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Roasting chestnuts are not done by the open fire all of the time but they can be made in the oven. Chestnuts, called castagne in Italian, have been around for many, many centuries. They are mentioned by such noted ancient authors such as Pliny and even Homer. They were and are an important part of the Mediterranean food culture because they can be grown on hillsides and can be kept through the winter.
You have to be careful that you buy and eat edible chestnuts instead of horse chestnuts. They may look very similar out of their shell but they are easy to distinguish in their casings. The horse chestnut, which is what you will find around where you live, is grown in a shell that is like a smooth ball with short bumpy spikes. The edible chestnut has a porcupine looking shell that protrudes out in all directions. You will know that the chestnut is mature when the case turns from green to a brownish coloring.
The demise of the edible chestnut tree in North America came about from the accidental introduction of an Asian bark fungus in the very early 1800’s. Chestnut trees were used as a lumber source and an estimated three billion were destroyed.
4 to 6 cups chestnuts
¼ cup white wine
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large sheets of Parchment paper
1 large cookie sheet
Pre- heat oven 450 degrees F.
1. Place chestnuts in a large colander and rinse chestnuts under cold water, to remove any debris. Place chestnut flat side down on a cutting board.
2. Using a very sharp knife (I like to use my paring knife), carefully make an “x” slit on the rounded side of the chestnut.
3. Lay Parchment paper on a flat surface, overlapping the sheets in a cross pattern. Place prepared chestnuts in the middle of paper cross.
4. Sprinkle white wine over the chestnuts & dust with salt.
5. Fold opposite edges of paper towards each other, rolling down and creasing edges of paper to create an air tight package.
6. Place package onto cookie sheet. Put into oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes or until slits on chestnuts begin to lift and peel backwards.
7. Remove chestnuts and carefully unwrap the paper package. Note: Be mindful of the hot steam .
You will want to serve your chestnuts to keep them warm. I place a cotton decorative towel into a serving bowl, put the chestnuts in and fold towel edges inward keeping the heat and steam close to the chestnut until ready to serve.
Recipe courtesy of Felicia (Ciaramitaro) Mohan, 2011.
Gloucester native Felicia Mohan Ciaramitaro - known to her many followers as Sista Felicia - grew up cooking with her mother and grandmother. While perfecting her family's favorite recipes and her