Chocolate Chestnut Tart

December 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Chocolate always seems like such a relief after the decadence of Thanksgiving, ironically. It packs a dark punch, with hints of bitterness, which offsets the soothing heaviness of the butter-laden cakes and pies of the proceding days. It awakens one from the food-induced slumber, a sort of jolting enlivening that reminds you that, yes there is a whole host of things to do following the big day.

Last weekend, San Francisco brought a blanket of white fog that wanted to keep me in bed. This weekend threatens to be the real beginning of the long winter in Princeton. I know people further north might scoff at that, but to this California girl it is depressingly long when you finally hit March and still can’t go outside without a jacket. But for now, the shivers have the charm of it being the holiday month, complete with Advent calendars, peppermint bark and strands of colorful lights. And chestnuts roasting on the open fire, you can add those to the mix too. Except I might have cheated and roasted these in the oven.

That’s not to say that I’m done with the pumpkin and the pecans — no, I’m not anywhere near done — but I’m ready to bring on the slow, dripping dark molasses, the grated, spicy ginger, the icing dribbles, and the glitzy holiday baking that somehow manages to feel homey despite sophisticated appearances.

No one prepared me for the disappointment of cracking open piping-hot chestnuts with my bare fingers only to find that over half of them had gone bad, which is completely normal apparently. With that kind of success rate, I only had enough to use thin slices in a decorative manner. I spread a sweet pate brisée crust with roasted chestnut spread (available at your local specialty store), over which I poured David Lebovitz’ chocolate tart filling. The initial taste is the undertone of burnt caramel, then soothed by the sombre, molten chocolate. If you want lessons on roasting chestnuts, it suffices to cut an X at the top of the nut (through the skin) and to throw them on a tray in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes. If you just want to eat chestnuts, I suggest skipping the home-maker’s lesson and hitting up the guy peddling chestnuts (did you know they are actually boiled and then just “roasted” for show?) on the nearest street corner.

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