Getting to the Meat of the Nut

We've learned a few tricks for peeling raw chestnuts and ginkgo nuts while testing recipes:

For the chestnuts, cut an "X" on the nuts' flat side, wrap them in foil with a little water, and steam them in the oven so their skins slip easily away, or soak nuts in warm water for 2 hours, and then use a sharp paring knife to peel softened outer skin and feathery inner skin.

For the ginkgo nuts, we always recommend using fresh nuts—which are mild and grassy—as opposed to canned ones, which are already shelled and cooked and can taste waterlogged and tinny. Crack shells with a nutcracker, drop peeled nuts into boiling water for two minutes, then rub off thin inner skin with a kitchen towel. Ginkgoes are available all year and are a wonderful addition to soups and stews.