Long ago Chestnut trees were plentiful in North America. They actually made up about a quarter of the native forest when European colonists came to these lands. Chestnuts were abundant, delicious and free. This is why the chestnut was so prominent in early American cookery. I love reading old cookbooks and recipe collections. I often try to adapt those recipes to modern-day ingredients and cooking equipment as well as our evolved taste buds. That is exactly what I did with an old pork-wrapped chestnut fritter recipe.
Where are the chestnut trees now? The North American variety is close to extinction. It was wiped out by a disease carried on an imported tree in the early 1900s. Those abundant, wild chestnut trees no longer fill our forests. There are, however, many hybrid chestnut varieties that are grown on farms. So while you can’t pick free chestnuts from the forest like early Americans did, you can find fresh chestnuts at many health food and specialty stores. This recipe is a bit involved and time-consuming, so this is something I only make on holidays and other special occasions.
I have tried many different ways to cook these tasty treats. I finally settled on my toaster oven. Why the toaster oven? The close proximity of the heating elements makes the bacon deliciously crisp. I tried to mimic this in my broiler, but the direct heat was just too strong without offering enough in the way of ambient heat. The toaster oven provides an ideal cooking environment, with just enough browning and just enough ambient heat.
The old-fashioned method of cooking bacon-wrapped chestnut fritters involved pan frying them over a fire in copious amounts of lard. Feel free to attempt that if you are brave enough, the final product is spectacular. However, it is incredibly greasy and absolutely loaded with fat. There are also inherent dangers when using fat near an open flame. I’d like to think that early American cooks would have prepared their bacon-wrapped chestnut fritters in a toaster oven, had they been given that option.
2 dozen fresh chestnuts
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter (you’ll get enough salt from the bacon)
1 small red onion, finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 pound plus 16 slices of bacon
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
Heat your toaster oven to 400 degrees F. Use the point of a small paring knife to cut a small “x” on the flat side of each chestnut. Bake the chestnuts for 40 minutes. Remove them from the toaster oven and allow them to cool.
Heat the butter in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onion and garlic until slightly golden; this should take about 3 minutes.
Place the cooled chestnuts into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a multi-purpose blade. Pulse till roughly chopped. Add the cooked onions and garlic and the freshly ground black pepper. Roughly chop the pound of bacon and add it to the food processor work bowl. Process until everything is very well-combined.
Cut each of the 16 slices of bacon in half and arrange each of them into an “X.” Evenly split the chestnut filling between the 16 bacon “Xs” and fold the bacon over to enclose the filling. Gently flatten each fritter to a thickness of 3/4 of an inch. Cover the fritters tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. I like to get these fritters ready the day before and just leave them in the refrigerator overnight.
Heat your toaster oven to 400 degrees F, with a baking sheet in the oven. Carefully place the bacon-wrapped chestnut fritters on the hot pan and bake until they are golden brown and crispy; this should take about 45 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving. Enjoy!
The Best Toaster Oven For Making Bacon Wrapped Chestnut Fritters
You are dealing with raw pork in this recipe, so it is crucial to have a toaster oven that cooks evenly. Check out Toaster Oven Reviews to find the best toaster oven for this recipe and so much more. Look for a model that has been shown to cook evenly without hot spots. Never cook raw pork in an appliance that has issues with hot and cold spots; it could lead to food poisoning.