The aroma of a chestnut roaster’s cart on a winter day is a sure sign of the season, but you needn’t stand on a blustery street corner to get them—buy some to use in recipes. Look for glossy shells with no bruises, and choose chestnuts that feel heavy for their size (those that don’t are probably dry and shriveled; buy a bit extra to account for shriveled ones, just in case).
To be used in cooking, chestnuts need a preliminary blanching, and their stubborn skins need peeling—you can buy them already peeled in a jar, but you’ll sacrifice freshness. Chestnuts are delicious in a braise of red cabbage, in any kind of stuffing for game birds, or stirred into rice pilaf. And they’re great with lobster: Nathan Coons, chef at the Old Anglers Inn in Potomac, Maryland, puts them to delicious use in a lobster ragoût.