This airy, snowcapped mountain of chestnuts and chocolate is a fitting end to Christmas dinner.

What to buy: Traditionally, you’d peel the chestnuts yourself, but why should you when there are very good (and very labor-free) jarred roasted chestnuts to be had? The author uses Minerva brand, which worked the best for us too.

Special equipment: Get a potato ricer to make this dish properly. It’s a relatively inexpensive and very useful piece of kitchen equipment to have anyway.

Game plan: You can easily make this a day or two ahead, but save the final ricing until just before you serve.

This recipe was featured as part of our 2006 Neo-Classic Holiday Dinner menu.

  • Yield: 8 servings
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: 55 mins, plus refrigeration time
  • Active: 35 mins

Ingredients (9)

  • 2 (14.8-ounce) jars roasted chestnuts, such as Minerva brand
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, ground
  • 7 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Cognac or rum
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Combine chestnuts, milk, sugar, fennel seeds, and a pinch of salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring often and breaking up the chestnuts as you stir, until milk has been absorbed, about 10 to 13 minutes. Meanwhile, melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl placed over a pot of simmering water; set aside.
  2. When chestnuts are cooked, rice them (or put them through a food mill fitted with the medium disk) into a large mixing bowl. Add Cognac and melted chocolate and fold together until smooth, with no pockets of unmixed chestnuts (it will resemble cookie dough). Pack it into a smaller bowl, cover with plastic, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
  3. At serving time, whip cream with powdered sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Rice chestnut dough onto a large platter, keeping the ricer centered on the platter and lifting the ricer higher each time you fill it so that the threads of chestnut fall lightly into a mountain. (You can use the food mill for this, but it’s not as easy as with a ricer.) Drop about 1/2 of the whipped cream by big spoonfuls onto the mountain.
  4. Serve at table, and pass the rest of the whipped cream.

Variations: You could make individual mountains, on dessert plates, ricing the chestnuts over a scoop of vanilla or chocolate ice cream. This is called gilding the lily. And if you really want to gild, you could make shatteringly crisp meringue circles as a base for individual mountains, with or without ice cream.

Beverage pairing: Graham’s 10 Years Old Tawny Port, Portugal. A rich dessert, both nutty and chocolaty, must be matched with a wine that can stand up to it on all counts. Tawny port will have nutty characteristics, overtones of dried fruit, toffee, and chocolate, and plenty of intensity. Graham’s is one of the lusher, richer tawnies out there.