - and I must say from the get go that I didn't do it right. You can see clearly from the photo above that some were cut far too deeply - the cut slashing into the flesh of the chestnut. Unfortunately I've had a bad experience with exploding chestnuts in that past when I didn't cut DEEPLY enough that I err on the side of caution.
Once prepped, the chestnuts are boiled in red wine for 30 minutes to an hour with 2 bay leaves and some salt.
I brought the chestnuts to the table in a warm dish and we peeled and enjoyed the heat from the nuts and the wine.
I confess that I really enjoyed them although I didn't really think of them as a dessert - as a warming snack - YES as a dessert, not so much. Happily I had something sweet to serve alongside.
That being said, next time the chestnuts are in the market pick some up, gather around some close friends, and serve these up. Light heads, laughter, intellectual debates, and red finger tips will result. The warm glow from the wine (or the chestnuts . . . who knows?) and the companionship will warm your heart and soul.