December is one of my favorite months out of the year. Not because of the weather, although I do love the chill of 20 degree temperatures for an exhilarating winter run. December is a month of memories and treasured moments: Christmas Eve dinners, Christmas Eve church services lit by candlelight, Christmas mornings with family around the trees, and now, the celebration of when Ryan proposed to me.
Ryan proposed on December 5 of last year, on the last day of classes for my graduate program. As chance would have it, my parents got engaged years ago at the same time of year. The day after Ryan proposed, we celebrated our engagement by attending Valparaiso’s annual Advent celebration, Holly Days. Aside from the alpacas at the live Nativity that I obsess over each and every year, one of my favorite parts of Holly Days is the smells.
Local restaurants line the sidewalks of downtown Valpo and offer soups, hot chocolate, cookies, and other treats to passers-by on Holly Days. My absolute favorite are the roasted chestnuts handed out by one restaurant, Pikk’s Tavern. The smell entices you from a block away and the chestnuts are so fun to crack out of their shells and eat!
Yes, food and drinks are usually my favorite parts of any event (aside from the amazing company of family and friends!), so you’re probably thinking that this is just me obsessing over food again. Really though, the smell and taste of roasted chestnuts is amazing and so quintessentially Christmas.
After enjoying roasted chestnuts at Holly Days a couple of weeks ago as we celebrated the one-year anniversary of our engagement, Ryan caught sight of some whole chestnuts at our local grocery store. While I was poking and prodding oranges and pears, he scooped up a bag of these nuts for us to roast at home.
With fresh pears and chestnuts in our pantry, I couldn’t resist combining the two seasonal foods into one delicious dish. These cinnamon roasted pears with chestnuts scream Christmas time and make a beautiful and tasty addition to any Christmas feast. They’re simple to make and take just over thirty minutes before they are ready for your enjoyment.
Chestnuts usually should be roasted in their shells. In fact, don’t try to roast peeled chestnuts on their own, as they don’t turn out very appetizing as I learned from experience. The liquid of the pears, however, keeps the peeled chestnuts from browning too much and getting too crisp.
To peel the chestnuts, use a paring knife to carefully cut a seam through the skin and then peel it off. Or if you have a nutcracker, you can use that. I remember when I studied abroad in Germany, our German language professor gave us bags of goodies for Christmas, including lots of different types of nuts in the shells. She was genuinely shocked when we told her that none of us owned nutcrackers. Instead we used our textbooks to try to crack them open.
- One large pear
- Two chestnuts
- 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Slice the pear in half and remove the seeds and stem. Use a spoon to create a small cavity where the seeds were.
- Place the pear halves cut side up in a roasting pan. Drizzle the cut sides of the pear with maple syrup and then sprinkle on the cinnamon.
- Remove the shell from the chestnuts and discard. Place a chestnut in each pear half.
- Roast for 30-35 minutes and serve warm.