While many try to survive Whamageddon (a trendy seasonal game where you're "out" as soon as you inadvertently suffer from exposure to the "Last Christmas" vacation standard of the pop-duo Wham years! ), I'm waiting for the oldest chestnuts – the ones emphasized in the rich and calm voice of Nat King Cole in "The Christmas Song". I can complain about the marketing of the season, the Christmas shopping traffic and the well-intentioned atrocities of "Do They Know It's Christmas" with the best of them – but give me a cup of hot chocolate, "It's a wonderful life" and Cole, and I can move from work stress to Ellen DeGeneres in five seconds.
The ubiquity of Cole's song and the persuasive warmth of his voice that explains it created, I think, a strange phenomenon: one of the activities we associate the most with the season is that which many of us have never actually performed. At various points in my life I waited for Santa Claus, knocked down and decorated a pine tree, hanging tinsel and lights and freshly baked cookies. I even pushed the list down for "Leave out Santa's reindeer products" and "Drive through the city to see really obnoxious Christmas lights", even if I never reach enough "Lecca a pennone frozen on the courage of a triple dog ".
But when I started to rattle off a chestnut cocktail for the holidays, I realized that I had never performed the first activity mentioned in one of the most popular songs of all time.
Now I took an afternoon to solve the problem of my training, so if you are interested in proving it yourself, here is my suggested method for roasting chestnuts on an open fire:
1. Acquire a couple of dozen chestnuts in their shells.
2. Start a roaring fire, preferably in your hearth rather than in the cubicle of your hated colleague, and activate "The Christmas Song".
3. With a sharp knife, cut an "X" into the shell of each chestnut.
4. Stanch the hemorrhage from the knife wounds you acquired from step 3; complete the rest of the cut by wearing thick work gloves.
5. Place the chestnuts in a metal roast grill in the fire.
6. Gradually it becomes extremely hot and tired from keeping the rack on fire.
7. Get panicked when several inadequately cut nuts explode, pushing pieces of shell out of the chimney and making your dogs scream with rage.
8. Find out after removing the rack that among the nuts that did not explode, some have burned while others have just cooked. Yield: about six toasted walnuts.
9. Contemplate how roasted chestnuts turn out to be one of the many traditional activities that – like the shepherd, the butter that is stirring and working in a forge – seem romantic, but today they exist mainly to remind us how quickly we would perish for pure world incompetence full of convenience fades.
10. Acquire pre-roasted chestnuts online and spend your holidays in free time and watching "Die Hard" as a reasonable person.
I personally recommend skipping directly to point 10. But maybe I'm just stunned by the inhalation of smoke and the loss of blood.
Here is the thing of pre-roasted chestnuts: they have a delicate and captivating flavor (slightly sweet, earthy, rich in hazelnut) that is adorable if paired with winter spices. But their consistency of starch is rather daunting, like a sweet and slightly sticky potato. They make for a pleasant inclusion in salads and a really delicious winter soup, but their consistency – like that of the most starchy ingredients – presents a decisive challenge in cocktails.
I thought of other inclusive starch cocktails I had recently met. At Chicago's Purple Pig, the menu listed a drink that included Glenfiddich Scotch, butternut squash and allspice pimento. Frequently attracted – for masochism or professional duty – to order drinks that looked really horrible, I was happily surprised: it was a beauty, with the sweet and sweet taste of butternut complemented perfectly by the depth of whiskey and liqueur – and zero appetizing.
Alan Beasley, head bartender of the Purple Porpora, says that there are doubts about the pumpkin component, which led to the name of Bruno Mars inspired by the drink: Do not believe me, only Squatch. To make it work, they first roasted the pumpkin to soften it, bring out the sugars and a smoke that would work with the scotch, then they peeled, cut into cubes, flavored with cinnamon and chile and thrown into the cane syrup and brown sugar . Mixing and adding water has got a good consistency: "We wanted it to have consistency and be a little creamy, but not to be heavy or chewy," says Beasley. "Some fragments of fiber were left in some batches, and it was easy to tire out." They finish the drink with a double effort to further protect against any unpleasant plots.
Another technique I found in the new "The Aviary Cocktail Book" (Alinea Group, 2018) from the cocktail bar in Chicago. The book includes a drink called the sweet potato, in which the orange spud is first cooked, then passes through a sous-vide treatment to extract its flavor in liquid form without extracting the solid meat, creating a syrup without flavor or texture starchy. The drink also includes acidulous orange juice, a smoked paprika ice cream containing honey and anoquile liqueur and tequila. (By the way, if you're looking for a last-minute gift for the cocktail geek in your life: very similar to the bar itself, The Aviary's book is amazing, laden with countless so complex and visually beautiful drinks I've decided spend the pension on your own.It is a cocktail book in the way the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona can be described as a local church).
As for my starchy chestnuts, in the end, I opted for a tiki-esque solution and turned them into an orgy – traditionally an almond syrup, but you can get some wonderful variations by changing the nut component. This served me with cinnamon black cherry, pimento and angostura, then I added the dark rum – which has the triple effect of making the chestnut purée more liquid, giving it a rich and alcoholic note, and adding a preservative that helps the syrup to last a little longer in the fridge. I wanted to echo that party roastiness, so I worked with a smoky mezcal base to give a touch of fire to the mix.
As you can imagine, the most important part of the process is to strain the organza thoroughly to remove most of the solids and the fleshy consistency you can. You will also strain the last drink and its composition – bright citrus fruit and the hard shake with ice – helps smooth the soup.
Sip with a roaring fire and brighten your spirit. Remember: although it has been said many times, in many ways, if you use that crackling fire to roast chestnuts, make sure you use protective glasses.
Allan is a Hyattsville, Md., Writer and publisher. Follow her on Twitter: @Carrie_the_Red.