Images and copy by contributor Caylin Harris
Back in October, a good friend and I got to go on a girls’ trip to Bordeaux. The majority of the vacation consisted of drinking wine, eating delicious bread and cheeses, drinking more wine, going to restaurants, and visiting the spa (Caudalie to be precise). Basically, every vacation should consist of this itinerary.
We stayed with my friend’s sister and her husband, who has moved to Bordeaux a few months prior, besides being arbiters of good taste and fantastic wine, both speak fluent French and took us to all the best places.
One of my favorite meals while I was there was this quick, fancy lunch they whipped up for us with a bunch of items we picked up at the farmer’s market. Meats, cheeses, fruit, fresh bread, butter, and roasted chestnuts are all part of a Swiss lunch called brisolée. If you’re having guests over for the holidays, this takes no time to pull together and is absolutely delicious—but still feels special and fancy.
A Fancy (But Easy) Holiday Lunch Idea
How to roast chestnuts
Before Bordeaux, I’d never eaten a roasted chestnut. I feel like a bad New Englander saying that because eating roasted chestnuts seems like an old-timey activity I would have participated in at some point. So it was really interesting to see how you go about preparing chestnuts to be roasted. Spoiler, it doesn’t include an open fire, thankfully.
Here’s how to do it. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit then wash the chestnuts. Some people like to soak them. I did for a bit and then cut an X in the round part of the shell (to let the steam escape) using a paring knife. Be really careful because it’s easy to slip with the knife so just take it very slow. Place the chestnuts with the flat side down on a baking sheet. Then place them in the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes. Remove them from the oven and place them in a clean kitchen towel. Let them cool for about 5 to 10 minutes before peeling.
How to serve the roasted chestnuts
The additions to the lunch beyond the chestnuts are just like making a cheese plate—so you’ll want to put out cured meats (if you eat them), cheese, fresh fruit, and fresh bread. The fresher the ingredients the better! Pile your plate high with a little bit of everything and enjoy. And of course, serve with your favorite wine. Oh and do yourself a huge favor. Get the most delicious, salty European butter you can find because it makes all the difference. Save yourself some money too. Trader Joe’s cheeses are delicious and much more reasonably priced than their grocery store counterparts. Your friends or family will love this twist on a holiday meal and you’ll love how easy it is to pull together.